Calling for $500 billion in budget cuts, Romney says fiscal responsibility is the "moral choice"

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands after a town hall meeting at the Exeter Town Hall , Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 in Exeter, N.H.
AP Photo/Jim Cole
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands after a town hall meeting at the Exeter Town Hall , Nov. 3, 2011 in Exeter, N.H.
AP Photo/Jim Cole

EXETER, N.H. - At the Exeter Town Hall tonight, Mitt Romney addressed a packed house on spending policy, providing a detailed sneak preview of an elaborate plan he is planning to lay out tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

The Republican presidential candidate says he is hoping to reduce federal spending from 25 percent to 20 percent of the GDP. To accomplish that goal, he says he'll cut $500 billion from the current budget, cut the workforce by 10 percent and make money-saving changes in popular benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.

In an op-ed for USA TODAY, Romney said he'd also eliminate federal subsidies for Amtrak and reduce federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Some programs would be easy to cut because "I just don't like them," Romney said, while others might be harder but worth it. He specifically referenced the $1.6 billion in federal subsidies for Amtrak. He also called for cuts in foreign aid, noting that the U.S. provides $10 million to one of its creditors, China. "It's not very much money but just the idea just galls me," Romney said.

Arguing that fiscal responsibility is the "moral choice," Romney offered as an evidence of his belt-tightening expertise the early days of Bain Capital, an investment firm he co-founded. Employees worked out of an empty warehouse in a supermarket parking lot, and Romney said he required them to pay for the pizza and Coke served at board meetings.

If the federal government doesn't stop wasting money on projects like Solyndra, the solar company that went belly-up despite federal subsidies, Romney said "we could turn into a Greece."

Shortly after the event, the campaign of rival presidential candidate Jon Huntsman blasted Romney for not taking questions from the media. "Once again Mitt Romney is unwilling to do it the New Hampshire way and take questions from voters," Huntsman spokesman Michael Levoff said in a statement. "Governor Huntsman took dozens of questions in his most recent trip to the Granite State. If Governor Romney is scared to answer questions from the media and voters how can we trust him to successfully take on President Obama?"

Romney did not mention his beleaguered rival Herman Cain at any point, but did take an oblique shot at another one of his GOP competitors. Alluding to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's assertion in an interview last week that he is "less worried about whether or not we've got some budget holes to fill" as his tax cut plan is implemented, Romney said: "The right course for us is to be fiscally responsible. And to recognize that deficits do matter, they matter a lot."

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