Mitt Romney is the most modrate candidate in the Republican primaries.

On policy, Romney is far to Bush’s right

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Mitt Romney is the most modrate candidate in the Republican primaries. Yes, even more so than the recently departed Jon Huntsman, whose tax-cut proposal was more radical and more regressive, and whose endorsement of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget put him well to Romney’s right on entitlements.

But compared with recent Republican nominees, Romney’s policy platform is quite conservative, and arguably even a bit extreme. George W. Bush, for instance, looks like a Kenyan socialist in comparison.

Renewing America’s Purpose,” the collection of policy speeches that detailed Bush’s 2000 policy platform, didn’t begin with tax cuts or Medicare reforms or austerity. It began with education. In fact, it began with an education speech delivered to the Latin Business Association, and before it even got to education, it talked about the “Latino economic miracle” and said “the Latino market will demand the attention of our whole economy.” Then and only then did it go on to address Bush’s proposal to vastly expand federal control and financing of America’s education system.

Chapter 2 is “A New Agenda for Compassion.” That included, by the way, the sole entry on immigration, which addressed the problem that “new immigrants are treated as suspects and strangers, not welcomed as neighbors.” It then proffered recommendations for creating a kinder, gentler Immigration and Naturalization Service. The words “illegal immigrant” did not appear anywhere in the book.

Chapter 3 — Page 211, for those keeping track — is the first that any of the Republican contenders might recognize: “Strengthening Social Security and Medicare.”

Here, too, Bush’s words might confound the current field. He called for private accounts in Social Security, which to be fair puts him to the right of the current crop, though that’s largely because Republicans have been cautious on Social Security since the electorate rejected Bush’s plans in 2005. When he got to Medicare, however, his most concrete proposal was to expand the program to include prescription drugs — an idea that became Medicare Part D, and served as the single largest entitlement expansion since the advent of Medicare.

Finally, in Chapter 4, on Page 245, Bush got to tax cuts. Reading his speech on the subject today, what’s remarkable is how narrow a rationale Bush used to sell them. “What is risky is when politicians are given charge of a surplus,” he said. “There is a strong temptation to spend it.”

In other words, the tax cuts were there to prevent the surplus from being turned into spending. Elsewhere, Bush made it even clearer: “Our times allow a substantial tax cut,” he said. The implication, of course, being that other times do not permit a substantial tax cut.

If any time does not allow a substantial, permanent tax cut, this is it. Deficits are large, and stretch as far as they eye — or the economic model — can see. But Romney hasn’t just proposed to extend the Bush tax cuts. He’s also proposed to add cuts worth more than $2 trillion.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Romney’s plan — which, after extending the Bush tax cuts, lowers the corporate tax rate, eliminates the estate tax and repeals some high-income tax increases from the Affordable Care Act — amounts to a tax cut of $600 billion in 2015. The International Monetary Fund estimates America’s gross domestic product will be $18 trillion that year, so that’s a tax cut of more than 3 percent of GDP.

In contrast, when Bush’s first tax cut was passed, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated it would cost a shade over 1 percent of GDP. So, by any measure, Romney’s tax cuts are far, far larger.

They are also more regressive. Bush’s tax cut was, in theory, to be paid for out of the surplus. Today there is no surplus. Romney promises to pay for his tax cuts, but he opposes raising new taxes or cutting defense spending. That leaves domestic spending, most of which goes to seniors and low-income Americans. Nor do his tax cuts make up the difference by distributing most of their benefits among low-income taxpayers. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Romney’s plan will mean an average tax cut of $164,000 for those in the top 1 percent and $69 — no, that’s not a typo — for those in the bottom 20 percent.

So, in extending the Bush cuts and adding more of his own, Romney is proposing more than $6 trillion in new tax cuts that will disproportionately help the richest Americans, and he intends to pay for it through spending cuts — such as block-granting Medicaid — that will disproportionately hurt seniors and low-income Americans. That’s not a political attack, by the way. It’s math. And it is math that makes his tax cut far more regressive than Bush’s proposal.

