So now, predictably, the Romney campaign is backtracking on his primary campaign suggestion that emergency management needs to be taken over by the states (implying in turn that FEMA should be abolished). Oh no! Mitt wouldn’t do that!

We’re witnessing a pattern that is getting very interesting to anyone paying attention. Romney has endorsed a variety of budget blueprints that require very deep reductions in domestic spending, and particularly non-defense discretionary spending. Matt Yglesias has the basic math:

[T]he fact is that his overall budget requires sharp cuts in everything. The central issue is that Romney wants to cap government spending at 20 percent of GDP while boosting military spending to 4 percent of GDP and leaving Social Security harmless. That means a 34 percent across-the-board cut in other programs according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Unless, that is, Medicare is also exempted from the cuts in which case you’d need a 53 percent cut.

Them’s some big cuts. But whenever Mitt is challenged on any particular budget item, we hear: Oh, no! Mitt wouldn’t cut that! But every time something’s taken off the table, the level of cuts needed for programs not taken off the table goes straight up. And greater specificity, of course, is always ruled out on grounds that Mitt will have to work out the details in negotiations with Congress–meaning, in terms of a Romney administration’s position, negotiations between Mitt and his running-mate.

If the campaign were to continue for another twenty years or so, we might eventually find out what Mitt Romney’s actual intentions are for major areas of domestic spending.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.