EXETER, N.H. (AP) - Mitt Romney will address one of the 2012 presidential contest's defining issues when he offers his plan to slash federal spending before a gathering of tea party activists.
The Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts was to deliver his most detailed fiscal policy speech so far before a gathering Friday of conservative activists at the Washington Convention Center, where the tea party-allied group Americans for Prosperity is holding a two-day event.
Romney has struggled to win over tea party supporters, and his plan will not go as far as some would like. But he says he would cut $500 billion in his first term as president.
He would strip Amtrak of federal subsidies, which could threaten the survival of the popular rail network. He would force deep cuts on the National Endowment for the Arts, the Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And he would cut foreign aid to "countries that can take care of themselves" or those "that don't line up with our interests," he told a New Hampshire audience Thursday night, offering a preview of his Washington address.
Romney said that unless the U.S. takes drastic action, it is headed for a fiscal crisis equal to that in Greece. And he said the fight to cut spending will affect both America's national security and its moral standing in the world.
"We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in," Romney said.
Among his priorities is a plan to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which Romney says would save $95 billion. The savings to taxpayers, however, would be far less. While politically difficult, a full repeal would also undo spending cuts and tax increases elsewhere, ultimately slicing the federal budget deficit by $16 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Romney's proposals may please some conservatives, but it stops well short of a plan released last month by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who says he would cut $1 trillion in federal spending in his first year in office. Paul, who is also seeking the GOP presidential nomination, wants to eliminate the Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior and Education departments.
Romney's speech comes as congressional leaders struggle to craft a bipartisan plan cut the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion. That debate includes the popular entitlement programs Medicare and Social Security, although Romney's specific vision for those programs is unclear.
He favors raising the retirement age for younger workers and limiting increases for wealthier recipients. And on Medicare, he says government should give future recipients a specific amount to spend and allow them to choose between a private insurance plan or the traditional system, according to an opinion piece this week in USA Today.
He has yet to fill in many of the details, however.
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