Why Romney Is Afraid To Explain His Tax Plan

How to Make Government Work
Oct. 18 2012 6:05 PM

Why Romney Is Afraid To Explain His Tax Plan

154281728
Mitt Romney in Chesapeake, Va., on Wednesday

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove asserts that Mitt Romney fundamentally altered the arc of the presidential race in the first debate because he came across as a "man with a plan." And it is surely the case that, despite the president's apparent win on points in Tuesday's debate, the race is a near dead heat. Mitt Romney must have earned a second hard look from a lot of voters who had been skeptical.

The problem is that what Rove calls a "plan" doesn't yet measure up. Romney, Paul Ryan, and their campaign need to give us answers to some of the hard questions about this plan. As the president asserted in the debate on Tuesday, what we have been told so far surely wouldn't have been enough for Romney to justify a Bain investment in him, and it surely shouldn't be enough to earn a vote.

Advertisement

Let's get specific: Rove acknowledges that the cornerstone to Romney's appeal is the public's belief that he will be better able to handle the economy. The centerpiece of that claim is his revenue-neutral, middle-class-protecting tax policy, a 20 percent marginal rate cut for all. This is the policy with the $5 trillion price tag over 10 years. That $5 trillion figure is a simple arithmetical extension of the current tax code and revenue figures, and is really not in dispute.

So to avoid adding to the deficit, how does Romney fill that gap? So far, he's only suggested limiting tax deductions and credits. In the debate, he suggested a $25,000 cap. But the Tax Policy Center, an independent research group, calculated that would only save about $1.3 trillion—leaving Romney a gargantuan $3.7 trillion short. In fact, even if he somehow eliminated every itemized deduction while cutting rates by 20 percent and eliminating the AMT, he would still only bring in $2 trillion dollars—less than half of what he needs.

Since Romney vigorously maintains that he will not add to the deficit with his tax plan, and since the only loophole closings that would actually raise sufficient revenue—the ones relating to mortgage payments, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, and health care premiums paid by employers—are off the table for middle-class taxpayers, according to Romney, there is clearly a gaping hole in the plan. This plan, in fact, is Swiss cheese.

Electing a candidate with a plan is one thing. Electing a candidate who is selling a mirage is something else altogether. If Romney wants the serious second look he is getting to continue, he owes the public a serious explanation for why this plan would work. Ryan's answer that he didn't have enough time to explain the plan surely didn't inspire confidence.

The burden of proof when running for the presidency of the United States of America should be higher than, "Trust me. I'll tell you later."

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.