TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — As Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus gaveled the party's convention to order Monday, he also set in motion a debt clock, a theatrical flourish designed to remind Americans just how rapidly the government's tide of red ink is mounting under President Barack Obama.
It may also be an unintended reminder that the GOP's presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has yet to say in any detail what he would do about it.
The clock Priebus started on Monday is totaling debt the government accumulates during the convention.
A second debt clock, which started running earlier, displays the total national debt, which now stands at $15.9 trillion. Priebus vowed that on Romney's first day in office, the new president would "take immediate action to cut federal spending and bring the debt under control."
So far in the campaign, Romney has promised to cut income tax rates across the board, including for the wealthiest households. He says he would pay for the cuts by eliminating unspecified deductions, but many like the break for home mortgage interest are so popular that it is hard to see how he would keep the tax reductions from adding to the red ink.
He wants to boost Pentagon spending — another move that would make the debt problem worse. He also promises to protect current Social Security and Medicare recipients from cuts.
Romney says he would reduce the deficit by capping federal spending — now at 23.5 percent of U.S. economy — at 20 percent by the end of his first term in January 2017. But to make that math work would require deeper cuts in federal programs than Congress is likely to go along with.
With defense spending off limits, such reductions could mean slashing health care for the poor and disabled and huge cuts to programs like homeland security, air traffic control, law enforcement, food inspection, national parks and highways. Throughout nearly a year of campaigning, Romney has avoided saying what he'd cut.