Accusing Mitt Romney of "tinkering at the margins," Rick Santorum takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal today to lay out his campaign's "pro-growth and pro-family Economic Freedom Agenda." See the column for full details, but here's the gist:
- Increasing domestic energy production, including approving the Keystone XL pipeline and giving the states more flexibility to approve energy exploration and fracking regulations.
- Repealing all Obama-era regulations with a cost to the economy of over $100 million.
- Two income tax rates -- 10 percent and 28 percent -- along with a tripling of the deduction for children and elimination of the marriage penalty.
- Cut the corporate tax rate in half (interestingly, the WSJ piece is totally silent on the proposal to eliminate the tax altogether for manufacturing)
- Spending cuts of $5 trillion over five years, plus a 10 percent cut in the federal workforce (excluding defense).
- A Balanced Budget Amendment that includes a cap for federal spending at 18 percent of GDP.
- Five free trade agreements in his first year in office (Santorum doesn't specify with whom).
- Repeal and replace Obamacare
- "Cut means-tested entitlement programs by 10% across the board, freeze them for four years, and block grant them to states." Plus reforms to Medicare and Social Security to make them "fiscally sustainable."
- Phasing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
What do you think? For my money, it's a decent package, although it suffers -- as most election-year promises do -- from a reach that probably exceeds its grasp. I also don't know that it's going to create a particularly stark contrast with Romney -- while they may differ on the details, the principles behind a lot of these proposals would receive almost universal assent from the Republican field.
A few minor quibbles: a two-tiered income tax system, with an 18 percent gap between the two rates, is an invitation for distortions as people attempt to avoid the higher bracket. While I prefer a flat system, if you're not going to have one it behooves you to keep the increase between brackets modest. I'm not a big fan of upping the child tax credit either, which (even though it's a fairly innocuous iteration) still reeks of making social policy through the tax code.
Finally, while I'm deeply sympathetic to the goal, I've never thought the Balanced Budget Amendment worth the candle. It's an awful lot of effort to erect a system that Congress will inevitably find a workaround for, much as they do in states like California.