*** 10/16 – SEE UPDATE BELOW; ROMNEY FINALLY RELEASES DETAILS OF TAX PLAN***
Back at the beginning of August, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center issued a much-discussed study that was the first to try to run the numbers on Mitt Romney’s tax plan. Specifically, they wanted to see whether Romney’s claim to be able to leave the Bush tax cuts in place and then cut taxes by an additional 20% across the board would work, in light of Romney’s promise that he would make up for the revenue lost by such a tax cut without having to raise taxes on the middle class. Unsurprisingly, the TPC was therefore also the first to come to the conclusion – also much discussed since their study in late August – that the math on Romney’s promises simply didn’t add up.
Part of this guesswork and extrapolation has come from the fact that the Romney campaign steadfastly refuses to get specific about exactly HOW they will make up the lost revenue without either adding to the deficit or soaking the middle class (or poor). In the absence of genuine specifics from the Romney campaign, the TPC had to make some assumptions, based upon likely economic conditions, as well as on the things Romney HAS definitely said. So they did. And then they re-jiggered those assumptions to be as favorable and generous to Romney as they could be without departing from reality.
Even then, they still found that Romney’s promises, taken together, are simply not mathematically possible.
In an election season, them’s fighting words. Having a difference of opinion about various policies is the stuff electoral politics is made of. But saying a candidate’s plans are mathematically impossible is of another order: pundits and the press take notice, and the public pays more attention, too, since such a statement carries with it the implicit accusation that the candidate is intentionally lying.
In the intervening time, a great deal of ink on the right side of the political aisle has been spilled attempting to debunk the TPC study. One of the parties most interested in debunking the study is, unsurprisingly, the Romney campaign itself. Within days, the campaign began claiming to have “six other studies” that said Romney’s policies WOULD work without raising the deficit or raising taxes on the middle class or the poor. Throughout most of September and right up through the first Presidential debate and the VP debate, the Romney team stayed remarkably on-message about this: they have one study, we have SIX that say the opposite.
What WERE these studies? The Romney campaign didn’t say, initially. Journalists were able to conclude what the campaign likely was referring to, based on what the campaign did refer to when discussing tax policy, but Romney and his team were never explicit about where these “six studies” came from, or who did them.
Josh Barro, who did some of the original press-work about the original TPC study and the subsequent back-and-forth with the Romney campaign, finally got them to go on-record about where he could find these “six studies” which all show the TPC study of August to be false, and Mitt Romney’s tax plan to be viable without ballooning the deficit or hurting the non-rich with additional taxes. Are you ready? The studies, according to Romney via Barro, are “…perhaps more accurately described as ‘analyses’, since four of them are blog posts or op-eds. I’m not hating — I blog for a living — but I don’t generally describe my posts as ‘studies’.” More interestingly, “[n]one of the analyses do what Romney’s campaign says: show that his tax plan is sound.”
You don’t say.
The sources (“studies”, if you believe the Romney campaign) are these: a blog post by Alex Brill at AEI (a conservative think-tank), a second blog post from AEI (this one by Matt Jensen), two pieces by Martin Feldstein (one an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal and the other a blog post), and two papers, one by Curtis Dubay of the Heritage Foundation, and the other by Princeton professor Harvey Rosen. Barro goes through these sources one-by-one, explaining why each does not show what Romney claims it does, in detail. It’s illuminating reading, I would guess especially if you’re someone who’s not already familiar with Mitt Romney’s casual relationship with the facts/truth. If you’re not familiar, the mere fact that, of Romney’s “six studies,” only two are even anything approaching an actual study, ought to give you a pretty good indication.
I won’t post Barro’s analysis here, because that’s what his piece is for. If you read it, though, you won’t be in any further doubt about whether the Tax Policy Center’s study was correct in its conclusions. It was.
***UPDATE*** – Hold, I say HOLD, those presses! Mitt Romney’s campaign, under relentless pressure has finally made the calculated decision to release the full details of how his tax plan will be achieved without either ballooning the debt or taxing the middle class and poor. Read the details at Romney Tax Plan.