NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Candidate Mitt Romney wants you to believe he will lower taxes while cutting the national debt. But President Romney will need to raise taxes if he is going to have any chance of lowering U.S. debt, according to his former private equity pals. Now a strong frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney has repeatedly said that cutting the national debt, reducing the budget deficit and curbing taxation will be a key to his economic agenda.
The problem is that while tax cuts and a less mindboggling national debt would be nice, Romney's plan wouldn't work if it were taken to the White House and some in the private equity industry that made Romney a millionaire know it. David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group said that only a policy of spending cuts and tax increases will chip away at the national debt, which he says is the most pressing long-term issue facing the U.S. "Some combination of the two will work," said Rubenstein, who was speaking at a Columbia University Business school panel last week. The private equity titan outlined three other ways to tackle a debt that may grow to $25 trillion; inflation, a default or an International Monetary Fund rescue. No U.S. president has ever run on those policies and Rubenstein wouldn't advise starting now. For more on Rubenstein, see why private equity has a social responsibility. As someone who celebrates many points of Romney's investing and growth agenda, Rubenstein's dismissal of simultaneous tax and debt cuts signal a rift in what may be campaign trail posturing and what is achievable in office. It means that though Romney's calls for a smaller and smarter government are a tribute to Ronald Reagan's economic proposition for the 1980s, an eventual tax increase may have a more cutting likeness. Reagan campaigned on an economic platform of lowering taxes to spur the growth to bolster government tax receipts, stemming what was a budget deficit that equated to 2.7% of overall GDP at the time. Though the plan was called "voodoo economics" by then candidate George H.W. Bush in election primaries, Reagan won voters and shortly after taking office he signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which cut the top marginal rate to from 70% to 50%. The deficit quickly soared and President Reagan quickly changed course, raising taxes through the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Highway Revenue Act of 1982. A similar pivot in campaign promises and policy reversals may be in store for Romney.