It’s official: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both confirmed in interviews that they will not be revealing the specifics of their tax plan before the election. Which is another way of saying that these two self-styled deficit hawks have no intention of revealing how their plan would actually pay for itself, rather than explode the deficit, until they’re in the White House. Voters — and, presumably, the news media — are expected to take this on faith. How will the press respond?
Romney made this explicit in his new interview with Fortune magazine, when asked for specifics about how he’d make his tax plan — which cuts taxes across the board in ways that disproportionately benefit the wealthy — pay for itself:
QUESTION: Specifically what tax loopholes would you close and what exemptions would you eliminate to make the revenue-neutral equation work?
ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles laid out a formula that shows that you can do just as I described. That you can bring down the rates, limit deductions and exemptions for people at the high end, and with additional growth that comes by virtue of the stimulative action you can reach a balanced budget. I will follow a model similar to Simpson-Bowles and work with Congress to identify which of the alternative methods we should apply to reduce deductions, benefits, and exemptions. Those reductions will occur for people at the high end. I have noted before my commitment to preserve tax preferences for middle-income taxpayers such as homeownership, charitable giving and health care.
The actual work of making the plan revenue neutral will be done “with Congress,” i.e., it won’t come until Romney is in the White House. Meanwhile, on Fox News, Ryan was asked to answer the charge that the Romney/Ryan plan would inevitably lead to a higher tax burden for the middle class:
BRIT HUME: Will we soon see a plan that’s specific about which loopholes to close?
RYAN: That is something we think we should do in the light of day, through Congress, unlike how Obamacare was passed.
Ryan’s anwer to this perfectly valid question is to shout “Obamacare” and hope no one notices that he didn’t actually answer it. But the Tax Policy Center study found that the only way to make Romney’s plan revenue neutral is to close loopholes that would end up raising the middle class’s tax burden. Romney, in the Fortune inteview, attacked the study for making “garbage assumptions.” But in addition to the fact that those assumptions are as generous as possible to his plan, the assumptions were made necessary by Romney’s own refusal to specify what loopholes and deductions he’d eliminate to make his plan revenue neutral. Now Romney and Ryan have both confirmed that they see no need to do this until after the election.
Ryan is widely accorded the designation of being fiscally “courageous” and “serious,” on the strength of his repeated warning that the country faces fiscal apocalypse. He repeatedly vows that the Romney-Ryan ticket won’t duck “tough choices” in getting the country’s fiscal house in order. But both are explicitly confirming that they see no need to tell us what those “tough choices” will be until after the election. Needless to say, this is by definition neither courageous nor serious. Could this be made any clearer?
* Obama camp slams Romney-Ryan Medicare lie: The Obama campaign is out with a new Web video pressing the case that the Romney-Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it, by replacing the system with vouchers that would result in seniors thousands more paid for health care. Note the video’s pushback on the Romney camp’s latest — the bogus attack on the $716 billion in Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act, which Romney is touting as evidence that Obama is the threat to Medicare.
As ABC News notes in a good fact check, Paul Ryan’s budget — which House Republicans voted for — contained the same savings, which target providers, not beneficiaries. Romney is running against the Medicare savings that were in the much-ballyhooed plan offered by his own Veep choice — which Romney himself embraced.
* CNN sets Medicare record straight: Soledad O’Brien also has a very good fact check on the Romney camp’s latest Medicare claims, concluding that it’s outright false to claim Obama has gutted the program or that Obama has cut benefits at all.
* Romney camp unchastened by fact checks: As usual, the Romney campaign is keeping up its dissembling, despite getting called out for it by the media. Its statement this morning:
Instead of working toward a solution, the President cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for his disastrous health care law and stuck America’s seniors and future retirees with the bill. As president, Mitt Romney will protect Medicare for seniors and ensure that the program is strengthened and saved for future retirees.
* Romney/Ryan ticket a challenge for the news media: Relatedly, Paul Krugman:
Memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.
In addition to the serial dishonesty, the Romney campaign has actually said campaigns should pull ads that are panned by fact checkers, despite their nonstop debunking of his own ads. On top of this, we now have the epic dishonesty of this latest Medicare attack, and the Romney/Ryan admission that they won’t detail their tax plan until after the election.
* Republicans to run against Medicare savings in Ryan budget: With Dems salivating to use Paul Ryan’s veep candidacy to elevate Medicare as an issue in down-ticket races, House GOP strategists have their response at the ready: They, too, will accuse Dems of being the real threat to Medicare, in part due to the Medicare spending cuts in the Affordable Care Act.
It’s getting harder to track the GOP position. Republicans campaigned against these savings in 2010, falsely claiming Dems cut seniors' Medicare. Then Ryan put them in his own budget, while advancing a plan to end Medicare as we know it. Republicans voted for it — and for those same savings. Then Republicans repeatedly voted to repeal those savings as part of their votes to roll back Obamacare. Clear now?
* Paul Ryan no help with Latino vote: Politico reports that the GOP ticket is on track to lose the Latino vote by a wider margin than any Republican in over a decade, and GOP strategist Steve Schmidt sounds the alarm:
“There is no issue that is more alarming for the future national viability of the Republican Party than this one. The precipitous drop in the support levels for Republicans is alarming because it indicates that more and more Hispanics are simply disqualifying from consideration anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name.”
The Romney campaign’s travails with Latinos means his route to victory relies on running up huge numbers among white voters. But at what price for the GOP over the long term?
* Wisconsin Senate race takes shape: Former governor Tommy Thompson clinched the GOP nomination yesterday, and as Caitlin Huey-Burns details, both sides see a chance to make history: Republicans think they have a chance to win a seat no Republican has held since 1957, while Dem Tammy Baldwin would be the first openly-gay woman elected to the Senate, and the first female Senator to represent the state, if she can pull it off.
Between the recall wars, Paul Ryan’s selection as Veep, the likelihood of a close presidential race here, and now a Senate race with historic implications, Wisconsin will remain on full boil.
* And the next attack on Obama: The Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity rolls out a new $7 million ad campaign in multiple swing states, featuring former Obama supporters revealing, more in sorrow than in anger, that they’ve concluded he hasn’t earned a second term.
Keep an eye on this one. It’s the emerging GOP tactic for dealing with Obama’s personal popularity: We didn’t want Obama to fail; we shared his high hopes for his presidency; but...
UPDATE: Post lightly edited for clarity.