During a debate Thursday night, Pennsylvania House GOP candidate Mike Kelly was asked by the moderator to name “specific” cuts he would make to the federal budget. Kelly clearly understood the question, since he repeated the word “specific” in his response no less than 8 times.
But despite mentioning the word “specific,” there was nothing actually specific in Kelly’s response. Eight times Kelly rebuffed his own insistence that he would address the issue “very specifically.” His excuses ran the gamut, from “let me get there and I’ll figure it out” to “I can’t tell you,” and from “the specificity is in the process” to “I’d tear it apart”:
MODERATOR: Projections suggest that our national debt is approaching $14 trillion. Recent media reports suggest candidates across the country, from both parties, have been very vague about what they would do about the debt. Let’s break that trend and look at some specifics here. […] Could you please tell us what specific savings; where would you find massive cuts in the federal budget?
KELLY: Sure, I’ll address that, and I’ll address it very specifically. The specifics – the specificity – is in the process. When Gov. Christie got elected in New Jersey, they asked him the same question; he says “let me get there and I’ll figure it out. Let me just do this.” Because as a businessperson, you have to look every month at what you do. You have to look at the things that work and the things that didn’t work. You have to determine whether that’s the right course to be on or not be on.
And I’m always intrigued when people say, “specifically, what would you do?” Here, specifically, what would I do? I’d tear it apart. I’d tear it apart. I would want to look at every bit of our spending budget. Does it work or does it not work? Is it something we can improve on? Is it something we should redeploy those funds? Absolutely, there’s stuff to be cut. What is it right now? I can’t tell you. [...]
So I think we have the wrong point of view here. Specifically what would you do? Specifically, what I would do? I would be the most responsible legislator who’s out there. I would measure twice and cut once. I would look at every expense and is it performing the way it’s supposed to perform, or this just another one of those government programs that has an endless life that we just keep adding and adding and adding. So the specificness of it is getting people there that are responsible, that have skin in the game and that have sweat [inaudible], that understand what it means to make payments out of your own pocket, not the taxpayer’s. That’s a very sacred duty, that’s the way we would approach this.
Of course, Kelly is not alone in his refusal to give specific ways he would cut the federal budget. Just last week, California Senate nominee Carly Fiorina (R) was asked by Chris Wallace seven separate times which expenditures she would cut, only to rebuff the Fox News Sunday host each time. As ThinkProgress has noted, decrying the federal budget deficit while simultaneously offering no specific solutions to reduce it has quickly become a rite of passage for GOP candidates this election.