Thomas Edsall, a Columbia University professor of journalism, in a New York Times piece worries that Mitt Romney has been able to ‘wait out’ the press regarding the lack of information in his campaign, ranging from Mitt’s tax returns to data in support of the candidate’s policy and budget proposals.
With the presidential election just two weeks away, Romney’s gamble may be paying off. He has failed to specify where he would wield the budget knife, and he has defied, with a striking degree of success, the relatively quiet group of people who have called for him to honor a host of traditional disclosure and campaign practices….
Romney’s evasions of traditional disclosure have been ongoing and almost insolent.
In July, when Romney refused to release more than two years of tax returns — in contrast to previous candidates of both parties, among them his father — there was a huge uproar. National Journal published a list of 17 prominent Republicans, including four sitting senators, who called on him to release 10 or more years. Editorials in papers across the country denounced Romney’s secrecy. The conservative columnist George Will declared that Romney “must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.” Will warned Romney that he was losing the argument “in a big way.”
But it is Romney who appears to have won the argument. His tax returns are a dead issue, except on the left and liberal fringe.
Romney has repeatedly left unaddressed and unresolved a fundamental contradiction between his proposal to cut tax rates across the board by 20 percent and his claim that his fiscal policies will put the nation on a path toward a balanced budget. His proposal to pay for (technically, to keep “revenue neutral”) the rate cuts by capping deductions does not add up. The Third Way, a centrist Democratic organization, has calculated that limiting individuals to $17,000 dollars in deductions would only increase revenues by $1 trillion, less than a quarter of the $4.6 trillion cost of a 20 percent rate cut.thirdway.org
At the second presidential debate at Hofstra on Oct.16, Romney was asked about this arithmetical impossibility. He gave a murky 576-word answer. With some abbreviation, it went:
Now, how about deductions? ‘Cause I’m going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying.
The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that’ll stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a tax break. And so, in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be say everybody gets — I’ll pick a number — $25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth, you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions.
Romney concluded with the following declaration: “I want to get us on track to a balanced budget, and I’m going to reduce the tax burden on middle income families.” In the face of reason, he simply asserts that there is no conflict between the achievement of two welcome goals: a balanced budget and reduced tax burdens.
Romney runs into a parallel dilemma on the spending side of his proposals. He has called for a $2 trillion increase in military expenditures – which would then rise to 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product — while putting a cap on total federal spending of 20 percent of G.D.P. The highly reputable, if liberal, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, contends that doing the math on Romney’s budget outline produces some jarring consequences that the candidate does not address:
By 2022, the cuts under Governor Romney’s budget proposals would shrink nondefense discretionary spending — which, over the past 50 years, has averaged 3.9 percent of G.D.P. and never fallen below 3.2 percent — to 1.8 percent of G.D.P. if Medicare shares in the cuts, and to 1.3 percent of G.D.P. if it does not. These cuts would be noticeably deeper than those required under the austere House-passed budget plan authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Romney’s nondefense cuts are deeper because his proposal increases core defense spending — the defense budget other than war costs and some relatively small items such as military family housing — to 4 percent of G.D.P., while the Ryan budget does not.) Over the coming decade, Romney would require cuts in programs other than core defense of $6.1 trillion, compared with $5.0 trillion in cuts under the House-passed budget plan.
Even accepting the tough cuts Ryan has called for in programs serving the poor and the out-of-work – Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits – Romney will have to cut programs popular with the middle class, many of them swing voters and independents. But, as Romney noted in his Weekly Standard interview, he is “not going to give” us “a list right now.”
Instead, Romney is going in the opposite direction.
Beezer here. This has been Romney’s game plan all along. Promise whatever but refuse to offer supporting data and then wait it out until the press gives up on finding any anwers. If a question comes up that specifies expenditures, like veteran benefits, Romney simply takes it off the table and promises he won’t cut those benefits. The same with education support. Or Medicare or Medicaid. Or pre-existing conditions. The tactic is always the same. Promise something and then ignore questions for supporting information. Tough it out and just keep promising. The media and the public will tire of getting no responses. Meanwhile, hammer the President with accusations based on what appears to be fantasy statistics, and then simply ignore questions about those statistics. The media and the public will tire of getting no responses. Edsall’s larger point is that this new level of non-responsiveness could become the norm if Romney succeeds. And that’s not good for the nation.