Thursday, October 4, 2012

Did Mitt Romney Just Shake His Etch-a-Sketch?

For months now, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has represented that he will reduce Federal income tax rates across the board by 20% and eliminate the Federal estate and gift taxes, which according to basic arithmetic would result in a $5 trillion reduction in Federal tax revenues.  In order to avoid increasing the Federal deficit through these proposed tax reductions, Mr. Romney must come up with $5 trillion in cuts in tax expenditures and program spending cuts.  He has failed to offer any specifics and, apparently, just wants the American electorate to trust him --- something that is difficult to countenance given his propensity to "flip-flop" on every issue of significance to the American people (see my prior post @

In last night's first Presidential Debate, Mr. Romney walked away from his proposal to reduce Federal income tax rates and to eliminate Federal estate/gift taxes by claiming he didn't know where President Obama came up with the $5 trillion number.  Was Mr. Romney just being disingenuous, or is his team (including the self-proclaimed budget "wonk" and VP candidate Paul Ryan) really without a clue as to the cost of their tax reduction/elimination proposal, or was he being an unprinicipled say-anything-to-get-to-be-POTUS liar?

Here's an excerpt from the New York Times editorial page that focuses a little attention on the misrepresentations Mr. Romney made in last night's debate with respect to the tax issue ...

Virtually every time Mr. Romney spoke, he misrepresented the platform on which he and Paul Ryan are actually running. The most prominent example, taking up the first half-hour of the debate, was on taxes. Mr. Romney claimed, against considerable evidence, that he had no intention of cutting taxes on the rich or enacting a tax cut that would increase the deficit.

That simply isn’t true. Mr. Romney wants to restore the Bush-era tax cut that expires at the end of this year and largely benefits the wealthy. He wants to end the estate tax and the gift tax, providing a huge benefit only to those with multimillion-dollar estates, at a cost of more than $1 trillion over a decade to the deficit. He wants to preserve the generous rates on capital gains that benefit himself personally and others at his economic level. And he wants to cut everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent, which again would be a gigantic boon to the wealthy.

None of these would cost the Treasury a dime, he insisted, because he would reduce deductions and loopholes. But, as always, he refused to enumerate a single deduction he would erase. “What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit,” he said. “No economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.”

In fact, many economists have said exactly that, and, without details, Mr. Romney can’t simply refute them. But rather than forcefully challenging this fiction, Mr. Obama chose to be polite and professorial, as if hoping that strings of details could hold up against blatant nonsense. Viewers were not helped by a series of pedestrian questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, who never jumped in to challenge either candidate on the facts.