Mitt Romney: Magic Man
"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.”
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:
“I won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That's part one. So there's no economist can say Mitt Romney's tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.”
Nobody can say it if Mitt Romney says they can’t! He dismisses pesky economic experts with a wave of his magic wand.
Just as he’d heal the budget, Romney would patch up the nation’s health care system -- with pixie dust.
“What I support is no change for current retirees or near-retirees to Medicare.”
Logically, or mathematically, or realistically, that won’t work. As of August, 5.4 million seniors had saved $4.1 billion on prescription drugs, about $768 each, because Obamacare closes the Medicare prescription plan donut hole. And, under Obamacare, this year more than 18 million Medicare recipients received at least one preventive service for free. Killing Obamacare would mean seniors would have to pay those costs once again from their own limited funds. This would be a costly change to Medicare for current retirees and near-retirees.
Also, Obamacare extended the life of Medicare by eight years. It did so by reducing payments to medical facilities by $716 billion over a decade, reductions accepted by the providers when the law was negotiated. Romney says he will eliminate the savings to Medicare and give those payments to the medical facilities. That, logically, would snuff out the life of Medicare eight years earlier, which would be a tragic change to Medicare for current retirees and near-retirees.
But, you know, presto-chango, Romney says it ain’t so.
Many aspects of Obamacare are beloved by those who have benefitted, including extending coverage for young adults on their parents’ plans, eliminating coverage caps and instituting rebates when insurers charge too much. But perhaps the most important Obamacare protection was the specification that insurers can’t deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Repealing Obamacare would eliminate that benefit. Romney’s response at the debate:
“In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions.”
Romney’s plan could exclude millions, however, since it guarantees insurance only if the person with a pre-existing condition has maintained coverage without a lapse longer than three months.
But, no worries. In Romney’s magical world, if we all just clap loudly enough, Tinker Bell won’t die!
Like any good magician, Romney keeps the details of his plans for America hidden up his sleeve. Taking a cue from that Muhammad Ali rhyme, he believes:
Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see.
Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute. He is a member of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger