Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Romney’s Tax (Mis)Calculations:

by Linda Beale

Romney’s Tax (Mis)Calculations: if your two and two don’t add to four, pretend the Laffer curve gives you more

Anybody watching last night’s presidential debate surely became aware at some point that Romney’s so-called “plan” for economic growth is an empty shell based on the idea that he’s made money for himself so he knows how to run a country.

Romney’s plan is pure market fundamentalism–a mistaken view that the “market” will take care of all problems and vigorously grow to elevate everyone’s livelihood just so long as government regulators stay out of the business of regulating and allow business owners and managers (particularly huge multinational corporate owners and managers) to do whatever they want, including fire workers, outsource business assets, and engage in complex schemes to turn tax laws into tax avoidance bonanzas.  Oh, and the government should provide all kinds of subsidies to aid those businesses at minimal or no (tax) cost–from interstate roadways to easy rights to exploit national lands owned by the public; from localo fire protection to federally funded international security; from state-based contract protection to federal courts that provide handy forum choices to the wealthy and big corporations; from state and local property tax exemptions and waivers to federal intellectual property rights that provide monopoly power and stifle innovation (exactly the opposite of the Founders’ dream).

And when Romney claims that he can “simplify” the tax system and lower everyone’s rates without increasing the deficit, reducing the taxes paid by the upper crust, or increasing the taxes paid by the middle class, while at the same time increasing the military budget and striking more threatening poses a la the Bush neo-cons on Iran?  That’s gibberish, as many respected studies have shown.

So to his rescue comes one of those propaganda tanks in the guise of an intellectual “institute”–the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI).  The Institute puts out a “Tax Bytes” newsletter/blogpost supporting right-wing, market fundamentalist, Friedman-lite tax policies.  Not surprisingly, the Institute is sanguine about making a Reagan-style across-the-board rate reduction program work even in an economy that is still in transition back from the brink that the Bush market fundamentalist tax and fiscal policies put us in.  That is,  in spite of the fact that Romney-Ryan stand for things like making the Bush tax cuts permanent, eliminating the estate tax, maintaining the preferential rate structure for capital gains and carried interest, and even extending that very low rate preference to all other capital income (like interest) for those earning less than $200,000 (who don’t have much capital income to worry about though, since the vast majority of it goes to the people in the very top 5% who make millions, not thousands)–the Institute says “increased private sector growth” will make the plan work.  See “Of Course It Can Work“, IPI, TaxBytes 9.25 (October 17, 2012).  That’s just the Laffer Curve idea at its worst–the wacky concept that when you cut taxes, there will be more tax revenues because of all the wonderful things that a self-regulated market does for economies.
So IPI thinks you can cut government revenues even more than Bush did (when the Bush tax cuts of 2001-2003-2004 (and the rest) amounted to about one-third of the cause of the Great Recession).  It buys into the fairy tale that has been used by the far right to justify obstructionist, non-realistic policy positions and that has created the fiscal debacle we are still climbing out of.  That fairy tale is the market fundamentalist “pie in the sky” concept that broad economic growth can be magically generated just by letting the rich continue to get richer even if the middle class is falling into poverty and infrastructure is crumbling.

cross posted with ataxingmatter

It’s Happening. The pundits are now recognizing what HAPPENED last night.

Okay, thus far it’s just one major pundit, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, whose column posted at 1:58 p.m. demolishes the media’s Conventional Wisdom of last night and this morning, which focused mainly on Romney’s two gaffes, and concluded that Obama had won but only barely.  Binders-full-of-women is irresistible fun, but ultimately unimportant; Romney just misspoke, G.W. Bush-style.  And the clarity of Obama’s Rose Garden statement could be debated; it could depend on what the meaning of “is” is.

