The Washington Times - May 7, 2012, 05:18PM

You can almost hear the collective gasp from Ron Paul’s loyal band of supporters.

Speaking Monday at a town hall style-meeting event in Cleveland, presumptive GOP presidential Mitt Romney plunged a fork into the idea that he could come around to embracing Mr. Paul’s call for deep cuts in federal spending.


“My job is to get America back on track to have a balanced budget. Now I’m not going to cut $1 trillion in the first year,” he said, distancing himself from Mr. Paul’s ( plan to slice more than a quarter of the estimated $3.8 trillion being spent by the the federal government.

Why not, someone in the crowd apparently asked, sparking a response from the former Massachusetts governor.

“The reason,” he explained, “is taking a trillion dollars out of a $15 trillion economy would cause our economy to shrink [and] would put a lot of people out of work.”

Mr. Paul proposed deeper cuts in federal spending than any of his rivals in the GOP nomination contest, rolling out a plan in October that called for $1 trillion in spending cuts during his year in office — in part by closing federal agencies, attrition in the federal work force and ending the wars overseas.

“I think the easiest place to cut spending is overseas,” Mr. Paul said at the time, reminding supporters that the nation has spent trillions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It doesn’t make us safer. It doesn’t make us richer. It makes us poorer.”

Mr. Paul’s plan aims to cap federal spending at 15.5 percent of national GDP (it is currently about 25 percent of GDP) by 2016 and balance the budget in three years. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, has laid out a fiscal plan that aims to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP and bring the budget into balance by 2020. He, however, opposes cuts to military spending, which currently accounts for about 18 percent of federal outlays.

Speaking at a campaign stop last week in Portsmouth, Va., Mr. Romney drove home that point, saying he will add new ships to the U.S. Navy, add new aircraft to the Air Force and add 100,000 active duty personnel.