Romney accidentally sympathizes with Obama on fiscal crisis

Evan Vucci/AP

Mitt Romney inadvertently blurted out an Obama campaign talking point last night while discussing the impending "fiscal cliff" facing Congress. In an interview on CNBC's The Kudlow Report, Romney said that whoever wins the election this fall shouldn't be unfairly blamed for the coming fiscal crisis prompted by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the budgets cuts from sequestration. "We ought to give, whichever president is going to be elected, at least six months or a year to get those policies in place,” Romney said. In a statement by spokeswoman Lis Smith, the Obama campaign took a break from attacking their opponent: "We agree."

Team Obama, of course, would like to push the date of when it became responsible for the country's economic performance from January 2009, when Obama was inaugurated and the economy was losing 750,000 to later that year when the rate of job losses slowed. (They'd also like to credit the stimulus for changing the trend.) Give the president six months to let put his policies in place, as candidate Romney suggests, and Obama's record looks a lot better. "Since January 2010, the economy has created 4.3 million private-sector jobs," Smith noted in a press release responding to the Romney interview. Of course, the Romney campaign is not so generous about the incumbent's jobs record, with Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom saying this spring that Obama “cannot take any credit for any success on the jobs front. None at all.”

But that doesn't appear to be what was on Romney's mind when he was talking to CNBC. It looks as if he is already envisioning a similar political problem to the one Obama faced in 2009, should he win in November. That's because in the absence of a breakthrough between Democrats and Republicans, a cocktail of $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will go into effect in January. And everyone seems to agree that would be bad for the economy. "I can tell you that you don't raise taxes on people in the middle of a downturn like this, particularly one that's gone on for three and a half years," Romney said last night. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made similar remarks to PBS' Charlie Rose Monday. "Many people who look at this say that, yes, you'd at least get a recession out of this," he said. "The cumulative size of those cuts - tax increases and spending cuts - are very, very large relative to the economy."

Of course while both sides agree that plunging off the fiscal cliff would be a bad thing, they don't agree on a political solution. Romney wants to extend the all the Bush tax cuts while President Obama says he'll veto any plan that doesn't raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans: Positions that their respective parties are clinging to as well. Still, at least they can both agree that they don't deserve to be blamed if Congress can't find a solution. Now that's leadership!

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