But now the focus among the punditry will change.  Dionne captures it:

Any high school debate coach would tell a student that declaring, “Believe me because I said so,” is not an argument. Yet Romney confused biography with specificity and boasting with answering a straightforward inquiry. “Well, of course, they add up,” Romney insisted of his budget numbers. “I — I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget.” Romney was saying: Trust me because I’m an important guy who has done important stuff. He gave his listeners no basis on which to verify the trust he demanded.

Romney’s stonewalling was so obvious that it opened the way for one of Obama’s most effective lines of the evening: “If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal. And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.” Obama sought to make that point in the last debate. This time he had a metaphor and a story to go with the arithmetic.

Romney also covertly disclosed that he, like George W. Bush before him, has every intention of cutting taxes on the rich. Like Bush, he used stealthy language to try to achieve a great fiscal coverup.

Here was Romney on Tuesday: “I will not, under any circumstances, reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest-income taxpayers.” Here was Bush in 2000: “After my plan is in place, the wealthiest Americans will pay a higher percentage of taxes [than] they do today.”

This really matters: Romney intends, as Bush did, to push for steep tax cuts for the wealthy. His only pledge is that he’ll keep the share of the total tax take paid by the wealthy unchanged, presumably by reducing other taxes too. And this is supposed to lead to lower deficits? How?

The most instructive contrast between Debate I and Debate II was the extent to which Romney’s ideas crumbled at the slightest contact with challenge. Romney and Paul Ryan are erecting a Potemkin village designed to survive only until the polls close on Nov. 6. They cannot say directly that they really believe in slashing taxes on the rich and backing away from so much of what government does because they know that neither idea will sell. So they offer soothing language to the middle class, photo ops at homeless programs to convey compassion and a steady stream of attacks on Obama, aimed at shifting all the attention his way.…

In the first debate, Obama let Romney back into the race by failing to shake his opponent’s self-presentation. But Romney also put himself into contention by pretending to be a moderate, shelving his plutocratic side and hiding his party’s long-term objectives.

In the second debate, the disguise fell. Romney revealed more of himself than he wanted to and asked voters to endorse a radical tax-cutting program without providing them the details that matter. Sketchy is one word for this. Deceptive is another.

Romney’s candidacy will not survive an ad by the Obama campaign that explains what the meaning of “reduce the share” is.  In actual math.  And that asks voters whether they think Romney intended that they think he meant … something else.

The Binders That Bind

The most revealing moment last night came as Ann Romney walked toward her husband onstage at the end.  That expression on her face.  I thought she looked like a woman in a binder.

It is, I suppose, poetic justice for Romney that an obviously misspoken phrase of that sort is the catch phrase from last night.  But the phrase, while generating hilarious witticisms, is not the reason why Romney won’t recover.  Instead, it is the binders that Romney has placed himself in that surely became clear to many of his new-found fans of the last two weeks—the binders that underlie his entire campaign. 

Most significantly, in my opinion, that his tax plan is, rather than the new math—as he’s been claiming—actually is no math. 

And that he takes contradictory positions at the same time—starkly, last night, for example, that he’s proud that because of him, virtually everyone in Massachusetts has healthcare insurance, yet Obamacare must be repealed because it’s keeping employers from hiring.  (There were others that surely became clear to a lot of people, but this one just bowled me over, because he said these two things within a few minutes of each other.)

And—yes; finally!—that he habitually plucks statistics out of their context and misrepresents their meaning, although the most clearly illustrative one was one that Obama wasn’t able to make fully clear last night because of time constraints on his reply to Romney’s allegation.  It will be easy for him to do so now, though.

That statistic: Romney’s claim that Obama has reduced oil production from drilling on federal lands by 14% by denying drilling permits and leases.  Romney first claimed, falsely, that there has been a 14% reduction in oil production from drilling on federal lands since Obama took office.  After Obama repeatedly interjected that that was false and that the level of that oil production actually had increased during his administration, Romney finally qualified his claim; production had decreased by 14% over the past year.

