Make 'Em Disprove It
On Mitt Romney's website, geared to elicit donations, we learn he wants to "make permanent, across the board 20 percent cut in marginal rates," "eliminate the Death Tax," and "cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent." As a share of the economy, income taxes are lower than they have been at any time since 1950: the estate tax already applies only to estates worth over $1million; on balance, the effective GDP tax weighted average is slightly lower in the U.S.A. than in the other nations of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation (OECD)
No matter, because in the debate Wednesday night Etch-A-Sketch was freed to connect with independent voters. He thus somersaulted into "First of all, I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale that you're talking about. My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high- income people."
Having already denied that he is for cutting the taxes he tells conservative audiences everywhere he wants to slash, the born-again for-now liberal claimed "I want to bring down the rates down (sic), at the same time lower deductions and exemptions and credits and so forth so we keep getting the revenue we need." At least twice he returned to the theme, claiming "what I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions... getting us to a balanced budget" and "my plan is to bring down rates but also bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at the same time so the revenue stays in."
Sure, sure it is. E.J. Dionne notes "Obama did return repeatedly to a central point: Romney's vagueness in his proposals on taxes and health care. He charged that Romney was hiding the details of those plans because they would prove unpopular with and harmful to the middle class." President Obama hinted at the deductions Romney is thinking of when the President pointed out (emphasis mine)
Well, for 18 months he's been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is "never mind." And the fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It's — it's math. It's arithmetic.
The President went in a slightly different direction when in the same response he argued
The only way to pay for it without either burdening the middle class or blowing up our deficit is to make drastic cuts in things like education, making sure that we are continuing to invest in basic science and research, all the things that are helping America grow. And I think that would be a mistake.
Getting revenue out of eliminating loopholes sufficient to lower deficits significantly can come only by goring the ox of the middle class, as Romney won't admit. And if he maintains the deductions/exemptions, either the deficit will balloon or spending for popular items, such as research, education, and law enforcement will be dropped.
Most likely a Republican presidency will do what all Republican presidencies do- lower rates and avoid closing loopholes. There will be fewer revenues, deficits will expand exponentially, and that president will leave the mess to the next Democratic president to clean up. But we don't know that- and, according to Romney's own testimony, preferences in the tax code will be reduced.
Why not take Mitt Romney at his own word? The strategy ought to be: no more Obama hinting-around. No more Mr. Responsibility. Or as one Republican performer once put it, No More Mr. Nice Guy. Start asserting: we've run the numbers and discovered that Mitt Romney plans to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction. When the media stars start squealing, tell them our experts are better than your experts. If history is any guide, they will write it off as "he said, she said."
When fact-checkers come a knockin', tell them, as Romney told the Des Moines Register, "Fact-checkers on both sides of the aisle will look in the way they think is most consistent with their own views." When Romney denies he wants to eliminate the popular break for homeowners, respond "see, we told you he'll change his story back-and-forth so he doesn't have to tell the truth."
It won't happen that way, of course. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party, currently led by Obama-Clinton (but including Ed Rendell, Mark Warner, and others), is loathe to offend the media, notwithstanding the lust of the GOP for the task. (Romney's confrontation with Jim Lehrer was passive compared to Newt Gingrich's tactics in the primary debates.) Additionally, the President wants to be seen as the responsible and congenial deficit-reducing moderate soaring above partisan bickering, all the better (he believes) to gain media support and Republican acquiescence in the bold, transformative center-right policies he plans for a second term.