During comments overheard by an NBC news reporter, Mitt Romney told a crowd at a private fundraiser last night that he might eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development, scale back the Department of Education, and eliminate some specific tax provisions. There are all details that he has refused to divulge on the campaign trail:
Romney went into a level of detail not usually seen by the public in the speech, which was overheard by reporters on a sidewalk below. One possibility floated by Romney included the elimination of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Cabinet-level agency once led by Romney’s father, George.
“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later.
Regarding taxes, Romney said, “I’m going to probably eliminate for high income people the second home mortgage deduction.” He also said that he would “likely eliminate deductions for state income and property taxes.” The campaign is already attempting to walk the comments back, with a Romney adviser telling CNN, “He was tossing ideas out, not unveiling policy.”
For starters, Romney’s tax ideas, while reasonable, would raise nowhere near enough money to offset the huge tax cuts that he has in mind. Those tax cuts would increase the deficit by $900 billion in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes, one of the largest tax expenditures for the government, for everyone saves $72 billion per year, and saves far less if the elimination is limited to upper-income Americans.
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Romney’s plan to eliminate HUD, assuming he didn’t shuffle its programs to other departments, would bring an end to critical programs like Section 8 housing vouchers and community development block grants. Eliminating housing assistance is even more problematic given the disproportionate percentage of veterans in the homeless population.
So while he’s happy to hand out tax breaks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the very richest Americans, Romney would at least contemplate eliminating housing subsidies for the very lowest income Americans, giving them little hope of putting a roof over their heads.