For the second time in as many months, Mitt Romney unveiled another tax plan recently, and this one was intended to make his party's far-right base even happier. There's a lot for a conservative to like: major new tax breaks for the wealthy, slashing the corporate tax rate, and eliminating estate taxes altogether.
The non-partisan Tax Policy Center published a fairly detailed analysis of Romney's new proposal and found that it's not only heavily tilted to benefit the rich, it also would make the deficit much worse -- by nearly a half-trillion dollars in 2015 alone -- because the former governor has made no effort to explain how he'd pay for these unnecessary tax breaks.
The Republican frontrunner talked to CNBC's "Squawk Box" this morning, and defended his odd approach to fiscal responsibility.
Pat Garofalo ran this partial transcript of Romney's comments:
"What I say is we're going to cut the top marginal rate across-the-board by 20 percent, and at the same time, we're going to limit deductions and exemptions to pay for most of that and then additional growth will pay for the rest of that such that our plan doesn't increase the deficit. [...]
"I haven't laid out all the details of how we're going to deal with each one of the deductions and exemptions, so I think it's kind of interesting for the groups who try and score it because, frankly, it can't be scored because those kinds of details are going to have be worked out with Congress."
Even for Romney, this is just weak. As WonkBlog noted this morning, "A tax plan that can't be scored because it doesn't include sufficient details is not a plan.... [Romney] has a statement about what he would like a reformed tax system to include: lower rates for everyone. But that's cake-and-ice-cream stuff. All the hard questions -- which tax breaks to close, for instance -- remain unanswered, and it doesn't appear that he plans to answer them anytime soon."
This belies any claims Romney makes to policy seriousness. In effect, he's arguing, "Sure, it looks like massive tax breaks and unspecified cuts will make the deficit drastically worse, but don't listen to those sticklers with calculators."
The moment Romney admitted his plan "can't be scored" is the moment he gave away the game. If he lacks the courage to present a detailed proposal, he lacks the ability to participate in the grown-ups' conversation.