Robert Samuelson has had enough of both men hoodwinking voters. Here’s part of what he says Obama would have to say to tell the truth to voters:
“Fellow Americans. For years, your leaders — including me — have misled you. Your government has made more promises than it can keep, even if the economy returns to full employment. Your taxes are going up, and your public services are going down.
“As you know, the great driver here is the retirement of baby boomers. Between 2011 and 2025, the number of retirees on Social Security will grow by nearly 50 percent to 66 million people; Medicare experiences a similar rise. The resulting spending surge perpetuates huge budget deficits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that present policies would result in cumulative deficits of $10 trillion from 2013 to 2022. In 2022, the annual deficit is $1.4 trillion, or 5.5 percent of the economy, our gross domestic product. I have no credible plan to control Medicare and Social Security spending. …
And here is part of what President Romney would have to say to be honest:
“Fellow Americans. The budget outlook is worse than I’ve acknowledged. In the campaign, I pledged to reduce federal spending to 20 percent of GDP. This won’t happen: The required cuts for important programs — the FBI, highways, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Border Patrol and others — would be too great.
“For the past 40 years, federal spending has averaged 21 percent of GDP, so my goal of 20 percent seems reasonable. And we should eliminate low-priority programs, such as Amtrak. But savings will be more than offset by an aging population and health costs. From 1972 to 2011, Social Security and major federal health programs averaged 7 percent of GDP; in 2020, they’re estimated at 12 percent of GDP. Unless we control these programs, they will strangle the rest of government.
“As for any tax cut, forget it. Of course, we should try to simplify the system and spur economic growth by cutting top rates and ending tax breaks. Even this will be hard, because many breaks — such as the mortgage interest deduction — are popular. But to balance the budget, we’ll still need to raise more, not less, tax revenue from the income tax or other taxes. Since 1972, tax revenue has averaged only 18 percent of GDP. I should have been more candid with you during the campaign.”
Read the whole thing. It’s worth it. Samuelson says the problem is that people want their leaders to tell the truth, “but they often don’t want to hear the truth.” He’s right, of course. We are going to vote for the lies we prefer to hear.