The Tax Policy Center, a respected nonpartisan group, made Mitt Romney's life a little more difficult two weeks ago, publishing a detailed analysis of the Republican's tax plan. The findings were brutal: sticking to Romney's own parameters, the Republican intends to raise taxes on 95% of the country in order to finance tax breaks for the rich.
Note, the policy analysts "bent over backwards to literally give Romney every possible benefit of the doubt" and worked under the dubious assumption that more Republican tax cuts will stimulate the economy. The results were still a disaster.
Romney condemned the nonpartisan analysis this week as "garbage." Yesterday, the Tax Policy Center published its response, explaining that the facts are stubborn, even if Romney doesn't like them.
"A reform proposal that meets the five goals" that Mr. Romney has outlined for overhauling the tax code "would have to raise burdens on middle-class households," the three authors of the analysis wrote in a nine-page response to the criticism.
That is inevitable, they said, mainly as a consequence of two of Mr. Romney's five goals: His insistence that any tax overhaul should be revenue-neutral, neither reducing nor increasing annual budget deficits, and that it should protect or even sweeten existing tax breaks for savings and investment like those for dividends and capital gains income.
If Mr. Romney were willing to either increase deficits or reduce the tax breaks for investors, the authors said, then taxes would not necessarily have to go up for lower- and middle-income Americans.
It's not "garbage"; it's arithmetic. To reiterate what we discussed when the report was first published, there's simply no way around the fact that Romney's figures don't add up. No serious person can run the numbers and reach a different conclusion.
Romney is effectively making a tax argument with two central points: he can (1) offer a 20% across-the-board income tax rate cut, while also eliminating the estate tax on millionaires and billionaires, slashing corporate tax rates, and approving a capital-gains tax cut; and (2) do all of this without raising the deficit or destroying basic American institutions, simply by eliminating various tax deductions and tax expenditures.
The nonpartisan TPC scholars -- one of the authors of the report is a veteran of the Bush administration -- simply took Romney's plan at face value. Since Romney refuses to say which tax deductions and tax expenditures he's scrap, the analysts crunched the numbers in the only way that could make sense.
And they came to an inescapable result: either Romney will grow the deficit dramatically or he'll have to raise taxes on 95% of the population in order to give new tax breaks to the rich. Period. Full Stop.
In terms of the politics, I'm still not sure why this isn't one of the biggest stories of the presidential race. "Republican intends to raise taxes on 95% of the country" strikes me as a big deal.