EXETER, N.H. - Previewing his spending policy speech in New Hampshire this evening, presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered specific steps he would take to reduce spending, vowing that if elected he will cut federal spending by $500 billion by the end of his first term.
While Romney laid out his full economic plan in September, tonight’s speech delved further into the details of what he would actually do – and cut – to try and balance the budget.
Acknowledging that $500 billion is “a lot of money,” Romney said he will use three approaches to reduces spending to about 20 percent of the economy.
Drawing largely on remarks that Texas Gov. Rick Perry made in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader last week about how he was “less worried about whether or not we’ve got some budget holes to fill,” Romney repeated again and again that the deficit is important.
“There are some who say when you talk about fiscal responsibility and cutting a program you’re showing that your heartless,” he said. “I think you have to say, ‘No no we have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.’
“The right course for us is to be fiscally responsible,” said Romney, who never mentioned Perry by name, “and to recognize that deficits do matter, they matter a lot. We are a party that recognizes you don’t spend what you don’t have. Deficits matter.
“We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in,” said Romney.
Romney spoke at the Exeter Town Hall in eastern New Hampshire, where the old schoolhouse-like building was packed beyond capacity on both the ground level and the balcony. The audience members interrupted Romney with applause several times during his speech, prompting Romney’s encouragement.
“Yes, go ahead, go ahead,” he’d say to the round of applause.
Outside, a handful of protestors clapped flip-flop sandals together in opposition to Romney’s visit.
Romney was introduced by a former New Hampshire governor and former U.S. senator, Judd Gregg. Another former New Hampshire governor and recent Romney backer, John H. Sununu, was also in attendance. Sununu took a moment to remind the audience that “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents.”
Romney’s wife, Ann, sat just behind her husband as his spoke, the first public appearance the couple has made since Oct. 11, when they attended a debate in Hanover, N.H. Noting that Ann had asked him if he wanted her to make a few remarks prior to his speech, Romney joked that he had initially said no because it was a spending policy speech. Laughing, Romney said he realized there was perhaps nobody better suited to speak about spending.
“Only appropriate I’d speak on spending,” said Ann Romney, delivering her husband’s punch line.
Romney’s three approaches – which, he said, combined will achieve his goal in cutting spending by half a trillion dollars by 2016 – include eliminating and cutting programs, sending some programs back to the state level and, finally, improving the productivity of the federal government.
“There are some programs I just don’t like and will be easy to eliminate,” quipped Romney. “Like Obamacare.”
“That saves about $90 billion, Obamacare alone, by 2016,” he said.
“There are other programs I like and I don’t want to cut but, yet, I ask myself: Do we have to have that program? Is it essential for America? Is it so essential that its worth borrowing the money to pay for it from China knowing that we’ll never pay it back in my generation but instead pass it on to my kids and then their kids? And, by that test, there are a number of things I say [it is] time for us to stop spending money on,” he said.
“I like Amtrak, but $1.6 billion borrowed from China isn’t a good idea [so] I’ll cut it out,” said Romney.
On today’s USA Today opinion page, Romney offered even more specifics on the types of programs he would cut. He wrote that he would enact “reductions in the subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcast and the Legal Services Corporation.”
Eliminating Title X family planning programs that benefit “abortion groups like Planned Parenthood,” would also be on his agenda, wrote Romney.
When it comes to programs that he doesn’t want to eliminate, Romney said he would send them back to the states. While he said he would maintain a safety net for those who can’t care for themselves, Romney said programs like Medicaid, housing vouchers and food stamps, which are all administrated by different departments in the federal government, should be taken back to the state level.
“I’d like to take some of these programs like Medicaid, and take the dollars the federal government has been spending, and give those back to states and let states craft the programs in the ways they think best to care for their own poor,” said Romney.
The third approach to reducing spending, Romney said, is government productivity. He said he’d reduce the government work force through attrition and would repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal law that requires workers be paid wages determined by the Department of Labor.
“It’s time for that bill to go away and for competition to exist and get the best deals for taxpayers,” said Romney.
“Simpler, smaller and smarter,” he said of the economy he hopes that will emerge from his plan.
“I can tell you again, it’s not going to be popular at every corner for us to rein in the excesses of government,” said Romney, who just last week said at a town hall meeting that he is OK if he has to make difficult decisions as president.
In USA Today, Romney used even stronger language, writing, “What I propose will not be easy. Washington is full of sacred cows that supposedly can’t be slaughtered and electrified third rails that allegedly can’t be touched. But if we do not act now, the irresistible mathematics of debt will soon lead to unimaginable peril.”
Romney will deliver his fiscal policy speech tomorrow in Washington, D.C., at the Americans for Prosperity “Defending the American Dream Summit.”