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The bumper sticker

Reagan tax rates + Clinton spending policies = high growth and full employment!

The advantage of this approach is that it has been proved in the recent past — Reagan-like tax rates and Clinton-like spending policies can result in taxes and spending being at about 18.2 percent of GDP — a balanced budget. Republicans love Reagan, and the more sensible Democrats and many independents understand that the spending policies in effect at the end of the Clinton administration did provide an adequate “safety net” even by their definition. The economy was growing rapidly, with near full employment in both the last Reagan and Clinton administrations. Saying that his administration is going to duplicate the best of both Reagan and Clinton administrations would be a political winner, provided Mr. Romney and his surrogates say it over and over again. People can understand that program, and it would make Mr. Romney sound less partisan and more statesman-like, which is important in winning over independents and disaffected Democrats.

Mr. Romney would need to detail his proposals for the policy wonks but not necessarily for the general public. His current proposals are very near what I am suggesting, so only a relatively little tweaking would be necessary (my personal preference is for substantially less government).

It could be easily and creditably argued that such policies should result in growth rates of more than 4 percent, based on past performance. These policies would almost certainly result in the good side of what economists refer to as Mitchell’s Golden Rule of Fiscal Policy: “Good fiscal policy exists when the private sector grows faster than the public sector, while fiscal ruin is inevitable if government spending grows faster than the productive part of the economy.”

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.