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Do Romney and Ryan Have a “Larger Purpose”?

“The success of a party means little except when the nation is using that party for a large and definite purpose,” said Woodrow Wilson in his first inaugural, 100 years ago.

The Republican Party of Richard Nixon was called to power in 1968 to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam and restore law and order to campuses and cities convulsed by crime, riots and racial violence. Nixon appeared to have succeeded and was rewarded with a 49-state landslide.

The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan was called to power in 1980 to restore America’s prosperity and military might and halt her stumbling retreat in the Cold War. He succeeded and was rewarded with a 49-state landslide in 1984.

Should Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan prevail, what would be the “large and definite purpose” for which they and their party had been called to power? Answer: Put America’s fiscal house in order and restore the prosperity the nation knew before the Great Recession.

Yet the only path consistent with party principle to achieve this goal is by imposing real pain upon an electorate that is less likely to reward Romney-Ryan with a 49-state landslide in 2016 than punish their party with a massacre of Republicans in 2014.

Recall: In 1982, before the Reagan tax cuts began their healing work, Fed Chairman Paul Volcker’s deep-root-canal economics — double-digit interest rates to scour inflation out of the economy — caused a loss of 26 Republican House seats. In early 1983, Reagan was widely viewed as a one-term president.

Should Romney and Ryan prevail in November, they would face a situation as dire as was Reagan’s — with fewer policy options.

Consider the 20 percent income tax cuts Romney proposes. With present tax rates generating revenue only 15 to 16 percent of gross domestic product, a cut that size would explode a deficit that is already in excess of $1 trillion for the fourth straight year.

Moreover, the principal beneficiaries of those tax cuts would be Americans in the 35 percent bracket, who would see their top rate fall to 28 percent. Someone earning $10 million a year in salary income could get a tax cut of around $700,000 — a nice piece of change.

Romney suggests he will pay for tax cuts by cutting deductions. But the three largest deductions for most taxpayers are mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions. And if the GOP is reluctant even to discuss these cuts today, is it likely to enact them?

The Romney-Ryan supply-side tax cuts had better produce a boom, and fast, because, given the makeup of the media, they will be portrayed as a plutocrats’ raid on the U.S. Treasury.

Moreover, while tax cuts produce only ideological angst on the left, any major budget cuts must inevitably cause real pain.

For consider the major categories of federal spending.

The largest domestic programs are Medicare and Social Security. Pare back these middle-class entitlements, and a President Romney will be at war with AARP, tens of millions of seniors and an army of baby boomers now reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 a day.

If Romney is going to bring the budget even close to balance, he has to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and stay out of any new wars in Syria or Iran. But a policy of no war where no vital U.S. vital interest is imperiled would be seen as a moral abdication by the democracy crusaders and a betrayal by the neoconservatives.

As for defense, Romney has taken that off the table and would increase it to 4 percent of GDP.

What about education? The major items here are Head Start, Bush II’s No Child Left Behind, Pell grants and student loans. Has any president since Sputnik jolted America awake ever cut back on education?

What about infrastructure? Since the Interstate Highway Act of President Eisenhower, when has federal spending for highways, roads, bridges, airports, ports and mass transit ever been cut?

Among the major poverty programs are rent supplements, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, welfare and Medicaid. Would a Romney administration that is slashing tax rates for the top 20 percent dare to cut programs that benefit the working poor?

Only once in the lifetime of Americans now living did the U.S. government slash spending. Right after World War II, the feds’ share of the U.S. economy was cut by two-thirds, and all those dollars put away in wartime savings came flooding out to buy the homes, cars, TVs, freezers, and washers and dryers suddenly available.

What would a Romney-Ryan administration do once in office?

A guess: freeze federal spending rather than slash it. Retain the Bush tax cuts, and pass the new Romney rates. Take a chainsaw to regulations choking free enterprise. Tighten eligibility for federal programs. Cut federal payrolls through attrition.

And pray it all works, as it did for the Gipper not so long ago.

But however it turns out, those 49-state landslides are history.

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of TAC and the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? [1]” Copyright 2012 Creators.com [2].

19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "Do Romney and Ryan Have a “Larger Purpose”?"

#1 Comment By Bob Jones On August 31, 2012 @ 2:02 am

“But the three largest deductions for most taxpayers are mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions.”

Pat, mortgage interest yes, but more important are the Health insurance premiums that effectively reduce AGI as soon as you get your check, and retirement account savings. Odds are Romney will dump those to replace employer provided health insurance benefits, with a buy your own with an HSA, and drop the 401k and IRA tax reductions to encourage spending, which would encourage people to create another consumer bubble and become even more dependent on the government in old age.

Of course he could follow the Reagan plan. Cut taxes once, grow government embark on a Keynesian spending spree, and then raise taxes 10 time to try an make up the difference. This would create enough of a short term improvement to give the impression something had been done, but saddle his successor with an ever worse economic mess. Given Romney’s business record, I would guess that would be his course of action.

#2 Comment By Robert On August 31, 2012 @ 2:57 am

Yesterday I read an article wherein the founder of one of the Tea Party groups (You know, the people who say all government spending is a drag on the economy.) said President Romney could jump start the economy by making massive investments in defense spending. The guy’s basic logic was as follows: Spending money on defense creates jobs and wages. These wages are then spent at other business, thereby creating even more jobs. And, to make it even better, the products that result from these investments (aircraft carriers, tanks, bombs, etc.) help keep us safe and strong. That this is exactly the same logic used to justify the stimulus bill–which I’m sure this guy opposed–was apparently of little concern.

Here is a link to the article (note the link to the full article is at the beginning of the piece):

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#3 Comment By Rambler88 On August 31, 2012 @ 3:10 am

There’s another genuinely constructive option that’s not often taken seriously but that a bunch of loose cannons like Romney and some Republicans in Congress might actually try: cutting federal payrolls faster than attrition.

49-state landslides probably are history, unless one party accidentally departs from recent precedent and nominates someone of at least average knowledge, intelligence, and integrity.

But cutting the bureaucracy that sits on the shoulders of the entire working population could help Romney to a second term, while reducing expenditures and providing an econonomic boost for businesses–and for working people who have been feeling their backs to the wall. If done within two years, it could even avoid or mitigate mid-term backlash in congressional elections. The fact that employment has risen (however slowly) despite significant government payroll cuts has probably registered on at least some voters. And in any case, that fact is sitting there to be picked up and used by opinion-makers.

For those voters less vulnerable to facts, serious government cuts would match anything Obama’s done for excitement and novelty appeal.

And anyone who thinks that such cuts wouldn’t be cheered by a lot of the same people who cheered Obamacare hasn’t read much history.

Finally, cutting government is such a fundamental and urgent necessity that it’s hard to imagine even Romney and his ilk doing more harm than good with it.

#4 Comment By CD Number Two On August 31, 2012 @ 8:27 am

Pat,
Been following you for almost two decades. But I will respectfully disagree with your statement “… tax cuts produce only ideological angst on the left …” I’m not on the left, but the tax cuts will produce angst in me! And not “ideological” angst, but real, actual angst. Why? Because 1.)I am a middle class white collar worker and I suspect any tax cuts will only marginally help me, if at all. 2.) The tax cuts will not be paired with the necessary spending cuts – no matter what Romney/Ryan says – so they will make our outrageous debt/deficit that much worese. 3.) The tax breaks will not produce the promised prosperity and/or employment opportunities, because that has barely worked (if at all) for the last 10-20 years.

Lastly, you ask, “Would a Romney administration that is slashing tax rates for the top 20 percent dare to cut programs that benefit the working poor?” My answer: Yes, they sure would if they thought they could get away with it! And because the sheeple in this country are so brainwashed and uninformed and naive, they probably could get away with it.

That being said, I look forward to your next article, Pat.

#5 Comment By The Dean On August 31, 2012 @ 8:57 am

Someone please explain to me why city, county, state and federal employees can retire at at age 50-55 with a traditional pension, not worry about a 401(k)’s performance while I have to work until 67 to receive social security?
I understand that there are certain professions where this is necessary like law enforcement or firefighters. These halve a physical dimension but ALL workers do not need this privledge. Everyone should pay into the same system.

