- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2011

Outlining his economic goals, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney vowed Friday to dramatically shrink the size of the federal government and cap spending at levels before President Obama took office — all without cutting the defense budget.

The former Massachusetts governor called Mr. Obama’s economic policies “short-sighted,” while vowing to repeal the president’s overhaul of the federal health care system, to cut foreign assistance and to end funding for Amtrak. He also said Social Security and Medicare should be reshaped to curtail costs, and Medicaid should be turned into a system of block-grant payments to the states.

“Over the last 33 months, President Obama has grown federal spending to 24 percent of the economy, 24 percent of our gross domestic product,” Mr. Romney told the thousands gathered at the convention center in Washington D.C. for the Americans for Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream Summit.” “As president, I pledge to reduce spending to 20 percent of GDP by the end of my first term.”

Mr. Romney’s remarks came on the heels of the latest jobs report that showed the national unemployment rate dipped a tenth of a percentage point to 9 percent and with the national debt moving toward $15 trillion. His address followed up on a town hall meeting in New Hampshire and an op-ed in USA Today where he first shared his plans for what he described as the “biggest fundamental change to the federal government in modern history.”

The problem with the current administration’s economic approach, Mr. Romney said, is that most of its proposals hinge on one idea: “more spending and borrowing.”

“I’m committed to making government simpler, smaller and smarter,” he said. “It’s a moral imperative. We cannot with moral conscience borrow trillions of dollars than can only be paid by our children.”

He also vowed to cut funding for Title X family planning that go abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and other federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, saying, “We are going to eliminate or cut programs that are not absolutely necessary — even if we like them.”

He promised to reduce the size and salaries of the federal workforce through attrition and by tying public-sector pay and benefit scales to those in the private sector. And he said he would “reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts” in order to ensure the military is so strong that “no nation would ever think of testing it.”

He said that the retirement age for Social Security should gradually increase for younger workers and that benefits should grow at a slower rate for higer income recipients. He also said Medicare should be restructured to allow recipients to choose between private plans and the traditional system.