I loved it that Obama stepped forward—literally—and explained that the leases and permits that his administration had revoked were ones that the leaseholders and permit holders had not been using, and that that was the reason for the revocations; he wanted the leases and permits to be reissued to others, who would use them.

That was a great moment, albeit one that probably won’t get much attention.  But even more important is that, as Andrea Mitchell explained during the NBC recap and analysis, the 14% reduction occurred (as Romney finally acknowledged) only in the last year—and that the reason for the drop was … a fire at, and consequent shutdown, of a major refinery in Texas!  And, even with that 14% drop in the last year, production from drilling on federal lands has increased more than 10% since Obama took office.

I think the Obama campaign should do an ad on this, saying that apparently Romney thought it was Obama administration policy to have a fire at a major refinery.  And that Romney’s so inept at math that he doesn’t know the difference between a 10% increase and a 14% decrease.

The public will get the point.  Romney is trying to game them. Not a particularly attractive trait in a presidential candidate.

But one misuse of a statistic by Romney came earlier in the debate, and it downright shouted sophistry, thanks to Obama’s unmasking of it: Romney’s comparison of gas prices in January 2009 and gas prices now.  When Obama pointed out why gas prices were so low when he assumed office—and why they’ve doubled since then—I knew Obama would win the debate.  And when, later, during the discussion of the policy similarities between G.W. Bush’s policies and Romney’s proposed ones, Obama cleverly said Romney probably would send gas prices falling, by crashing the economy and thus lowering demand for oil, I thought then that Obama won the election last night.  
And in the light of today, I’m pretty sure of it.
Binders.  Indeed.

On Being Jack Kennedy

Biden’s use of the famous Lloyd Bentsen put-down of Dan Quail—“Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”—is getting pretty good play among the punditry. (Yay!)  Now, hopefully, Obama and Biden will educate the public about the tax rates on the wealthy and on capital gains in, say, 1963. 

And on whether, y’know, America was a European-style socialist country back then because of that—as Romney actually has claimed on several occasions during the last year.

And, in case you missed my update to my last post: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is the first pundit I know of thus far to GET IT.  
Go, Dana!

Why Last Night’s Debate Will Really Matter—and, yes, it will. [– UPDATE: Dana Milbank GETS IT! It’s a start. Hopefully only JUST a start.]

Not surprisingly, the pundits have concluded that, while the debate last night will stop the bleeding for the Dem ticket—stop the momentum for Romney/Ryan—it won’t make a difference beyond that. People don’t vote for the vice presidential candidate; they vote for, or against, a presidential candidate.

And anyway, Biden smiled too much!  And Ryan was serious and wonkish! 

The problem with that analysis is that Biden was wonkish, too.  And in being wonkish—and in smiling and even laughing at Ryan’s canned claims repeating Romney’s from last week—Biden began the process of pointing the public to the fact that Romney’s biggest hits from last week are based on nonsense.
It is, in other words, the substance of Biden’s performance, rather than the performancestuff that the pundits fixate on, that actually will matter.  In my opinion, one of the most effective moments was Biden’s giving the lie to an important part of the supposed Reagan/Tip O’Neill analogy: that, heading into the negotiations with O’Neill, Reagan didn’t give specifics about what he wanted.  

Another important moment—moments, actually; he did it two or three times—was Biden’s challenge to the claim that six studies showed that the Romney/Ryan tax math would work.  Biden’s emphatically shaking his head and, yes, smiling and then laughing—he wasn’t able to inject comments, and Raddatz (who impressed me less than she did everyone else) played Lehrer; she asked no questions at all about this—his facial reactions got the message across.

I have two complaints, though.  One is that Biden didn’t point out that the Five Point Plan is actually not a plan at all but instead just a statement of generic goals—as is the claim that it will create 12 million jobs, like magic.  Presumably, Obama will do that at the debate next week, and do so clearly and repeatedly.   