#6 Comment By LarryS On August 31, 2012 @ 10:03 am

My only choice in November is to write in Pat Buchanan for president.

#7 Comment By Sean Gillhoolley On August 31, 2012 @ 10:23 am

I think it is clear at this point that neither party is willing to do what it takes to reduce the deficit and start paying down the debt. For one, liberals must be willing to accept spending cuts to service that they cherish. Some can be made more efficient, but most will simply have to learn to make do with less. Conservatives must be willing to make large cuts to defense spending. It accounts for a huge amount of the expenditures, and it seems like overkill on a grand scale to me. Also I think revenues need to be increased, which means increasing the top tax rate, and killing some of the many corporate tax loopholes. The USA might have the highest official corporate tax rate in the world, but it actually takes in one of the least (around a 12.5% rate).

#8 Comment By alcogito On August 31, 2012 @ 10:54 am

Bizarre. A strange combination of naivete’ and cynicism. In fact, since The American Conservative” seems to exist, in itself and in its columnists/bloggers, only to criticize conservatism, perhaps the time has come to change its name to conservative Critic.

Romney is the furthest thing imaginable from “a loose cannon”, but that label could easily be attached to another familiar name.

#9 Comment By daddysteve On August 31, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

Since both parties are beholden to the same master , I believe the GOP has no problem losing this “election” as long as the Liberty Revolution is stifled or derailed (at least temporarily).
Head they win , tails we lose.

#10 Comment By Bob Jones On August 31, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

Rambler,

I really doubt they will just start laying off federal employees would Romney be lucky enough to win. That just isn’t in the cards, I’m afraid. besides, the current federal work force is only a part of the problem, the pending federal employee pensions are much bigger. It should also be noted that should employees be cut, it will be those least vested in the system, so the pension burden will remain almost unchecked.

A better first move would be to push through a federal employees pension reform, that would work to transition the define benefit pension into a defined contribution 401k, and then bring the federal workforce into the SSA system. This would both reduce the longer-term liabilities for pensions, set an example for the state’s, and increase revenue to SSA.

To cut federal employees, you would first need to cut the program’s they work for, which would be harder but necessary if you want the cuts to be long term. Otherwise, all you are doing are creating open positions that are likely to be filled in the future to support the still operating programs.

#11 Comment By gutterstar On August 31, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

@The Dean; I believe local, state, and federal workers have those benefits because they belong to unions. Perhaps if you and others in your profession, en masse, were to demand more of your employers you could improve compensation for all of your households.

#12 Comment By Icthelite On August 31, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

Referring to the title; “Don’t They All”?

#13 Comment By Rambler88 On September 1, 2012 @ 1:16 am

@ Bob Jones:

There was indeed an element of wishful thinking in my suggestion for cutting the government payroll faster than attrition–and I had in mind program cuts as well. If I had to bet, I’d bet on a more pessimistic scenario such as the one you outlined in your first post.

My point was that, in contrast to the more talked-about possibilities for reform of government finances–possibilities which, as Mr. Buchanan pointed out, might lead to either economic disaster or a counter-reform electoral backlash–, Romney and a Republican Congress could actually get away with serious government cuts, using the growing dislike of parasitical, privileged bureaucrats to build public support, while genuinely improving the situation. They’d have to employ a good bit of demagoguery to do it, but that’s about all we’ve had from either party for a long time anyway.

We’ve gotten to the point where the U.S. could soon tip into strange times and unprecedented actions. Our best hope is that the unprecedented actions be constructive ones.

The federal pension reform you suggested–especially bringing federal workers under the SSA system–is another scenario that is dear to my heart. When I daydream about strange, unprecedented, and constructive actions, I like to think about elected officials simply and all at once transferring federal pension assets to the SS system and decreeing that henceforth all federal employees (including SSA and IRS staff) are subject to SS same as the little people. Absurdly radical, yes–but not much more so than many flagrant wallet transplants we’ve seen in favor of big business. The only difference is that this one rights a flagrant wrong and benefits the general public. The civil servants would raise major hell of course, but few of them provide really critical services, and the consequences could be a whole lot worse in the long run if something fairly radical isn’t done. In strange times of unprecedented actions, stuff like this can happen. True, such times are more likely to produce unfortunate, unprecedented actions. But in discussions such as this, I think it’s a question of hoping for, and suggesting, the best.

