Mitt Romney's former economic adviser Glenn Hubbard published an op-ed in the Financial Times Tuesday calling for higher tax rates on the wealthy and urging Republicans to outline specific spending cuts rather than vague across-the-board reductions in government spending. Hubbard's comments are noteworthy because Romney resisted both policies during his run for the presidency.
"What should those negotiating the fiscal cliff do?" Hubbard wrote. "The first step is to raise average (not marginal) tax rates on upper-income taxpayers. Revenue increases should first come from these individuals. This means closing loopholes ... Republicans cannot argue for low tax rates without being clear about where [spending] cuts must come from."
As the GOP candidate for president, Romney called for capping government spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, without detailing what programs should be cut, or by what amounts. When asked during the first presidential debate about what spending he would target, Romney suggested eliminating funding for PBS -- money which amounts to far less than 1 percent of the federal budget deficit.
In fact, while Republicans often cite programs outside of Medicare or the defense budget as priorities for deficit reduction plans, the entire non-defense discretional spending budget totals only about one-third of the federal budget deficit. Romney's vague plan for an across-the-board spending cap would have forced a 22 percent hit to all government programs -- including Medicare -- by 2016, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Hubbard's publication of the op-ed after the election underscores the political role that many economists play in Washington. While many economists often hold more practical views than those presented by political candidates, they frequently withold public comments contradicting their employers, or offer defenses of policy proposals with which they do