Romney, the radical
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The Republican presidential candidate's proposed cuts are far more draconian than his running mate Paul Ryan's
MITT ROMNEY, moderate. That earnestly sought post-debate public image contrasts starkly with Romney's actual positions on many issues, especially the future trajectory of government spending. Clinging tightly to a studied vagueness when pressed for unpopular specifics, Romney has put forward a budget framework that would not eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, as is commonly believed, but would slash everything else that's not defence.
President Obama should use Tuesday night's debate to press Romney to defend or even just explain these proposed cuts, which would be far more draconian than those advanced by his running mate, Paul D. Ryan. Ryan is widely viewed as the real fiscal hawk, but in key areas, his views on spending levels are actually closer to Obama's than to Romney's.
All in all, Ryan and Romney do see the future similarly over the next decade, they want government spending reduced to about 20 per cent of the United States' gross domestic product, below the historic average of around 21 per cent. (Recognising that an ageing society costs more, Obama proposes to hold spending at its current level, 23 per cent.)
These differences may not sound like much, but by 2023, each percentage point of GDP could represent about $250 billion in federal spending.
Though Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr brought it up repeatedly in his debate with Ryan on Thursday, Social Security the single biggest government expenditure is not on the battlefield. Romney and Ryan have each backed away from threats to privatise or cut it and now propose to spend the same amount on it as Obama would in the coming decade. That's not the case with Medicare. Obama and Ryan have each endorsed similar packages of about $950 billion of savings over 10 years, while Romney has opposed any reduction, making it virtually impossible for him to achieve his overall spending limit.
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