On his radio show last night, right-wing talker Hugh Hewitt asked former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to react to President Obama’s budget proposal. “Well, the budget is very, very troubling,” replied Romney.
Claiming that it was “something” that conservatives like him had “been saying for years,” Romney then complained that there are “some in Washington” who think “that deficits don’t matter.”
HEWITT: Now let’s take a look at the budget that has been proposed by President Obama. I was just talking with John Campbell of the House Budget Committee, and we listened to Judd Gregg, your colleague, your supporter during the presidential campaign, saying it will bankrupt America in ten years and it can’t be serious. Your reaction to the budget?
ROMNEY: Well, the budget is very, very troubling. There is a perspective on the part of some in Washington that budgets don’t matter, that deficits don’t matter, that debt doesn’t matter, but the reality is that not only at some point does someone have to pay for it, and that’s something we’ve all been saying for years.
Romney’s use of the phrase “deficits don’t matter” recalls former Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” when he was arguing for the Bush tax cuts in 2003:
O’Neill, fired in a shakeup of Bush’s economic team in December 2002, raised objections to a new round of tax cuts and said the president balked at his more aggressive plan to combat corporate crime after a string of accounting scandals because of opposition from “the corporate crowd,” a key constituency.
O’Neill said he tried to warn Vice President Dick Cheney that growing budget deficits-expected to top $500 billion this fiscal year alone-posed a threat to the economy. Cheney cut him off. “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said, according to excerpts. Cheney continued: “We won the midterms (congressional elections). This is our due.” A month later, Cheney told the Treasury secretary he was fired.
Back during the presidential campaign, Romney appeared to agree with Cheney. In Dec. 2007, Romney attacked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by saying, “He voted against the Bush tax cuts — twice.” “That’s failing Reagan 101.”
Though the Obama administration’s budget does increase deficit spending in the near term, the goal is to “cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.” This is a sharp contrast from Reagan’s near tripling of the deficit over his presidency and George W. Bush’s conversion of a $236 billion surplus when he took office into the $1.2 trillion deficit he passed to his successor.