Steve Chapman

Romney does indulge conservatives by discussing his plans to cut the federal budget by $500 billion a year in his first term. What he omits is that those cuts wouldn't come close to balancing the budget.

He says he'll kill Obama's health care overhaul. He mentions a few other items he would trim, most of them notable for requiring no discernible sacrifice by anyone within earshot -- reducing federal employment and federal pay, going after subsidies to the arts, turning Medicaid over to the states, revamping defense procurement.

Here, the candidate tries to allay fears on the part of people outside the GOP tent, who might get the wrong impression from his budget cuts. "I like, for instance, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, I like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," Romney confides. "I don't want them to go away, but I don't want to borrow a billion dollars from China to pay for them."

Anyone listening might infer that he wants to end funding for these programs. In fact, his budget blueprint would only "reduce subsidies" by $600 million -- about half of their current spending. "I only want to borrow half a billion dollars from China to pay for them," however, would not be a great applause line.

Looking ahead a year, Romney outlines two possible scenarios for Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 -- when morning TV anchors may report that Obama has been re-elected ("No!" voices exclaim in horror). Or we could wake up, he says, to be told, "Mitt Is It."

Could be. Maybe by then, voters will have figured out what Mitt is.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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