Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan for Veep this weekend was supposed to make this a real debate about budget specifics. By Tuesday, both members of the ticket had distanced themselves from most specific details of Ryan's famous Roadmap.
It couldn't be any other way. Ryan's plan would level Medicaid spending by the end of the decade and cut deeply into projected income security payments and basic government duties. And that's before the controversial Medicare plan would start in the 2020s. Who wants to defend controversial line-items to seniors in Florida, or lower-middle-class rural voters in Iowa, when you could simply say: "Obama isn't working. And we have a plan."
Romney claims he'd rather talk about his own proposals -- "It's Romney/Ryan, not Ryan/Romney" his spokesmen remind news anchors -- but his budget might be even harder to defend, in any specific way, Suzy Khimm explained. The GOP presidential hopeful says he wants to cut between $400 and $500 billion from projected spending each year of his term to bring the budget into balance. But there's a catch. Romney doesn't want to cut defense, one-fifth of the budget. He won't enact Obama's cuts to Medicare, nearly another fifth. And he won't cut Social Security, another fifth. That leaves a little over two-fifths of the government -- or $1.4 trillion today -- to accept about $400 billion of cuts. The math is easy. It says that everything else that government wants to do -- welfare, bridges, food and drug safety, and so on -- it will just have to do with about 30% less.
You know how that's going to work out? It's not. We're not going to build a third fewer roads, or dump another third of low-income families from welfare, or cut science research by a quarter. ...Derek Thompson, The Atlantic (excerpt)