Team Romney’s latest lame excuse on tax plans

I don’t know if, at tonight’s debate, Mitt Romney will end his refusal to specify the deductions, credits and other tax preferences he would eliminate in order to balance his tax proposal. I’m sure he will be asked about it, but he’s been asked many times and hasn’t been willing to specify a single one.

The current excuse for not specifying is extremely lame, but Team Romney has been trying to get by with it for several weeks now. Here’s a recent iteration of the excuse, as offered by veep nominee Paul Ryan yesterday to Bloomberg News:

Here’s my experience from 12 years on Ways and Means, for moving bipartisan legislation. Here’s Mitt Romney’s experience as a Republican governor of a Democratic state. You don’t say to Congress, to Democrats that you want to work with, “Take it or leave it, it’s everything, it’s all my way or the highway.” You say, “Here’s my framework. Obviously, the numbers add up. We’ve shown that. Let’s work together to establish that framework.” And it’s not as much as what’s in the tax code, as who gets it. And what we’re saying is, by subjecting higher-income earners’ income to more taxation — meaning lower — remove tax shelters, lower deductions for higher-income people, more of their income is subject to taxation so you can lower tax rates for everybody across the board and shelter the middle class from any kind of tax increase.

There’s clearly fiscal space for important preferences for middle-class people like purchasing a home, or donating to charities, or health care and things like that. And so the key is, start with the high-income earner and then start with the special interest stuff. And there’s obviously enough fiscal space to lower tax rates 20 percent, keep these middle-class preferences. We’ve shown how that works.

This is pretty pitiful and I feel kind of sorry for Ryan, who used to enjoy a reputation as someone who was brave and intellectually honest enough to offer more specifics than the average politicians. (Yes, I know there were always unanswered questions in his big budget documents. But on the curve of politicians being willing to be honest about painful tradeoffs, he used to rank pretty high.)

Forgive me if you had already worked this out for yourself, but here’s the problem with the don’t-worry-it-will-all-be-worked-out-in-negotiations-with-Congress-later dodge. No one is asking Romney-Ryan for a final take-or-leave-it offer. What open-minded voters want and deserve is the opening offer with enough details that we can assess whether the numbers add up and whether the general shape of the new slimmed down tax code is a good idea.

The idea that we can’t know any details (other than the starting point of a 20 percent across-the-board rich-people-will-get-much-more-out-of-it-than-poor-people cut in tax rates) because that would – what, prevent you from negotiating with Congress later? – is ludicrous.

It’s a little like a car salesman asking you to sign the purchase agreement before he will answer any questions about the car. And when you ask does the car have a working carburetor, he replies: “There clearly enough fiscal space for that and we can work that out after you sign the agreement.”

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/03/2012 - 11:29 am.

    Even if the Romney/Ryan “etch-a-sketch”, “rope-a-dope” strategy is to conceal the extent and nature of their proposals until after election, they still have to face the fact that they will have a Senate that will not roll-over for all of their Randian proposals without a fuller airing of the effect.

    That’s what Bush meant when when he said, ” If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2012 - 02:06 pm.

    Interesting parallels

    If Romney and Ryan were used car dealers, one could ask if you’d by a preowned country from these people; or even some preused policies.
    And a 30 day ‘buyers’ remorse’ period during which we could revoke the election;
    Or a 90 day guarantee on their work?
    Personally, I’d settle for kicking their tires.

  3. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 10/03/2012 - 03:43 pm.

    “latest lame excuse”

    I certainly do appreciate your unrelenting respect for journalistic neutrality.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2012 - 09:00 pm.

      So you admit

      that the statement “lame excuse” is accurate, but you object to the fact that Eric Black said it.
      Journalistic neutrality (and note that this is a blog, not reporting) does not mean saying equally nice things about both sides. It means that you do not distort statements by either side of a controversy.
      If an excuse is lame, good journalism requires you to say so.

  4. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 10/03/2012 - 03:47 pm.

    A Proposal

    And just yesterday I saw this:

    The idea that Romney floated is that total tax deductions would be capped at $17,000. I don’t know how much tax revenue that would increase but there you have it.
    And please, oh please, oh please, can we have even 1/10th the scrutiny on the Obama revenue plans? Removing the Bush tax cuts on those making over $250k will bring in something like $70b a year. The much ballyhooed Buffet rule, increasing taxes on capital gains for the wealthy apparently brings in something less than $10b per year. These amounts are trivial in an era of trillion dollar deficits.
    Can we get some insight on that?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/04/2012 - 09:20 am.

      See FactCheck

      Or the NYT.
      There’s been plenty of scrutiny if you bother to read it.
      Of course, if you just glaze over when you see ‘Obama’.
      You’ll also find out that part of Obama’s plan involves the economy, which hits two ways:
      First, revenues are down because of the recession which started in 2007 (do the math).
      Second, that same recession and the resultant unemployment has increased the demand for government services.
      And note that Romney said nothing about capital gains income (which is where most of his money comes from). He’s said nothing about raising the rates there, or about expanding taxes on the income of US citizens earned overseas.
      R&R are still tap dancing.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 10/04/2012 - 12:42 pm.


        Actually, tax receipts have recovered (less inflation, I suppose, which I’m told by liberals is not really happening right now).
        2008 Tax Receipts: $2.7 trillion
        2012 Tax Receipts: $2.7 trillion

        Your point about increased gov’t services is valid but at the same time we’re also winding down large military operations. And my larger point stands. If you added in the revenue added by the Buffet rule and increased taxes on the rich, you move those tax receipts to . . . $2.8 trillion. With expenditures of about $3.8 trillion.
        When Obama suggests that lack of higher taxes is holding us back from building more schools or funding infrastructure, it simply isn’t true. There are no projects that are going unfunded because people are willing to go into debt for $1 trillion but not $1.1 trillion. Frankly, to suggest otherwise is insulting to the intelligence. Obama is counting on the public’s eyes to glaze over. An honest accounting should fight against that.

  5. Submitted by Andrew Pratt on 10/04/2012 - 08:12 am.

    Was Obama asked for specifics in 2008?

    This is a lame column. Did anyone ask Candidate Obama how, once he was elected, exactly would the rise of the oceans slow? Did anyone ask after the third debate with McCain how Obama could claim he would produce a “net spending cut” once in office? Of course not. This will likely be a new media narrative on Romney, to take attention off the drubbing Obama took in the debate.

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