Obama hits Santorum, Romney on deficit

President Obama's campaign on Tuesday said GOP rival Rick Santorum would have to essentially shut down the government or slash retiree benefits to match the president on deficit reduction.

It was part of the campaign's new attack strategy on Santorum and Mitt Romney, where they argue that, despite claiming to be budget hawks, the GOP presidential candidates favor tax cuts and new defense spending that would add trillions to the deficit over the next 10 years.

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The attacks follow a week in which the White House played defense over its new 2013 budget, which the GOP says uses gimmicks and massive tax increases to claim $4 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years.

Campaign economist Jeffrey Liebman told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that Romney would add nearly $2 trillion to the government's deficits over 10 years and Santorum would add nearly twice that.

"To match the president on deficit reduction, Santorum would have to eliminate all defense and non-defense discretionary spending," Liebman said. Non-defense discretionary spending includes government "overhead" — salaries, office space, etc. Without it, the government would essentially shut down.

Lieberman said the only way to avoid that would be for Santorum to make deep cuts to retirement benefits for current seniors.

Santorum has vowed to cut spending by $5 trillion over five years, but these cuts do not make up for the tax cuts he proposes, according to the Obama campaign.

“Santorum is definitely operating in fantasyland,” said Liebman, a former deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget. “By far, these are the most unrealistic budget plans I have ever seen.”

The White House claims that by 2016 the president's budget will reduce the deficit to 3.4 percent of gross domestic product.

In that year, Romney's budget plan would lead to a deficit of 6 percent of GDP, Obama's campaign claims, and Santorum’s tax plan — without any spending cuts — would bring the deficit to 10 percent of GDP. To match Obama's 3.4 percent and have his tax cuts, Santorum would have to make "unrealistic" government-shuttering cuts, the campaign said.

The Romney campaign said Tuesday that Obama has no credibility to attack others on the deficit.

"President Obama is in no position to criticize Mitt Romney's proposals to cut taxes and restore fiscal responsibility. After all, this is the President who just proposed the largest tax increase in American history and has given us four straight trillion-dollar budget deficits,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

“Middle-income Americans have been crushed by the Obama economy and millions of American workers have just given up looking for work. This was the president who told us that if he didn't fix the economy in three years, he'd be looking at a one term proposition. It's time to collect,” she added.

The Santorum campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Republicans say that Obama’s $4 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years are an illusion.

That Obama reduction comes in part from including $800 billion in savings from the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, by counting $1 trillion in cuts already in law and by having $1.5 trillion in new taxes. The official Congressional Budget Office analysis of Obama's budget has yet to be released.

Romney Santorum Deficit Memo


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