Back in October, I speculated that, with unemployment projected to remain high through the entirety of the next administration, a hypothetical President Romney would not stand idly by without attempting to goose the economy.
Yet since the word “stimulus” has become radioactive on the right, I imagined, further, that a Romney stimulus package would be called something else, and that it would rely mostly on deficit-financed tax cuts, as has been the pattern of Republican presidents since Reagan.
Nevertheless the package would walk like stimulus and quack like stimulus.
Business Insider’s Henry Blodget astutely notices that Romney may be preparing the ground for such a policy shift. Reading the tea leaves of Romney’s recent appearance on FOX Business, Blodget writes:
Romney sounds as though he is backing away from an immediate focus on deficit reduction in favor of near-term stimulus. Romney is now arguing for a moratorium on current tax rates and government spending to avoid the “fiscal cliff” that will otherwise hit the country on January 1 — a cliff that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will throw the economy back into a recession. Extending the current policies will vastly increase the projected deficit, but Romney no longer seems concerned about that. He makes vague references to minor future spending cuts on “discretionary non-defense spending” (a tiny portion of federal spending) and still suggests he might eliminate some tax deductions. But he refuses to say which deductions he might eliminate and now says he will make certain that his tax changes do not increase the middle-class’s tax bill or share of the overall tax burden. According to the Tax Policy Center, this will be impossible while also cutting taxes radically for the richest Americans, so it appears Romney is backing away from the idea that his tax cuts will be revenue neutral.
Of course, this all may be a case of Romney posturing as a champion of the middle class. But I’m betting it’s more than that. The book on Romney’s plan is that it’s an arithmetic fantasy. Now he’s tacitly recognizing that it’s a political dead-ender, too.
I say again: It’s not a matter of whether a President Romney and a Republican Congress would pass a stimulus. It’s a matter of what they’re going to call it.