Consider what Romney has promised. By 2016, he says federal spending will be below 20 percent of GDP, and at least 4 percent of that will be defense spending. At that point, he will cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, meaning it can never rise above that level.
All that’s hard enough. Romney will have to cut federal spending by between $6 and $7 trillion over the next decade to hit those targets. As my colleague Suzy Khimm has detailed, those budget promises already require cuts far in excess of what even Paul Ryan’s budget proposes.
But Ryan’s budget includes more than $700 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade, Romney’s budget won’t. And Romney promises that there will be no other changes to Social Security or Medicare for those over 55, which means neither program can be cut for the next 10 years. But once you add up Medicare, Social Security and defense and you’ve got more than half of the federal budget. So Romney is going to make the largest spending cuts in history while protecting or increasing spending on more than half of the budget.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indulged this idea back in May. If Social Security and Medicare are spared from cuts, then to get federal spending under 20 percent of GDP while holding defense spending at 4 percent of GDP, “all other programs — including Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, education, environmental protection, transportation, and SSI — would have to be cut by an average of 40 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2022.”
Consider what the Romney campaign, then, is saying: If Romney is elected, then by his third year in office, every single federal program that is not Medicare, Social Security, or defense, will be cut, on average, by 40 percent.
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