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Mitt Romney: Magic Man

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"I’m gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a bee;
George can’t hit what his hands can’t see;
Now you see me, now you don’t;
He thinks he will, but I know he won’t." ~ Muhammad Ali

At last week’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.

He punched and parried, feigning the great Muhammad Ali.

Any likeness between the two is, however, mere illusion. America has seen victory by Muhammad Ali. America worked through disputes with Muhammad Ali. Now America admires Muhammad Ali. And Mitt Romney is no champion. Instead, Romney's a magic man. He employs sleight of hand. He uses smoke and mirrors to confuse and obscure. Unlike President Obama, Mitt doesn't do math. He performs tricks, sorta like Muhammad Ali said in his rhyme – Now you see severely conservative Romney, now you don’t. The GOP nominee asks Americans to engage in magical thinking – to believe his hocus-pocus is not just a stage show but will actually painlessly solve problems.

Last week, Romney promoted his magic show during the debate. He promised his performance as president would be fabulous, stupendous, unprecedented! He bragged:

“My plan is not like anything that’s been tried before.”

Specifically, he was talking about his tax plan. Romney has pledged to reinstate the Bush tax cuts should they expire at year’s end as scheduled, then further slash income taxes by 20 percent for everyone. Also, Romney has vowed to eliminate and cut other federal taxes, including the estate tax.

Here’s the part where Romney promises to accomplish something never done before: he says he’ll slash and burn all these taxes but not add a dime to the deficit or to the tax burden of the middle class. When Ronald Reagan made a similar promise, George Bush I called it voodoo economics. George Bush II tried this magic trick and failed. Bush gave everyone, particularly the rich, tax breaks. Then the federal deficit skyrocketed.  To quote a bumbling former Republican presidential candidate, “Whoops.”

Romney says that won’t happen when he performs as president. He’s too good. The illusionist swore to the nation Wednesday night:

“My, my number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.”

He hasn’t specified how he’d accomplish that because, as you know, magic tricks are proprietary secrets. He’s offered a couple of enticing tidbits, however.

One is that he’d close tax loopholes and deductions to recoup income lost because of all those tax cuts. But he won’t say which ones because, again, those proprietary magic secrets.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) analyzed Romney’s proposal and concluded it didn’t add up – even when they gave him lots of breaks because his plan is clandestine. To get back $1 from closed loopholes for every $1 in tax cuts, the TPC determined that Romney would have to eliminate breaks favored by the middle class, such the mortgage deduction. And that means Romney’s plan would cost middle class families an additional $2,000 a year on average, the TPC said.

Still, Romney assured the American people last week:

“I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families.”

Abracadabra!

Romney insists his bag of tricks contains one that will enable him to defy the math of the TPC economists, who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. One way would be to do what Bush did, just cut taxes and increase the deficit. Romney contends that’s not in his repertoire: