Online Editor, Campaign for America's Future
“We’re Not Going To Reduce Taxes for High-Income People.” — Mitt Romney on CBS’ 60 Minutes, 8/12/12, at the 12:41 mark above
Mitt Romney was trapped.
The Tax Policy Center smoked out his tax plan — no matter how many unspecified tax loopholes Romney says he would close, his tax plan would cut taxes for the wealthy and raise taxes on the average middle-class household.
And unlike most analytical papers, this one was noticed. Because the Obama campaign was able to boil it down into six words: “He Pays Less. You Pay More.”
The Romney campaign tried to discredit the source, but the Tax Policy Center is widely respected in Washington, and the Romney campaign had embraced it previously when it suited its purposes. No dice.
What’s left to do?
Mitt Romney, who proposes to make the Bush income tax cuts permanent, to cut income taxes another 20% on top of that, repeal the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, cut the corporate income tax and offer several other corporate tax breaks, actually said this on CBS’ 60 Minutes:
“We’re not going to reduce taxes for high-income people.”
Surely, if this quote is ever thrown back in his face, Romney will say, “They’re taking my quote out of the context.” Fine, here’s the context:
Fairness dictates that the highest income people should pay the greatest share of taxes, and they do. And the commitment that I’ve made is we will not have the top income earners in this country pair– pay a smaller share of the tax burden. The highest income people will continue to pay the largest share of the tax burden and middle-income taxpayers, under my plan, get a break. Their taxes come down. So, we’re not going to reduce taxes for high-income people, and we are going to reduce taxes for middle-income people.
This is not really context. It’s sleight of hand.
Romney first deflects by saying the wealthy will still pay “the greatest share of taxes.” This is technically true. But the wealthy can collectively pay a greater share of the taxes relative to the middle-class, and still be getting a huge windfall that they do not need and would not serve the nation’s needs. It’s a talking point that dodges the criticism, not addresses it.
But Romney then makes a giant rhetorical leap from that to say: “we’re not going to reduce taxes for high-income people.” That is not the same as talking about the aggregate share of taxes relative to other income groups. That is saying a wealthy individual will not pay less under Romney’s plan tomorrow than he or she does today.
And that’s a stone-cold lie.
Romney may also be trying to lean on his claim that he’ll make up the difference in lost revenue by closing unspecified loopholes, but that was the whole point of the Tax Policy Center analysis.
Even under the most charitable assumptions, after the all the specified tax cuts are installed, the wealthy will still have a 4.1% increase in after-tax income.
And if the plan is to be revenue neutral as Romney claims, the middle-class will suffer a 1.2% decrease in after-tax income.
Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential choice was supposed to be the beginning of a high-minded campaign of big ideas that elevates the discourse and educates the public about our fiscal choices so we can make an informed decision about the direction of our country.
Instead, the Romney-Ryan campaign has begun with a lie so fundamental that it discredits the campaign’s entire case to the public.
Bill Scher is the author of Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!: A Stay-and-Fight Strategy to Win Back America. He is the online campaign manager at Campaign for America’s Future, a regular contributor to Bloggingheads.tv and a fellow at the Commonweal Institute.
This piece is re-posted from the Campaign for America’s Future Blog, OurFuture.