Most GOP candidates this cycle aren’t even paying lip service to the conservative goal of not adding to the deficit; they’re not trying to hide that their tax plans would add billions and in some cases trillions of dollars to the deficit. Mitt Romney’s tax plan in 2012 purported to be deficit-neutral. Not so this cycle among Republican candidates, Strain said. “A lot of these candidates, even with dynamic scoring, are just losing so much money,” he said. (Candidates of both parties routinely make cosmetic improvements to their tax plans by using dynamic scoring — the process of factoring in higher government revenue and better economic growth.) And that may factor into how much they’re willing to talk about federal debt. “You can’t talk about it and then try to make it worse,” Strain said.
Perhaps this is simply a reflection of an improving budget outlook. But political calculations surely matter, too. By bringing up the deficit, Republican candidates could be opening themselves up to the retort that it has declined under a Democratic administration. Sure enough, Obama bragged about “cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters” in his final State of the Union address Tuesday night.
And it’s not just GOP candidates, either. Members of Congress utter the words “deficit” or “debt” far less frequently than they did a few years back. That’s according to Capitol Words data provided by the Sunlight Foundation, which mines the Congressional Record to measure how frequently politicians use certain words.