Last night’s Republican presidential debate opened with deficit spending and what the candidates planned to do to get spending under control. Let’s take a look at what they said:
What Santorum said: ”I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years…. I actually had experience in tackling some of the toughest problems we have in this country: the growth in entitlement spending…. When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending, it’s now 60 percent of the budget. Some people have suggested defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It is now 17 percent. …Defense spending will not be cut in my administration.” Santorum went on to discuss the need to reform the Medicaid entitlement program.
Our take: Mandatory spending, which is sometimes referred to as entitlement spending, took up 56% of all federal spending in the last fiscal year. Although Santorum mentioned the need to reform Medicaid and food stamps, he left out the most expensive ones: Social Security and Medicare. Suggesting that defense spending is not part of the problem is a stretch. Defense spending was the second largest line-item in the federal budget last year, so to act like it is a small part of the federal budget, is inaccurate.
What Romney said: ”I am going to go through every single program and ask if we can afford it…. I’m going to cut the [federal] employment by 10 percent, and I am going to link the pay of government workers with the pay in the private sector….” Romney went on to discuss the need to reform the Medicaid entitlement program and federal housing programs by sending them to the states.
Our take: Although it is a start, cutting federal employment and lowering federal wages is a drop in the ocean when you look at the federal government’s finances. The simple reality is that the largest expenditures in government as of last year are: Social Security, Defense, Income Security, Medicare and Medicaid, respectively. Without seriously addressing these programs, the U.S. will never get its spending under control.
What Gingrich said: ”…You have to have jobs and economic growth to get back to a balanced budget. …The leading developer of North Dakota oil estimated recently that if we would open up federal land and offshore, you would have $16 – 18 trillion in royalties to the federal government in the next generation. …We need to reform government.”
Our take: Although economic growth will help the government improve its financial shape, growing the economy alone will not solve the spending problems of America. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, programs like Social Security and Medicare are rapidly growing. And growing the economy does not address the structural reforms that are badly needed and simply prolongs the inevitable problem, which we all understand makes it grow worse.
What Paul said: ”I have never voted for a budget deficit. I never voted to increase the national debt. …There is only one appropriation bills I have voted for….”
Our take: Like the others, Paul didn’t seriously address how he will address the largest federal expenditures. To be fair, the moderator altered the question for Paul so he didn’t necessarily have a fair shot to respond. In the past, Paul has offered detailed examples of how he would decrease government expenditures.BA