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Doh! Romney Messes Up, Tells the Truth About Austerity

Mitt Romney has periodic breakdowns when asked questions about the economy because he sometimes forgets the need to lie. He forgets that he is supposed to treat austerity as the epitome of economic wisdom. When he responds quickly to questions about austerity he slips into default mode and speaks the truth -- adopting austerity during the recovery from a Great Recession would (as in Europe) throw the nation back into recession or depression. The latest example is his May 23, 2012 interview with Mark Halperin in Time magazine.

Halperin: Why not in the first year, if you're elected -- why not in 2013, go all the way and propose the kind of budget with spending restraints, that you'd like to see after four years in office? Why not do it more quickly?

Romney: Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5%. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I'm not going to do that, of course.

Romney explains that austerity, during the recovery from a Great Recession, would cause catastrophic damage to our nation. The problem, of course, is that the Republican congressional leadership is committed to imposing austerity on the nation and Speaker Boehner has just threatened that Republicans will block the renewal of the debt ceiling in order to extort Democrats to agree to austerity -- severe cuts to social programs. Romney knows this could "throw us into recession or depression" and says he would never follow such a policy.

Romney, however, has not opposed Boehner's threat to use extortion to force austerity on the nation. Romney has the nomination sown up, but I predict that he will stand by and let Boehner try to throw us into a Great Depression rather than upset the Tea Party-wing of the Republican Party. Indeed, Romney will attack Democrats who have the political courage to defend our nation against his Party's demands for austerity that would throw us into recession or depression.

What does one call a politician who, solely to advance his personal political ambition, supports his Party's efforts to coerce austerity even though he knows that the austerity would cause a national economic catastrophe and states that he, "of course," would never adopt such self-destructive austerity if he were president? Romney is failing the tests of courage, integrity, and loyalty to our nation and people.

Later in the interview, Romney claims that federal budgetary deficits are "immoral." But he has just explained that using austerity for the purported purpose of ending a deficit would cause a recession or depression. A recession or depression would make the deficit far larger. That means that Romney should be denouncing austerity as "immoral" (as well as suicidal) because it will not simply increase the deficit (which he claims to find "immoral" because of its impact on children) but also dramatically increase unemployment, poverty, child poverty and hunger, and harm their education by causing more teachers to lose their jobs and more school programs to be cut. Fewer children will be able to get college degrees. Austerity is the great enemy of children -- it is the epitome of a self-destructive, immoral economic policy.

Listen for the sounds of silence from Romney in coming months. I predict that he will not act to protect our children or our economy from the suicidal and "immoral" austerity his Republican allies are trying to coerce the Democrats to inflict on our economy and our children.

This post originally appeared at New Economic Perspectives.

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William K. Black

William K. Black

William K. Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A former bank regulator who led investigations of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, he is the author of the book "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." Follow him on Twitter:  @WilliamKBlack

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