Which is not to say Bush was a moderate. Although, in fairness to him, No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D were compromise proposals that attracted substantial Democratic support, particularly in the Senate. It’s not even to say that Romney, personally, is not a moderate. When Bush was president, Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and his signature achievement was a health-care law that later served as the foundation for President Obama’s efforts.

But the Republican Party has moved far to the right since 2000, and Romney has moved with it. Bush wanted to pay down a surplus with spending cuts and expand Medicare. Romney wants to finance larger tax cuts by slashing domestic spending. It’s a more regressive policy that will be paid for in a more regressive way. In today’s GOP, even the most moderate presidential candidate is far to George W. Bush’s right.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Syrin
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 11:46:03

    ….Romney is proposing more than $6 trillion in new tax cuts that will disproportionately help the richest Americans at the same time they disproportionately hurt the seniors…..

    You know, I’m sick of this mindset! Talk about talking points, geeez! I hate the idea of a class of Americans; rich, low income, whatever, being used a political weapons. There are plenty of safety nets set up within our communities to serve the less fortunate. We all have compassion, regardless of our politics, I assure you. However, last I checked, the so-called ‘rich’ amoung us were those who were creating ‘those jobs’ that everyone is opining over! If Romney becomes the president he would have the right to propose anything he wants.

    A tax cut is a reduction in taxes on taxpayers, who are allowed to keep MORE of their own earnings.

    The immediate effects of a tax cut are a decrease in the real income of the government and an increase in the real income of those whose tax rate has been lowered. Due to the perceived benefit in growing real incomes, politicians have sought to perpetuate class warfare among tax payers. In the longer term, however, the loss of government income can push government out of private sector industries, opening those areas up to small business investment.


    • californiacruisin
      Jan 17, 2012 @ 17:45:36

      What private sector industries would open up to small business investment? If there are plenty of social safety nets, why do we have so many homeless? I’m talking about complete families. Why do we have so many people without insurance who sometimes die languishing in the waiting rooms of ERs because they can’t get medicaid or medicare? And BTW, the jobs the “so-called rich” create don’t help us when they are created in China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc. Trickle-down Reaganomics is the biggest farce perpetuated on the American public. I’m still waiting for my trickle-down low these many years later. Why do we have so many hungry people in America? Why are so many vets living on the streets, many of them needing mental health care that they aren’t receiving?

      Homelessness and hunger in this country are giant black eyes on our society. The treatment of our vets is an abomination. Furthermore, medical care should be a right for everybody not a privilege. When the earning power of the wealthy increases so greatly over the earning power of the middle-class, which has flat-lined, something is terribly wrong. America has become land of the greedy, home of the corrupt.

      I also take issue with a multi-millionaire who pays half the tax I pay. It’s probably even less. I take issue with someone who destroys companies and lives for his own gain and says that in a free enterprise system, people will get hurt. Asshole (Romney).

      I’m afraid you have hit a nerve with me, my friend. Glass of wine anyone? Turn on the Mozart.


      • Bigtoe
        Jan 18, 2012 @ 10:17:08

        You are absolutely correct. If the private sector helped those in need we wouldn’t need gov’t programs. I don’t expect them to help. That’s not their purpose. Oh, it would be nice but not their responsibility. Good deeds are nice as well but by law not required. Therefore, some gov’t programs are necessary or we end up like letting people fend for themselves and in a lot of cases, suffering or dying.

  2. Sammy
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 18:54:25

    californiacruisin, I agree with you 100%.


  3. Syrin
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 19:34:08

    Yes, a glass of wine is always a good thing! Thank you for your comment, as always it’s respected and appreciated.. 😉


  4. climber357
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 19:54:01

    Romney makes it hard for me to watch the GOP debates, because he comes across as uncomfortable on the stage, his public image forced and artificial. Is it because he takes this gravitas thing too seriously? I don´t know. The end result is, I don´t believe a word he says. In fact, I don´t believe a word any of the Republicans say anymore.

    Sarah´s legacy.


  5. californiacruisin
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 19:58:30

    I’m wondering why he felt it necessary to remove all the hard drives from the computers when he left the governorship.


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