The other is that Biden didn’t say, much less emphasize, that it mattered for the policy outcome that Reagan was dealing with a Democratic House as well as a Democratic Senate.*  After the election, the House will continue to be controlled by the Tea Party—and, by Romney’s and Ryan’s own account, they’ll let Congress play a big role in drafting legislation.  That is, the House will support the Romney-Ryan administration in trying to force enactment of … the Ryan budget.  Presumably, Obama will do this, too, at the debate next week, and do so clearly and repeatedly.   

But Biden succeeded, I’m pretty sure, in raising questions in people’s minds about the forthrightness of Romney’s representations last week (reiterated by Ryan last night) , and the truthfulness of his claims.  Obama might actually pick up the ball from Biden and run with it.  
Could happen!


UPDATE: Dana Milbank of the Washington Post gets it! It’s a start.  Hopefully only just a start. 

But … woo-hooo!

*CORRECTION: The sentence was corrected for the sake of clarity to include the words “for the policy outcome”.

Jonathan Bernstein Nails the Mad Hatter

Beautiful. (I was thinking the same thing during the debate, but since no one afterward pointed it out, I thought I must have misunderstood.) 

Just wondering whether Romney still has his old calculator around.  The one from his Bain days.  The one that could actually add and subtract!  And multiply and divide and perform algebraic, trigonometric and calculus equations, and do amazing other types of calculations too, apparently.  

You know.  The one that tallied up the funds in that Caymans IRA and in the Swiss and Bermuda accounts and shell corporations.

Better still: Maybe he can borrow a calculator from Brad Malt, his family’s trust-fund trustee and lawyer.  Or from that PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountant who did his taxes for the last two decades or whatever.

Oh.  Wait.  He did.

The Mad Hatter For President! (Pleeease, Obama campaign, do a Halloween Fun-House ad. Pleeeease.)

Have you heard the news? Mitt Romney met with editors of the Des Moines Register yesterday and dropped a bombshell. “Romney promises no abortion legislation,” says the Associated Press. “Romney: No abortion legislation,” says Politico. “Romney says no plans to restrict abortion,” says Agence France-Presse.

Nope. That isn’t what Romney said. This is a man with a long history of using technicalities to disguise his abortion views. You have to read his exact words, with attention to the loopholes. So let’s back up and listen to the full audio of Romney’s remarks.

Saletan goes on to summarize what he brilliantly calls Romney’s Massachusetts-pol-days use of escape-clause language on the abortion issue—how he would calculatingly appear to state a position and then, for the sake of political expedience,  renege and point to some hedge he’d included in the contract—er, the campaign promise. 

Saletan concludes his article by warning, “That’s why you need to spot the weasel words up front. In the end, with Romney, they’re all that matters.”

Well, yes. That’s true on every issue, not just on that one.  We’re dealing here with the Mad Hatter.

One of Romney’s sons, Josh, said yesterday in an interview that Obama had lied about Romney’s positions.  The son was restating, but even more clearly, the father’s debate claim that Obama keeps stubbornly claiming that Romney has proposed things that Romney hasn’t proposed.  Except that Romney in fact has, repeatedly, proposed those things—like cutting taxes (not just tax rate, replaced with the closing of loopholes, but tax payments) for the wealthy by 20%.

This Orwellian strategy of saying that the person who says you said something you said is an “obstinate child” (Josh’s phrase) who is “lying” (Josh’s word) is downright scary.  It’s a direct attempt to pervert democracy. 

The news media really, really, really should point that out.  Cleary.  But the Obama campaign needs to, too.  More effectively than it has in the last week. 

And what better than a Halloween fun house—ghosts suddenly jumping out of nowhere; the floor suddenly dropping out from under you; fake smoke and real mirrors that distort your body shape (or his)—to illustrate the point?

Oh, and Romney’s Halloween costume?  The Mad Hatter, of course.  Romney wearing it to go trick-or-treating while spouting lines written by Lewis Carroll.  And by Josh Romney.  Who’s now made himself fair game.

