On Fox News Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan claimed that Americans don’t know enough about what a Romney-Ryan presidency would do, which explains the campaign’s current troubles. But when Chris Wallace pressed Ryan to discuss the specifics of the Romney-Ryan tax plan, the mathematics of which have confounded non-partisan experts, he refused even to say how much the tax cuts the ticket has proposed would cost.
Everyone expects Mitt Romney to bob and weave around basic questions he doesn’t want to answer. But Ryan makes such a show about telling hard truths. Turns out Ryan’s self-righteousness has mainly served to make it more insulting when he bobs and weaves himself.
“It would take me too long to go through all of the math,” Ryan explained Sunday morning. But Wallace wasn’t asking for “all” of the math, just basic numbers. As usual with the GOP ticket, the only specific figure Ryan wanted to discuss was how much he and Romney want to drop tax rates. Wallace repeatedly asked Ryan whether Romney’s proposed tax cuts would cost $5 trillion, a question meant to establish one side of the budget equation before moving to a discussion of how Romney would pay for the cuts. But Ryan repeatedly refused to go through the addition and subtraction, instead insisting that the numbers eventually come out in his favor — Romney’s proposed tax cuts would cost nothing, he said, because Romney would offset them by cutting loopholes, primarily for upper incomes.
But which loopholes, and where does Romney draw the line between middle- and upper-income Americans? Ryan had nothing too specific there, either. The best he could do was repeat the nice-sounding logic of the Romney-Ryan plan:
You can lower tax rates 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, home purchases, for health care. What we’re saying is people are going to get lower tax rates and therefore they will not send as much money to Washington.
Wallace went on to ask Ryan what Romney’s highest priority would be if the GOP ticket’s tax plan didn’t turn out to be revenue-neutral. Ryan answered that “keeping tax rates down” is “more important than anything.” Since Ryan kept insisting that he and Romney need not make a choice between tax cuts and, say, controlling the deficit, he probably didn’t mean for his statement to sound ominous. But since he merely said — and did not show — that Romney’s math could add up, ominous his statement was.
Wallace should have followed up with a question about how, even if Romney and Ryan managed to cut taxes and kept federal revenue where it is, they could then plausibly fix America’s long-term budget mess without additional money. Then again, Ryan didn’t seem to be in the mood for any hard truth-telling.