One thing that’s important about the new Tax Policy Center study — which found that Mitt Romney’s plan would raise the middle class’ tax burden to pay for a tax cut on the rich — is that this isn’t a he-said-she-said-dispute. One of two things is true:
1) Romney’s proposed across the board tax cut disproportionately benefitting the rich would require, if it is to remain revenue neutral, the closing of loopholes that would mean that the tax burden goes up for people under $200,000. Or:
2) Romney’s plan isn’t actually revenue neutral — it won’t close the loopholes necessary to pay for its tax cuts — which means it would explode the deficit.
This morning, Post fact checker Glenn Kessler gets at this point well in his piece on Obama’s tough new ad hitting Romney’s plan. He concludes that the ad’s claim — that middle class taxes would have to be raised to pay for a tax cut on millionaires like Romney — is accurate.
Kessler dispenses with the Romney campaign’s objections to the study — its allegation of bias and its claim that it has neglected key elements of the plan:
It is ... a bit rich for the Romney plan to complain that the paper does not really examine Romney’s plan — or is missing key elements — when the major problem with the plan is that Romney has released precious few details about it. The Tax Policy Center analysis makes clear that a full review is not possible because “certain components of his plan are not specified in sufficient detail.” In other words, if Romney would actually spell out those details, then a full review would be possible.
(We asked the Romney campaign for such details, but only received talking points criticizing the Tax Policy Center study.)...
The ad concludes by asserting that under Romney’s tax plan, “he pays less, you pay more.” That is the most debatable part of the ad, because Romney insists that under his plan the wealthy will not pay less (or more). He obviously also has not proposed a $2,000 tax increase on middle-class families. But thus far he has not shown how he would achieve his tax goals, so the Obama campaign can certainly call him on his fuzzy math.
The study makes assumptions about how Romney’s plan would pay for his tax cuts because the plan itself doesn’t tell us how it would do that. And the study actually bends over backwards to make assumptions about the plan in the most favorably possible way to Romney — a fact that Romney supporters who are criticizing the study refuse to reckon with.
Either Romney’s plan would have to increase the tax burden on the middle class to pay for tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich, or it would explode the deficit. There is no other way to make the numbers work, and this should be made clear in the news coverage of the Obama and Romney camp dispute over his plan. The Tax Policy Center analysis of Romney’s plan — and Obama’s ad attacking it — are accurate, and the Romney camp's objections to their conclusions about what his plan would mean for middle class are baseless. Unless all that stuff about paying for the tax cuts is just empty talk.
* Finally, some (somewhat) better economic news: Just in:
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 163,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment rose in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, and manufacturing.
The revisions to previous months are mostly a wash:
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was revised from +77,000 to +87,000, and the change for June was revised from +80,000 to +64,000.
As Jonathan Bernstein noted here yesterday, we shouldn’t hype this too much; it’s only one economic metric, there are still months until the election, and we don’t really know how voters will perceive the direction of the economy this fall. Still, this is better than expectations (though that says something about what has become of our expectations, too). — gs
* A bad month for Romney: And his aides know it, report Zeke Miller and McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed. Romney staffers, they write, are “resigned to the current news cycle until after the Olympics end,” and for now are stuck engaging in damage control. Even Romney right-hand-man (and Etch a Sketch promoter) Eric Ferhnstrom “did not contest the characterization.”
There is a lot of evidence that what happens in the summer of a presidential campaign has little-to-no effect on the outcome, but if Miller and Coppins are to be believed, Romney is basically hanging on despite the candidate and senior advisers’ blunders, and they don’t show any signs of improving before the fall. — jd
* “Fire Ed DeMarco” version 2.0: Paul Krugman has a column-length version of his earlier call for President Obama to fire Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the agency overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Krugman persuasively argues that DeMarco’s reasons for rejecting a program to help struggling homeowners are “remarkably weak.” While I’ve said before the president’s time can be better spent on other things, Krugman’s certainly right that, if reelected, Obama “can, and should, replace him through a recess appointment.” — jd
* Harry Reid “quadruples” down on Romney’s tax returns: The Senate majority leader put out a long statement reiterating that “I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for ten years...It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is.” In addition, CNN’s Dana Bash reported last night a source “very close to Senator Reid” insists the source is “a Bain investor” and is “credible.”
I know Greg isn’t sure how this helps, but I think it’s a smart play from Reid: It keeps Bain in the headlines. And ask yourself this: If there’s nothing damaging in his returns, Romney could now, in one stroke, annihilate Harry Reid’s reputation in Washington. So why hasn’t he released them? — jd
*The DCCC apologizes to Sheldon Adelson: Officials at the committee admitted they had made “unsubstantiated allegations” that the billionaire Republican donor had profited from prostitution at his Macau casino in China. Unlike Reid’s attack above, this really wasn’t a smart move from the DCCC: not only was there nothing to suggest Adelson was profiting from the prostitution, but also there are a number of documented scandals to use against Adelson, starting with the ongoing federal investigation alleging that Adelson instructed executives to bribe Macau officials, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. — jd
* Protests in Anaheim continue: A quick break from campaign news for a story you should be following — the protests in Anaheim, California. The New York Times has a good summary up this morning:
A few blocks away [from Disneyland], a deep fury has boiled over. There have been days of protests, at times violent, with the police responding in combat gear and placing sharpshooters to guard their headquarters. The mayor says he has never seen such mistrust and anger in two decades in the city.
The latest frustrations began last month when the police killed an unarmed man and then another man a day later. An Anaheim neighborhood, just five miles north of Disneyland, quickly erupted.
Not only is the city riven with class and racial division, but the Anaheim police’s response has been disturbingly militarized, including combat fatigues and grenade launchers outside the entrance to Disneyland. It’s a particularly ominous example of police around the country becoming increasing militarized. — jd
*Romney’s ad edge grows: Romney and outside groups backing him will more than double Obama’s campaign and backers’ spending on advertising this week, reports Reid Wilson of Hotline. The one state where Obama isn’t getting doubled up is Ohio, another indicator his camp sees this as the most likely tipping point state. In addition, Republicans are buying ad time in Wisconsin, suggesting they think the state may be in play. (And they might be right: Democrat advisers tell Wilson their internal polling gives Obama a lead only in “the high single digits.”) — jd
*August can deteremine Senate control: In another story, Hotline’s Wilson notes that “four states with competitive races hold GOP primaries over the next four weeks”: Arizona, Connecticut, Missouri and Wisconsin. By rights, the Democrats should lose the Senate in November just on the sheer number of Democratic seats being contested, but just like two years ago with Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle and others, if the more extreme candidates prevail, it could save the Democrats’ majority. — jd
*And science offends Senator Jeff Sessions: Via Think Progress, the Republican senator takes umbrage at, er, facts:
BOXER: 97 to 98 percent of scientists do not agree with the one to two percent that you’re citing [on climate change]. You know, it’s fine — there are still probably one to two percent of scientists who don’t believe that lung cancer is associated with smoking.
SESSIONS: Madam Chairman, I am offended by that, I’m offended by that — I didn’t say anything about the scientists. I said the data shows [sic] it is not warming to the degree that a lot of people predicted, not close to that much…
BOXER: The conclusion that you’re coming to is shared by 1-2 percent of the scientists. You shouldn’t be offended by that. That’s the fact.
SESSIONS: I don’t believe that’s correct.
Senator, I’m offended that 2 + 2 = 4. — jd