Mitt Romney's vague tax plan isn't lacking in ambition. The Republican wants voters to believe he can slash taxes on the wealthy, increase defense spending, increase entitlement spending, and balance the budget, all at the same time.
When David Gregory asked Romney, "The math simply doesn't add up, does it?" Romney insisted the numbers add up just fine and said several "economic studies" back him up.
One of those studies, it turns out, was published by Harvey Rosen, an economics professor at Princeton University, who said yesterday Romney's math might add up -- but the plan comes with a steep price for the middle class.
The Republican presidential candidate has refused to say which tax breaks he would eliminate. Rosen's illustration abolishes those for home mortgage interest payments, employer- provided health insurance, state and local taxes, charitable donations and the unrealized increase in the value of life- insurance policies for households with six-figure incomes. [...]
"What the political system would find feasible, I don't know," Rosen says. "It's mathematically possible."
And here's where Romney runs into real trouble. On the one hand, the Republican intends to approve a massive, multi-trillion-dollar tax cut, while increasing government spending on defense and entitlements. On the other hand, Romney says he can pay for all of this by cutting deductions. Which deductions? That's a secret -- the GOP candidate refuses to tell anyone until after the election -- but Romney cites Harvey Rosen to bolster his case.
But Rosen's analysis says Romney's plan only makes sense if he eliminates popular measures such as the home-mortgage-interest deduction, the health care deduction, and the charitable-contribution deduction. And wouldn't you know it, Romney has specifically said he'll protect the home-mortgage-interest deduction, the health care deduction, and the charitable-contribution deduction.
The man Mitt Romney cites as proof that he's right is the same man who offers proof that Romney is wrong.
For their part, congressional Republicans are urging Romney not to go into any additional details with voters for two obvious reasons: Romney's specifics would either (a) be wildly unpopular; or (b) make clear that his numbers don't come close to adding up. On Capitol Hill, the GOP would prefer that Romney just win first and they'll figure out the facts later.