In a new line of attack, top Democrats are arguing that Mitt Romney and the Republicans, with their focus on spending cuts, are following Europe’s austerity-first example, to dismal effect so far: Greece over the edge; Italy, Spain, Portugal on the edge; Britain in recession; and the United States suffering through a needlessly weak recovery because of government cuts.Former President Bill Clinton offered the clearest version of the case on Monday night, when, introducing Mr. Obama at a fund-raiser in New York, he listed the steps that Mr. Obama had taken to spur the economy, and then asked: “Why aren’t things roaring along now? Because Europe is in trouble and because the Republican Congress has adopted the European economic policy.”Mr. Clinton added, “Who would have thought, after years and years, even decades, in which the Republican right attacked ‘old Europe,’ that they would embrace the economic policies of the euro zone — austerity and unemployment now at all costs.”At a time when the American economy is looking weaker than it had seemed only a few weeks ago, the European analogy gives Democrats a story to tell about why the recovery has been slower than they had hoped. Romney campaign officials and other Republicans are not entirely unhappy about the new Democratic message, in part because it keeps the debate focused on Mr. Obama’s biggest weakness: the state of the economy.
The prime example for Democrats is the European country that has long seemed most similar to the United States — Britain — where Prime Minister David Cameron came into office in 2010 arguing that excessive spending by his Labor predecessors had spurred the country’s economic woes. Mr. Cameron, a conservative, slashed spending and eliminated hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs in a bid to reduce the deficit. Two years later, Britain’s Office for National Statistics says the country is experiencing a double-dip recession and is doing even worse than only a few months ago.“We have a laboratory experiment going on for what the Republicans want to do here, and that’s Europe,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “Particularly England, because they had the equivalent of a Democratic government, and Cameron comes in with austerity, and now they’re in a recession.”Obama advisers argue that the budget proposal of Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, which Mr. Romney has called “marvelous,” is actually a radical vision that would deepen the inequality in American society. They say that Mr. Ryan’s call for overhauling Medicare could drive up costs for future retirees and fundamentally change the popular health plan.“The Republican budget approach is far more extreme than austerity measures considered in Europe, in terms of both underlying goals and specific short-run policies, and the lack of any balance in approach,” said Jason Furman, principal deputy director of the National Economic Council. “Republican plans in Congress would be even more detrimental to longer-term growth because their refusal to consider any revenues necessitates even deeper spending cuts. In contrast, even conservative governments abroad have taken a more balanced approach to deficit reduction.”