Though Mitt Romney has previously promised that he would balance the federal budget by 2020 — which would be the final year of his theoretical second term — his campaign has struggled to explain how his budget could do that and when it would really happen. Sunday, Romney senior campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom appeared to backtrack from the 2020 timetable promising only a $500 billion deficit reduction by the year 2016.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Fehrnstrom was asked how long it would take Romney to balance the budget:
JIM ACOSTA (HOST): So you’re not committing to balancing this budget by the end of the second term, because Governor Romney has said out on the campaign trail, that he hopes to have it balanced by the end of the second term. You’re not saying that, that’s not in the cards this morning?
FEHRNSTROM: I think that’s an achievable objective by the end of the the second term. What he has published is a deficit reduction plan that will cut the deficit by $500 billion by the year 2016.
Watch the video:
The reason Fehrnstrom cannot make the eight-years-to-a-balanced-budget claim is that Romney’s budget will not balance the budget and would likely make the deficit even larger. The decision by the Romney campaign to reject his own running mate’s $716 billion Medicare savings means that balancing the budget by 2020 — already a pipe dream under his original plan — is now so unrealistic that even his campaign won’t call it anything more than a potentially achievable objective.
As it turns out, Ryan’s stimulus hypocrisy extends back at least an entire decade. In 2002, Republican President George W. Bush proposed a similar — if less ambitious — stimulus plan to the one President Obama signed in 2009. Like Obama, Bush sought to goose the economy through an influx of public sector cash. His stimulus plan included an extension of unemployment benefits and a plan to mail checks directly to millions of Americans. Ryan took to the House floor to defend this plan, accurately noting that additional government spending would help move the economy out of a recession:
We have a lot of laid off workers, and more layoffs are occurring. And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place. What we have been trying to do starting in October and into December and now is to try and get people back to work. The things we’re trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs. . . .
We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, we don’t have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security, to fix these issues. We’ve got to get Americans back to work. Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.
In a 2002 interview with the Journal Times, Ryan even more explicitly adopted the economic theory behind President Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan: “You have to spend a little to grow a little. What we’re trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that’s on its back.” And Ryan is right even now: despite his repeated assertions that it was a failure, the stimulus package Obama signed worked.