WASHINGTON — Is there any impulse greater in politics than to promise people the sun and the moon?
Each in their own way, the Republican candidates heading into Super Tuesday primaries are telling Americans they can have "it all" — plentiful energy without pain at the pump, jobs without deeper debt, thriving factories like the days of yore, a renaissance at every dusty turn.
Call it the can-do spirit or, as Barack Obama liked to put it, "Yes we can."
No independent economist believes manufacturing will come rushing back against the global economic tide if the government merely backs off on taxes and regulations. The vastly complex energy market is not a Norman Rockwell painting that a president can create with brush strokes. Taps on a cold calculator tell a different story than the rosy accounts of balanced budgets just ahead.
In promising to unleash an energy production boom leading America to the promised land of cheap fuel, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (who promises a moon colony) routinely ignore that the nation is already experiencing such a boom — apparently without making a dime's worth of difference at the gas station.
Energy has become a prime source of contortions and distortions in the campaign as Republicans hold out false hopes to pressed consumers and Obama takes too much credit for developments that are beyond any president's influence. But there are other sources of have-it-all promises, too.
A look at some of those promises and how they stack up against the facts:
ROMNEY: "I'm going to deliver on more jobs, less debt, and smaller government. ... He (Obama) raised the national debt. I will cut, cap, and balance the budget. He passed Obamacare. I'll repeal it. He lost our AAA credit rating; I'll restore it."
THE FACTS: Romney's tax-cut and spending plans fall far short of balancing the budget or making much of a dent, if any, in the national debt, now more than $15 trillion, according to independent analyses of the plan. He can cut taxes. He can cut debt. It's unlikely he can do both.
An analysis by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget finds that his plans probably would add significantly to deficits for the coming decade, deepening the debt by some $250 billion under a middle-of-the-road scenario or by as much as $2.15 trillion in the worst case. The group found a best-case scenario that could see the debt decline by as much as $2.25 trillion but considered that improbable.
The group forecast even worse deficit results from the plans of Gingrich and Santorum. Only Ron Paul would seriously reduce the flow of red ink, through wrenching budget cuts that would dismantle much of the government and are far beyond anything the other candidates would do.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said Romney's plan would reduce federal tax revenues by 16 percent in 2015 and increase the debt in that time.
In blaming Obama for having "lost our AAA credit rating," Romney was referring to the Standard & Poor's one-notch downgrade after Congress balked on Obama's push to raise the nation's borrowing authority and avoid default. The rating agency said the eventual deal with lawmakers did not do enough to stabilize the debt path and cited "the difficulties of bridging the gap between the political parties." That was a pox on both their houses, not just the White House.
SANTORUM: On the decline of the manufacturing work force: "That's just inexcusable — all of it because government regulation and government taxation.... The average manufacturing job in America pays $20,000 more a year than the average job in America. We can get those jobs back."
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