Why has no one (but me) mentioned Romney’s erroneous claim that the federal budget can’t be balanced if we raise taxes? C’mon, folks; the Clinton administration ended only 12 years ago.*
A really striking feature of the Romney campaign is the candidate’s penchant for stating policy positions as though each one exists in a vacuum. To wit: His 20% across-the-board tax-rate reduction, which, this successful businessman made clear at the debate last week, he didn’t trouble himself to figure out the likely result of it on the actual federal budget.
Which lead to his saying: Hah? A $5 million loss of revenue? No, sir! That won’t happen, because I won’t let it happen, because if it looks like it’s going to happen, I won’t let the plan take effect.
And that huge additionaltax cut for the wealthy that people keep claiming I want to put in place? Huh? No, sir! I figured out five weeks before the election—and eight months after I starting saying, repeatedly and explicitly, that I would lower taxes by 20% on the wealthy (they’re jobs creators, you know!)—that that really would raise the budget deficit a bunch. So no way, no how, am I gonna lower taxes on the wealthy! (And no way, no how, did I ever say I would. You folks who thought I did just don’t understand the English language!)
Another hallmark of his campaign, of course, is his statements of blatantly false undisputed facts, including about things of the sort that you’d think a successful businessman—especially one who was so active in business during the 1980s and ‘90s—would know. (Especially a successful businessman who says he should be president because he was a successful businessman.) Such things as that, well, yes, you can certainly help* balance the federal budget via a tax increase, and in fact that’s what occurred during the 1990s, after George H.W. Bush famously agreed to have Congress raise income tax rates and then Bill Clinton, also famously, fought hard and successfully in 1993 for another tax-rate increase. And that Ronald Reagan, early in his second term, agreed to raise the tax rate on capital gains, interest and dividends to equal the rate on work income, and that he did this in order to narrow the budget deficit. And that it worked! It narrowed the budget deficit! But Romney said at the debate that it can’t be done; you can’t eliminate or reduce the budget deficit if you raise taxes. Do we want a president who suffers from amnesia?
Or maybe a president who just thinks we do. I was shocked when Obama didn’t point that out at the debate. But I’m even more surprised that he hasn’t pointed it out sincethen. Especially since this particular lie isn’t one in which he claim that there’s a study that says otherwise, or something; it doesn’t allow him to change his representation of his own policy position, because this fact is not a fact about what already occurred and cannot be revamped, and is not about something that something said and that can be altered by word games. And since pointing out such a clear, bald lie on this particular fact would illustrate on its own that Romney is a conniving snake who’s trying to con the public.
But it also hands Obama another important argument: that Romney’s business career either failed to prepare him for reading and understanding even basic, clear budget and tax facts, or it did prepare him to lie.
As they say in Latin, caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. Say it, Mr. Obama. Say it.
Again and again and again. And again.
*In response to a comment by reader Arne, I’ve inserted the words “certainly help”. Arne notes that the stock market bubble during the latter Clinton years helped balance the budget. But it was only the part of that sentence that said that the increase in the tax rates alone fully balanced the budget by 2000. Although it’s not my area of expertise, and I don’t know the specifics, I think that in earlier eras, tax rate increases, or at least very high top-bracket rates, largely balanced the budgets. Isn’t that what happened during the postwar era?
In any event, Romney’s statement—that tax increases make it impossible, or at least harder, to balance the budget is false; it is, verifiably, pure Mad Hatter stuff. Taxes were raised, the stock market soared, and the budget was balanced , in the 1990s.