#14 Comment By Jack Tracey On September 1, 2012 @ 11:30 am

Gutterstar,
I believe local, state, and federal workers have those benefits because they work for an organization that is not beholden to the normal financial responsibilities of an organization that must have income at least equal to its expeditures.

Please leave your unions in the rust belt that they helped to destroy when you move south to look for work.

#15 Comment By JonF On September 2, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

Re: Odds are Romney will dump those to replace employer provided health insurance benefits

But that won’t end employer heath insurance– just make it cost more. This is often misunderstood, but it is not the employer who gets a special tax break in this area– businesses are taxed only on profit to start with (which excludes all and every form of employee compensation and many, many other payments too). Rather it’s the employee who is getting the tax break. Take that away and people will be paying many hundreds of dollars more per month in taxes. I can think of no way to outrage the electorate more effectively than by suddenly making their pay checks smaller by such a large sum. (And since they are usually locked into their benefits plan for the entire year they would be unable to drop the benefits in response for a while).

#16 Comment By Tre On September 2, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

Re: Rambler and Bob Jones.
Are either of you aware of the difference between CSRS and FERS retirement systems? Doesn’t sound like it. ALL non-law enforcemet federal employees hired since the mid 1980’s are included and pay into social security. The newer system – FERS –

#17 Comment By Tre On September 2, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

Continued (oops)

is calculated as (aprox) 1% pension per year of service. Yes it’s a definied benefit- therefore a 20 year employee earning 50k at retirement would earn 10k per year at retirment. And yes… employees pay a % of their salary into their pension costs each and every year. They also pay into a 401k and social security as well.
The program you describe was scrapped long long time ago….. Federal employees are not compensated the way you are claiming.

#18 Comment By Tom On September 3, 2012 @ 12:16 am

For the one or two of you who lumped Federal employees in with state employees federal workers do contribute to both social security and medicare. The following is from the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) website.
Congress created the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) in 1986, and it became effective on January 1, 1987. Since that time, new Federal civilian employees who have retirement coverage are covered by FERS.
FERS is a retirement plan that provides benefits from three different sources: a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
As far as Romney being able to solve our current problems, not a chance. He just won’t be as bad as Obama. We are in a balance sheet recession and we must go through the pain of cleaning up our balance sheet, Federal, state,local and consumers. Business has already done it.

#19 Comment By George DeMarse On September 12, 2012 @ 10:41 am

No. Romney and Ryan do not represent “a larger purpose.” They represent the same old supply side “redux” Republicans have been pushing for 30 years.
They claim to have to “reduce spending,” which seems right. But when it comes to “shared sacrifice,” they exempt defense, the biggest item in the federal budget.
They also emphasize the need to “cut retirement benefits” for federal employees as a way to balance the deficit, by making the federal employee pension system into a “401k” system like the private sector.

Here’s a headline for the Republicans: federal retirement is “already” a 401k type system since 1986–the FERS system. It is made up of Social Security, the basic benefit (roughly 1% of salary times years of service)and the employee/employer contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan.
Unless Republicans plan on taking employees’own contributions out of their pockets, then Republicans are trying to get blood out of stone. They will have to go after older retirees under the CSRS system, which no longer applies to federal employees and which was a true defined benefit plan.

Further, military members are under a different retirment system; which is a true defined benefit plan, not a 401k style plan. We don’t hear anything from Republicans about cutting this plan for the military.

Republicans, in order to “fix” the economy, ought to be worried about the “lousy” private sector pensions, and the lack thereof, rather than picking the pockets of one group of federal employees who are already under average 401k plans. Without adequate retirement income, a large block of Americans will not have any discretionary income to drive demand to improve the macro-economy.

George DeMarse
U.S. Office of Personnel Management (Ret.)