* Front-runners' tax cuts seen outweighing spending cuts
* Gingrich, Santorum's plans would add most to national debt
* Paul's plan could produce some cuts, but not significant
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Feb 23 The U.S. national debt
will continue to swell under the tax-cut plans floated by the
top four Republican presidential candidates, according to an
independent analysis of their fiscal policy proposals released
Plans put forth by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would
pile up the largest increases in debt, while Mitt Romney's would
add a smaller amount of debt over the next decade compared with
debt growth if tax policies implemented by former President
George W. Bush are kept in place.
The report from U.S. Budget Watch, a project of the
non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, aims to
apply a reality check to the claims being made on the campaign
Republicans jockeying for their party's nomination for the
Nov. 6 election are promising to fuel growth with tax and
spending cuts and bashing Democratic President Barack Obama's
calls to raise taxes on the wealthy.
"Are they making proposals that risk making the debt problem
worse?" said Alice Rivlin, a former head of the Congressional
Budget Office and Federal Reserve vice chairman who now serves
on the group's board. "On that score, all of these candidates
fail. They all reduce the revenue that is available to the
government over time."
The group offered three scenarios for each candidate's
proposals - the most pessimistic gives them credit for all
vague, non-specific spending cut percentage goals they have put
forth. The most pessimistic excludes non-specific and
politically unlikely proposals, while a middle scenario provides
credit for some of these proposals for discretionary spending
ANALYSING THE PLANS
The group said the middle path for Gingrich would add $7
trillion to the national debt by 2021 versus the baseline,
largely because he has proposed deep tax cuts for individuals
and corporations, including an alternative 15 percent "flat
This would boost debt as a share of the overall economy to
114 percent in 2021 from the current level of about 70 percent,
compared with an anticipated 2021 baseline level of 85 percent.
The middle scenario for Santorum's plan would add $4.5
trillion to the debt, also due to tax cuts. The scenario
excludes a pledge by Santorum "to commit to cut $5 trillion in
federal spending within five years" because these cuts were not
specified. The debt-to-gross domestic product ratio would rise
to 104 percent under this plan.
Romney's middle-path analysis would see a $250 billion
increase in debt by 2021 as more of his spending cuts were
specified, including deep federal workforce cuts and reducing
the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor to a block grant
program for the states. The debt-to-GDP ratio would end up at 86
percent under this plan, 1 percentage point above the baseline.
Ron Paul's middle scenario was the only one to reduce debt
compared with the baseline - by $2.2 trillion - largely due to
deep spending cuts on benefit programs and elimination of five
federal departments and many State Department programs.
But the more pessimistic program scenario for Paul shows
that it would boost debt by $1.9 trillion. The 76 percent and 93
percent debt-to-GDP ratio under these two Paul scenarios would
still be above the current level of 70 percent.
"Unfortunately we're not at a place where we can balance the
budget in the short term unless there is tremendous economic
growth," said Maya MacGuineas, the group's president. She added
that the goal should be to keep the rate of debt accumulation
below the economy's growth rate.