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.

A Kiss From a Used-Car Salesman—and why it’s important to tie Romney’s “47%” comment directly to his Orwellian lies

As for the second of those three questions—Is he a cold-hearted conservative or a moderate Republican from Massachusetts?—I think there’s a third possibility.  I think he’s George Orwell.

Or, rather, that he’s channeling George Orwell.  Not Orwell, the person.  Orwell, the writer.

Orwell, of course, is most famous for his book 1984, in which politicians and government officials say exactly the opposite of what they mean.  Thus, the term “Orwellian,” which is not limited to politicians’ statements, but which refers to the use of common language terms that have a fixed meaning, and using them to suggest exactly the opposite of what those terms actually mean—and exactly the opposite of what the speaker does mean.

Up means down, left means right, black means white.  You get the picture.  Some people will think that when you say “up,” you mean “up.”  Others will understand that when you say “up,” you mean “down.”  It’s sophistry, con artistry. 

It’s also a key tactic that dictators use to gain or keep power.  Hitler, of course, used it routinely.  But so did Mao Tse-tung.  In fact, another word for “Orwellian” was, during the Mao era, “Mao Speak.”  You just change the definition of common words to mean exactly the opposite of what the words have meant.  That way, you can continue to claim that you’re doing something in particular, or will do something in particular, when you’re actually doing or planning to do the opposite.

In democracies, when politicians do that, it has another synonym: lie.  Or at least that’s been so until now.  On Wednesday night, Romney changed the meaning of many words and phrases so that they mean the opposite of what they have meant.  Not the least are the words “win” and “debate,” at least as the former normally is applied to the latter, although it was largely the news media that redefined “win,” and of course Jim Lehrer helped with the redefinition of “debate.”

But another word that underwent a quick transition Wednesday night from its normal meaning to the opposite of it is “plan.”  As in, he has a plan to cover preexisting medical conditions.  The word “plan” normally means, y’know, a recommendation or intention to change something from its current status.  The phrase “a plan to cover preexisting medical conditions” normally means a requirement that insurance companies provide medical insurance to people who have preexisting medical conditions such as, say, multiple sclerosis or breast cancer, beyond what federal law already requires.  That is, beyond the status quo. 
Which is that people who have, say, multiple sclerosis or a malignant breast tumor and have had no healthcare insurance within the previous three months can get treated at the emergency room, and then maybe file for bankruptcy if the hospital actually does provide, um, treatment for these medical problems.  Then again, Romney had redefined the word “treatment” even before the Wednesday debate, so I guess we now have to understand the phrase “medical treatment” to mean something like, “But you have no insurance and you need the sort of medical procedure that isn’t done in emergency rooms.”  Romney already had redefined the word “plan” to mean promised goals rather than the specific, credible means of achieving them. 

But that redefinition had applied only to his economic plan—a plan that he said on Wednesday night might not work, and which—although it escaped the punditry—he seemed to be admitting that he (the successful businessman!) had devised without any actual economic basis for thinking that the revenue/tax-deduction ends could meet as designed.  But this second redefinition of the word “plan” was something else entirely, because by saying that he has a plan to provide healthcare insurance to people who currently are denied it because of a preexisting medical condition, he was telling them that he plans to something specific that he plans not to do.  And it concerns some truly fundamental things, in some cases life or death, in others financial security or instead financial devastation. 

What kind of person stands on a stage speaking to 67 million people, and just plain lies about something of that sort?  Dare I say it—the kind of person who speaks derisively about 47 percent of Americans, none of whom are Bain investors, have overseas bank accounts, hire PriceWaterhouseCoopers to tally their tax returns, and have their IRA accounts in the Cayman Islands.  Nor contribute to Republican PACs or attend Romney fundraisers in Boca Raton.  Or anywhere else.

