Romney’s preposterous arguments for not telling you which tax breaks he’d abolish.
7. Voters don’t need specifics. Stephanopoulos asked Christie, “But don't voters have a right to know what those [loopholes] are?” Christie brushed him off: “Voters have a right to know what direction he's going to take the country in.”
9. Principles are specifics. Gregory asked Romney, “Where are the specifics of how you get to this math?” Romney spun the question around: “Well, the specifics are these, which is those principles I described … I’m not going to increase the tax burden on middle income families.” When Gregory pressed for “an example of a loophole that you will close,” Romney offered another generality: “Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions.”
8. “Vision” is all the clarity you need. In several interviews, Ryan deflected questions about specific tax loopholes by calling Romney’s plan a “vision,” “framework,” or “outline.” “That's what Gov. Romney is laying out, is a very clear vision,” Christie told Stephanopoulos. “He's going to negotiate with Congress about those loopholes. … He's not going to lock himself into something now.”
10. We don’t have time to explain it. “You haven't given me the math,” Chris Wallace protested in a Fox News interview with Ryan last Sunday. “I don't have the time,” Ryan pleaded. “It would take me too long to go through all of the math.”
11. We’ll seek public input after the election. “We don't want to do this in a backroom-deal kind of a way, like Obamacare was done,” Ryan argued on the Sept. 9 edition of Face the Nation. “We want to have a debate out in front, work with Congress, work with the public to find out what are the priorities we want to have in the tax system.” A week later, Ryan gave Brody the same shtick: “We want to do this in front, in the public, through congressional hearings with Congress, so that we can get to the best conclusion with a public participation.” In a Bloomberg interview this week, Ryan repeated, “We want to have, you know, Congress and the public participate in this debate about how best to do this.” Romney and Ryan believe deeply in informing and consulting the public, but not until after the election.
12. Politicians, not voters, represent the people’s will. When Ryan tried his after-the-election spiel, Stephanopoulos asked the obvious follow-up: “But why not specify the loopholes now?” Ryan answered: “Because we want to have this debate in the public. We want to have this debate with Congress. And we want to do this with the consent of the elected representatives of the people.”
That’s what Romney and Ryan are selling. They promise they can cut tax rates and eliminate enough loopholes to maintain the same revenue without touching any of the credits or deductions—mortgage interest, charitable contributions, medical expenses, health insurance, child credits, state and local taxes—that might hurt the middle class. They won’t tell you how they’ll do this, because that information might affect your vote and thereby get in the way of true democracy—which, as we all know, consists of a post-election negotiation between the Romney administration, a Republican Congress, and year-round Washington tax lobbyists who represent ordinary folks like you. If you buy that, you’ll learn the hard way what W.C. Fields taught 76 years ago: Never give a sucker an even break.
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Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.