EXETER, NH -- In front of more than 200 people, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney yesterday unveiled his most detailed spending policy to date, promising to slash government spending by $500 billion in his first term -- by cutting federal spending like Amtrak, reducing foreign aid, and reorganizing federal government programs to the state level.
He will give a similar speech today at the Americans for Prosperity summit in DC.
Reading from handwritten notes on yellow legal paper, Romney pointed to the financial crisis in Greece to illustrate his reasoning for fostering what he called "a smaller, simpler, smarter approach" to government.
"If we keep spending like we're spending and borrowing like we're borrowing, at some point we could face what Greece faces," he told the standing-room only audience yesterday.
The former Massachusetts governor promised to send major programs back to the state level -- including Medicaid and food stamps -- and get rid of government subsidies of Amtrak. "I like Amtrak, but $1.6 billion a year borrowed from China to pay for it is not a good idea," Romney said.
Perhaps one of the most notable cuts Romney outlined was a decrease of government employment by 10%. Touting his often-cited private-sector experience, he vowed to tie federal government salaries to going rates in the private sector. "The principles of business -- conservative fiscal principles -- they work in government, they worked in the Olympics," Romney said.
In a new move, Romney also said he would attempt to eliminate union labor collaborations with government by repealing the Davis-Bacon act, which requires union labor and wages for government construction projects.
Romney argued that if his cuts are not adopted, other countries like Russia, China and Iran will "reshape the world in their image."
His proposed cuts came along with his usual arguments for repealing Obama's health care plan and decrease foreign aid substantially. "We give $10 million in foreign aid a year to China," Romney said. "[It] makes no sense at all..I'd stop sending foreign aid to countries that can take care of themselves."
For the first time, Romney also offered the option to choose between traditional and private Medicare options in a USA Today op-ed outlining his plan.
This position appears to be at least a partial embrace of Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal, as it would allow senior citizens the choice of a private or public plan. Romney and Ryan met in person last week, per NBC's Garrett Haake.
Embracing his front-runner status, Romney also encouraged his supporters to be prepared for backlash from detractors. He launched a pre-emptive strike against the Democratic Party regarding potential responses to his spending plan.
"There some who say, 'When you talk about fiscal responsibility and cutting a program, you're showing you're heartless,'" Romney said.
"We have to say, 'No no we have a moral responsibility to not spend more than we take in,'" he said of the Republican Party.
And, as expected, the Democrats -- and the Obama re-election campaign -- fired back. "The inevitable result of Romney’s arbitrary limits on federal spending would be deep cuts to education, infrastructure, innovation, and clean energy, devastating efforts to invest in the future of our country even as other nations around the world are racing to make these investments in economic competitiveness," the Obama campaign said in a memo to reporters.
"Romney has proposed additional tax cuts for corporations and wealthy Americans," the memo added. "These regressive tax cuts for corporations and unearned income would shift a greater share of the tax burden onto wages earned by the middle class. Romney has also supported Republican budget plans that protect tax subsidies for oil and gas companies."