A Guide to the Presidential Candidates' Proposals to Cut Spending

Tad DeHaven

1/3/2012 12:01:00 AM - Tad DeHaven

Over at Downsizing the Federal Government, Chris Edwards and I have regularly complained that most policymakers have been insufficiently specific when it comes to identifying spending cuts. With the Republican primaries about to get underway, it’s a good time to see what the current crop of presidential aspirants has to offer.

There are multiple ways to skin this cat, but I decided to put together a comparison table based solely on the content found on each candidate’s campaign website. I did not consider past statements or votes, the televised debates, or outside sources (unless linked to by a campaign’s website). The idea is that statements on each candidate’s website should offer the clearest indication of their intentions should they become president. 

Ron Paul is the only candidate who actually produced a proposed federal budget. Therefore, I started with his template and added additional agencies/programs cited on the websites of the other candidates. Again, the idea is to show specifically what the candidates are proposing to cut. Thus, proposed spending reforms such as a Balanced Budget Amendment or a spending cap are not included.

There is a degree of subjectivity in putting this together, but I tried to be fair and consistent. It is for informational purposes only (i.e., it should not be construed as an endorsement of any candidate(s)). Finally, it is possible that proposals were missed, but that could be a reflection of a website’s accessibility to pertinent information.

The following are brief overviews for each candidate (in alphabetical order):

Michele Bachmann

The number of specific spending cuts on Bachmann’s website is paltry and it’s evident that she supports increased military spending given her hawkish statements on foreign policy.    

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich’s website provides a lot of information, but his spending proposals are a mixed-bag. He is heavy on ideas and reforms, but it appears that the federal government’s hand would also remain heavy. In addition, the budgetary effects of Gingrich’s proposals are murky. For instance, he proposes to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with a “pro-growth” Environmental Solutions Agency.  

Jon Huntsman

Huntsman doesn’t offer much when it comes to specific spending cuts. The absence of specifics and details leaves a lot of question marks. Huntsman does not propose any spending increases and his relatively reserved views on foreign policy indicate that military spending cuts could be possible.

Gary Johnson

Johnson embraces a sizable reduction in the scope of the federal government’s activities, but more details and elaboration would be helpful – especially on entitlement programs. Johnson’s intentions on foreign policy are best encapsulated by his statement that “it’s time to recognize that you can’t have limited government at home, but big government abroad.” Overall, Johnson’s spending proposals reflect a vision for a federal government more limited in size and scope.

Ron Paul

When it comes to proposing specific spending cuts and identifying the dollars amounts, Paul’s website is unrivaled. He is the only candidate to put together an actual budget proposal. Paul’s spending proposals would amount to the largest reduction in the size and scope of the federal government of any candidate.     

Rick Perry

Like Gingrich, Perry’s website contains a healthy amount of content. Perry deserves credit for offering specific spending cuts and elaborating on why he believes those cuts would be prudent. However, unlike Paul, Perry proposes to eliminate departments without also eliminating the functions contained within them. And unlike Johnson and Paul, Perry does not embrace a reduced U.S. military presence abroad, which implies that he would not rein in military spending. 

Mitt Romney

Despite the fact that Romney’s website offers a lot of content, he doesn’t offer many specifics when it comes to spending. The spending cuts that Romney does specify are not easily found on his website. They are also relatively small cuts that would have little effect on the size and scope of the federal government. It’s also evident that Romney supports increased military spending.

Rick Santorum

Santorum’s statements on foreign policy put him at odds with Johnson’s view that “you can’t have limited government at home, but big government abroad.” However, he does suggest broad spending cuts – although more details and elaboration would be helpful.