The presidential race is shaping up as a battle between Republican calls for more government austerity and Democratic appeals for more spending to promote jobs and growth with tax hikes on high-income earners. It mirrors a fight raging in Europe.
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has embraced a House-passed Republican budget blueprint outlining deep government spending cuts, particularly in social programs. He also advocates lower tax rates while promising increases in Pentagon spending — meaning the rest of the government would have to shrink even more.
Eight leaders from wealthy democracies opened the door to more government spending to ease Europe's debt crisis at a weekend meeting at Camp David, Md. It was a backlash to widely unpopular austerity measures pushed principally by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President Barack Obama welcomed the move, citing "an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now." That's in line with Obama's contention that tough austerity measures should await a stronger economy.
But there's clearly no such consensus in American politics.
Romney fed the austerity debate as he campaigned last week in front of a whirring national-debt clock. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both declared Sunday that when Congress is asked to raise the nation's borrowing cap after the election, they'll insist on spending cuts to offset the increase.
That raised the prospect of another knock-down battle like the one last August that led to the first-ever downgrade of America's credit rating.
Romney, writing in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, accused Obama of overseeing looming defense cuts he said could undermine NATO's mission and it into "an alliance in name only."
Obama presided Monday over NATO's Chicago summit and was to later address high school seniors in Joplin, Mo. Romney was attending fundraisers in New York.
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