Promises, Promises

Campaign promises are typically long on rhetoric and short on specifics and this year is no exception. But as we noted last week, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) has waded through the candidates' platforms and projected the impact of their proposed policies on the national debt.

Armed with CRFB's data, Floyd Norris and Paul Krugman in The New York Times this week each take GOP candidates to task for playing fast and loose with the truth about their tax cut and deficit reduction plans. And while candidates have learned from Walter Mondale's blundering 1984 campaign to err on the side of promising lower rates, Norris calls this season's tax cut rhetoric "worse than any campaign I can remember."

Krugman takes CRFB's projections -- which, he notes, show "the budget proposals of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney would all lead to much higher debt a decade from now than the proposals in the 2013 Obama budget" -- and tears into the Republican party, calling the "real-agenda" of the GOP "top-down class warfare."

He digs in further:

In fact, all four significant Republican presidential candidates still standing are fiscal phonies. They issue apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of government debt and, in the name of deficit reduction, demand savage cuts in programs that protect the middle class and the poor. But then they propose squandering all the money thereby saved — and much, much more — on tax cuts for the rich.

We should note that it is with grudging respect that Krugman uses CRFB's data as ammunition to blast the GOP. Krugman has questioned the emphasis on debt reduction that is a big part of CRFB's mission and he notes that disagreement again:

I am not, by the way, a big fan of the committee’s general role in our policy discourse; I think it has been pushing premature deficit reduction and diverting attention from the more immediately urgent task of reducing unemployment. But the group is honest and technically competent, so its evaluation provides a very useful reference point.

When talking about parsing campaign promises, "honest and technically competent" is a nod we'll gladly take.