Negative campaigning in 2012 is going to include accusations on which candidate plans, if elected, to raise U.S. borrowing.
The candidates, of course, will look appropriately shocked when they hear how their numbers add up.
But as of this week, a report from U.S. Budget Watch, a project of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, says voting for any of the Republican candidates except Rep. Ron Paul of Texas would be a vote for an increase in the federal debt.
Two buttons on the calculator will work the numbers just fine. When a candidate says spend or lower taxes hit the plus sign. When a candidate says raise revenue or cut spending hit the minus sign. It doesn't get much more basic than that.
Using this trusted formula, Budget Watch said spending and tax-slashing proposed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would raise the U.S. debt by about $7 trillion by 2021.
So far in the campaign, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, if he put the nation's money where his mouth is, would raise the debt by about $4.5 trillion, the report said.
The Washington Post reported Friday the watchdog group calculated that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would have been a relatively safe bet until recently.
The report said Romney had proposed to cut taxes by $1.35 trillion and cut spending by $1.2 trillion.
But politics is politics; it's like they can't help themselves.
Romney's relatively conservative debt escalation of $150 billion went out the window with his recent proposal to cut federal income tax by 20 percent across the board. In 10 years, the strained government budget would be out $2 trillion, the report said.
Granted, Romney's economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, said the candidate's plan includes eliminating tax loopholes, but the report only counts specific proposals, not vague pleasantries.
Republicans, of course, own the slogan, "free-spending liberals who want a bigger government" and any variation thereof. In truth, spending priorities are different, but all politicians want to spend. And they all hope taxpayers notice and appreciate that as well.
In the middle of a campaign, however, without a watchdog group and a calculator a lot of this can slip into magical math.
Paul, the report said, would also cut taxes, but he has proposed spending cuts that outpace the tax cuts by $2 trillion, the Post reported.
The group said it would analyze President Obama's proposals at a later date. The president has said his goal is to trim borrowing by $3 trillion by 2021.
In international markets Friday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan added 0.54 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China added 1.25 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.12 percent and the Sensex in India dropped 0.86 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia rose 0.48 percent.
In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain was flat, rising 0.06 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 0.39 percent. The CAC 40 in France climbed 0.38 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 was up 0.13 percent.