Posted 6 months ago on Oct. 26, 2012, 7:13 a.m. EST by WSmith
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10 Awful Things a President Mitt Romney Would Likely Do
It's hard to predict with a candidate who's had five positions on every issue, but here's our best shot.
October 25, 2012 |
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (C) greets supporters as he arrives at a campaign event with US Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (Rape is a gift from god) (R-IN) (L) at Stepto's Bar B Q Shack in August 2012 in Evansville, Indiana.
With the polls showing a tightening race, a Mitt Romney presidency is becoming a real possibility. As I write, New York Times polling guru Nate Silver gives the Republican a 29-percent chance of emerging victorious when the votes are cast in just under two weeks.
The Romney-Ryan campaign has offered a bewildering and often contradictory array of positions on the issues, which makes predicting what a Romney agenda might look like exceptionally difficult. What's more, we'd see a very different Romney administration if Democrats retain control of the Senate. Silver gives them an 88 percent chance of doing so, projecting Dems to hold 52.4 seats in the next Congress (it's highly unlikely they'll win the House).
But if Romney were to sweep the tossup swing states – which he has to do in order to win the White House – that would require a strong GOP turnout and a stronger showing in those Senate races.
Despite the difficulty nailing down a chameleon-like candidate's positions, we've tried to discern some of the economic measures that Romney would likely champion if he wins. We'll follow up with a look at non-economic policies in the coming days.
1.) The Romney-Ryan Budget
Let's assume, for the moment, that the Republicans take the Senate.
Mitt Romney has at times embraced Paul Ryan's “roadmap,” and he's also distanced himself from it. But there will be quite a bit of pressure from conservative activists and the Republican House to enact something along the lines of the roadmap.
There are two things to understand about Paul Ryan's budget. First, it has been carefully written so that most of its provisions can be passed under a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority of votes in the Senate. Second, it is a right-wing fantasy that, if enacted as written, would trigger a major drop in employment and send the economy into a tailspin. Its cuts are so deep, and would effect so many constituents – including traditionally Republican constituents – that it would have to be modified. It's one thing to campaign on such a plan and another to govern with it.
What does it do? According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “by 2050, most of the federal government aside from Social Security, healthcare and defense would cease to exist, according to figures in a Congressional Budget Office analysis.”
The CBO report, prepared at Chairman Ryan’s request, shows that Ryan’s budget path would shrink federal expenditures for everything other than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and interest payments to just 3¾ percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050. Since, as CBO notes, “spending for defense alone has not been lower than 3 percent of GDP in any year [since World War II]” and Ryan seeks a high level of defense spending — he increases defense funding by $228 billion over the next ten years above the pre-sequestration baseline — the rest of government would largely have to disappear. That includes everything from veterans’ programs to medical and scientific research, highways, education, nearly all programs for low-income families and individuals other than Medicaid, national parks, border patrols, protection of food safety and the water supply, law enforcement, and the like.
Ryan has already modified his plan in response to the outcry over a CBO analysis that found future retirees would face $6,400 more in out-of-pocket healthcare costs. We can expect further modifications because no Republican administration is actually going to slash veterans' benefits to the bone, to name just one example. It's untenable, but that doesn't mean President Romney wouldn't push through something moderately less damaging.
2.) Tax Cuts
6.) Social Security)
7.) State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP)
8.) The Rest
If the Republicans run the field in a big win, expect a lot of talk about a constitutional amendment capping federal spending at a given share of our gross domestic product. It will only be talk. It's a right-wing fantasy of a policy that can only be enacted with a constitutional amendment, which isn't going to happen.
That doesn't mean there won't be deep, deep cuts to non-defense discretionary spending under a Romney administration. Under the Ryan plan, non-defense discretionary spending would be on a downward trajectory leading to 39 percent less funding than currently projected by the year 2040. What is “non-defense discretionary spending”? Well, about 40 percent is education, training and research, and the rest is veterans' programs, various programs for low-income families, public safety and disaster response and the like. It's basically government, absent the Pentagon budget, Social Security and Medicare.
9.) If Dems Have 40-50 Seats in Senate (With Ryan the Tie-Breaking Vote)
Although he has been vocal in his opposition in the past, there's a good chance that as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, might embrace filibuster reform – dropping the number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster from 60 -- if the Dems hold a minority in the upper chamber.
Either way, one thing not to expect in this scenario is Senate Democrats turning the tables on the GOP and blocking their legislative agenda at every turn. That's a strategy the Republicans can undertake because their overarching narrative is that governent doesn't do anything right – it ultimately works to their benefit when they can “prove” that theory by rendering Congress incapable of action. Democrats still adhere to the idea that good governance can improve our society, so they can't play the same game and get away with it.
10.) If Dems Hold Senate
If the Dems hold the Senate they will act as a firewall against the radical restructuring of the public sector promised by the Ryan budget.
That means maintaining the status quo, more or less, at least through 2014, with one painful exception. Cheered on by the Beltway media, the Democrats, having embraced the non-existent recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission (the chairmen drafted recommendations but the gang of 18 didn't vote to approve them), would almost certainly be willing to strike a “grand bargain” with President Romney along those lines.
The only question is whether Speaker Boehner (or Cantor?) would have any trouble coming up with the votes for a “balanced” deficit reduction deal – for a deal that raises some new revenues. If history is any guide, even the most ideological House Republicans will support a Republican president in such an effort.
Currently, non-defense discretionary spending is expected to hit its lowest level since 1962, and Simpson-Bowles would cut deeper still – with a 3:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. That means programs that help the poor and middle class will be on the chopping block. Simpson-Bowles also called for a hike in the Social Security retirement age, despite the fact that life expectancies have only increased significantly for the well-to-do who don't rely on the program as heavily as working people and the poor.
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He's the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.