WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is making campaign promises that could produce an economic miracle — or a more predictable list of broken vows.
Romney said he wants to put the nation on a path to a balanced budget while also cutting an array of taxes, building up the Navy and Air Force and adding 100,000 active-duty military personnel. He said he would slash domestic spending and reduce tax loopholes but has offered few details.
His comments raise eyebrows in Congress, long accustomed to easier-said-than-done promises. And even some conservatives have their doubts.
Christopher A. Preble, a vice president for the libertarian Cato Institute, said Romney’s promise to push military spending to 4 percent of the national economy would require dramatic increases that would raise, not lower, the federal deficit.
Citing “the absurdity of Romney’s plan,” Preble wrote recently that the candidate “hasn’t said what other spending he will cut, or what taxes he would increase.”
“Until he does,” Preble wrote, “it is logical to conclude that he plans to pile on more debt.”
Romney said he will avoid that problem by making courageous cuts to federal programs if elected.
“I have three major ways that we can get ourselves to a balanced budget,” he told voters this month in Warwick, R.I. “Number one is to eliminate some programs. Stop, eliminate them. Not just slow down their rate of growth. But look at programs and say, ‘Too many, too big, too expensive, too ineffective, get rid of it.’
“Some programs you’re going to like. I’m going to ask for sacrifice. But the sacrifice will not be taking more from your wallet. … I’m not going to give anybody any free stuff.”
Other Romney proposals would make states responsible for programs such as Medicaid, and reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent “through attrition.”
It’s not uncommon for candidates to promise unspecified spending cuts. Often, they find it extremely difficult to fulfill the pledges once elected. That’s one reason the nation’s debt has soared under Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses alike.