Maureen Dowd, in her New York Times column today, uses humor to run through many, but by no means all (she’s only allowed a limited number of words per column, after all), of Romney’s bald debate-“winning” lies.  And she includes the preexisting-medical-conditions one.  But I think it’s Paul Krugman who, in his Times column on Friday, titled “Romney’s Sick Joke,” best highlights that this particular lie is particularly brazen and particularly pernicious.  And Ezra Klein points out that Romney’s mendacity about his plan for healthcare coverage—and in this context it is indeed a plan, as that word is defined the old-fashioned way—runs even deeper. 

It’s been said, accurately, many, many times now that this election will determine the basic nature of American government.  But until now, that’s meant budgetary, taxing and regulatory policy.  It now means something even more fundamental, in addition: Whether or not we allow a redefinition of the word “democracy.”  Romney asks us to believe in America.  It turns out that he means an America of the sort that George Orwell feared.

Or at least one run by a used car salesman.  Read the fine print on that contract.  And on that separate warranty you’ll be charged for. 

A kiss is not a kiss when it’s described as one by someone with a forked tongue.  

Romney Says He’ll Shoot Farm Price Supports, Draught Relief and Veterans’ Benefits, Right Along With Big Bird!

Slate’s William Saletan has a terrific article there today, with a terrific title: Tax Evasion: Romney’s preposterous arguments for not telling you which tax breaks he’d abolish.  And, yes, elsewhere, too, mainstream-media folks are showing some morning-after queasiness about their debate verdict, by getting into the “um … huh?” stuff now.
But in pointing out that Nixon really doesn’t have a plan to end the Vietnam War—er, I mean, that Romney doesn’t really have a plan to balance the budget—they’ve been talking mostly about Romney’s refusal to identify the tax loopholes and deductions he’ll end. They haven’t mentioned much Romney’s other demonstration of, um, willingness to be specific about extremely important budget matters: His statement that he’ll end all programs that, in his opinion, aren’t worth borrowing money from China for. 

Which include Medicaid and Sesame Street.  But what other programs?

The effective end of federally supported Medicaid is obviously too serious a subject to joke about, and it needs much more attention from the news media than it’s getting—as well as from the Obama campaign, which should put up ads featuring nursing home residents and nursing home owners; i.e., small-business owners who are jobs creators, to explain the issue.

But Obama also should say—yes, say—when he’s campaign in, maybe, Iowa, eastern Colorado, Wisconsin and North Carolina that Romney doesn’t think farm subsidies, flood insurance, hurricane and tornado disaster relief are worth borrowing money from China from. 

And when campaigning in North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and, well, everywhere else, he should say that Romney doesn’t think veterans’ benefits are worth borrowing money for China for.  And that that might make it harder to recruit those additional 100,000 people into the armed services that he says he wants to add, although of course he might just have a military draft in mind.  You never know; he’s not all that keen on revealing specifics, after all.  (Does Romney ever think beyond the end of whatever sentence he’s mouthing at the  moment?)

Seriously. The only way to start to nail down Romney’s plans is to start actually filling in his blanks.  Say, outright, that Romney plans to end farm price supports, drought relief, disaster relief and veteran’s benefits.  Romney then will have to say that he has no such plans.  Great! Then say that Romney plans to shut down the FDA and the National Transportation Safety Board; a few hundred deaths from dangerous medications and airplane crashes each year aren’t worth borrowing money from China to prevent.  Not when you have more important needs, such as incessantly spiraling tax cuts for the wealthy. 

Which, despite his Wednesday protestations, he does think are worth borrowing money from China for.

Or here’s another idea: Let’s develop a contest in which the winner accurately predicts Romney’s selections for Programs Worth Borrowing From China For.  And a bonus contest in which the winner correctly calls the tax loopholes and deductions eliminated in Romney’s tax-code revision plan.

The winners will be announced on the same day as the announcement of the Publishers Clearinghouse winner for 2015. The prize?  We can have another contest to guess that.