Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Romney means when he says Obama "attacks success"

I've always thought that Romney's claim that Obama "denigrates" (blackens) small business owners and "denigrates" success was just one more calculated lie, of a class with "apologizes for America" or "threw Israel under the bus." Tonight, during Romney's nomination speech, I understood it's personal.  After a roll call of allegedly flourishing Bain investments came this:
These are American success stories. And yet the centerpiece of the President’s entire re-election campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? In America, we celebrate success, we don't apologize for it.

We weren’t always successful at Bain. But no one ever is in the real world of business.

That’s what this President doesn’t seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving.
 Yes, the risk-taking small businessman Obama is guilty of blackening is Romney:

Obama corrects an expired talking point

As Republicans have doubled and trebled down on their post-truth campaign -- asserting falsely that Obama is gutting welfare reform, gutting Medicare benefits, denigrating business owners, etc. -- Obama has persisted in one misleading talking point: that Paul Ryan proposes a Medicare voucher system that, according to a CBO estimate, could raise seniors' healthcare costs by an average of over $6000 by 2030.

Some quick politicized thoughts at the checkout counter

At a Duane Reade checkout counter this morning, the young Asian woman behind the register asked me in halting English if I'd like to donate a dollar for cancer, gesturing with her eyes to a flier. I saw a familiar blaze of pink, then the Komen Foundation logo, and said "no." As my receipt ticked out, I thought of saying something about abortion and quickly nixed that, thinking that my co-transactor might very well be against abortion herself. What came out was, "that group defunded Planned Parenthood." The woman made a vague noise of probably-feigned comprehension, and that was that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The keynote in Charlotte

The entire Republican convention was built around the lie that Obama asserted that business owners didn't build their own businesses.

Maybe the Democrats should double down and focus their convention on Obama's actual message in that maladroit riff.

Elizabeth Warren, who created the prototype "you didn't build it alone" speechlet, sent an email to supporters late last night that could be the keynote in Charlotte.  Subject line:  We built it together:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A plea to Warren Buffett and his ilk

There's nothing new here, but it kills me to read comments like this* from Obamaite billionaires:
Warren Buffett, America’s second-richest man, is one of Obama’s most high-profile supporters, but he has declared that he will not support Super PACs, saying, “I don’t want to see democracy go in that direction.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

In which Romney confuses two strongmen

Mitt Romney, the man who can't speak his own name without misrepresentation, now seems a bit confused about his chosen personal avatar:
Mitt Romney conceded President Barack Obama has succeeded in making him a less likable person, but he offered a defiant retort to those hoping he will open up this week: “I am who I am.”

Romney quoted that Popeye line three times in a 30-minute interview with POLITICO about his leadership style and philosophy... (Politico interview, 8/27).

That ain't Popeye, Mitt. It's the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
 
What marketing genius has decided that Romney should implant the notion of his absolute, intrinsic authority in the body politic?  Will we soon see "I am who I am" ads?  Will Mitt promise to smite the Persians? Or bring prosperity to the land that accepts his authority and turneth not to false Democratic gods?
 
----
P.S. Popeye's variant  is "I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam."  I will spare myself  any deep rumination on why this semiverbal superman was made to echo the master of the universe.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What the battle for the undecideds boils down to

Canvassing for Obama on the suburban fringe of Allentown, PA today, I had two unusually long conversations with undecideds. Both were mistrustful of Romney. Both, however, felt that Obama had ballooned the debt and showered too much largess on the poor -- food stamps, Medicaid, welfare.

Just now, starting out for a walk, I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks and sent me back to the computer. It's really simple. Many undecideds are caught between a feeling that Romney will feed their lunch to the rich -- and that Obama will feed it to the poor. They're not sure which is worse.

Update, 8/30: Ron Fournier at National Journal probes the evidence that Romney is playing the race card and that it's working among working class whites.

Previous:
Obama flashes his debate strategy
Fallows builds up Romney the debater
GOP Demonization Index soars again 


Obama flashes his debate strategy

Early this year, when the media aired a strategic debate as to whether the Obama team should paint Romney as a flip-flopper or as a conservative extremist, I suggested that the two charges are complementary -- he is a flip-flopper who's flipped his last flop:
There is opportunist Romney, who will say anything and adopt any position to get elected, and there is committed Romney, whose current policy positions have been set in concrete by his extremist party. He is not an Etch-A-Sketch, who can shake himself at will, but a Ouija Board, to be played by the GOP base. itself.  He has no core, but he's been cast in a mold that won't be broken until the GOP transforms itself.. That is, until hell freezes over.
That's pretty much the approach that Obama takes in a lengthy interview with the AP:

Fallows builds up Romney the debater

Positing that in an election this close, debates are likely to be decisive, James Fallows has done the Obama team the service of seeking to spark in them a salutary fear of Romney's debate prowess -- while also highlighting the structural hurdles that any sitting president faces in debate, especially when defending a poor economy.

Going to the tape from 1994, 2002, and 2011-12, Fallows builds a well-supported portrait of Romney's strengths and weaknesses: he is intensely prepared, on message, willing to attack, and generally comfortable on stage -- but also weak on policy substance and often vulnerable when caught by surprise and forced to go off-script, at which moments he can be either weasely or tonally off-key (I"ll bet you ten thousand dollars"...).

I think Fallows missed an aspect of Romney's debating, however, in which I (as an Obama partisan) place great trust: his untrustworthiness, which I think is apparent to viewers of all political persuasions.  I therefore disagree somewhat with the overall assessment of Romney's 2011-12 primary debate performance that Fallows presents as both his own and that of experts:

Friday, August 24, 2012

GOP Demonization Index soars again

Speaking at a New York fundraiser heavy with basketball stars on Wednesday, Obama ventured a snapshot of how far the GOP has moved to the right during his presidency:
This is probably the most consequential election of my lifetime, and in a lot of ways, it’s more consequential than the one in 2008.... back in 2008, we were running against a Republican candidate who believed in some basic things that I believe in -- believed that money shouldn’t dominate politics; believed in immigration reform, that we should give every young person who’s here a chance to become an American and contribute to this country; somebody who believed in climate change and believed in science.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Waiver President

Hey, Republicans, I've got a new attack ad for you. Obama wants to gut educational standards. He said so, in a Las Vegas high school this week:
we’ve worked with Democrats and Republicans to fix No Child Left Behind.

So here in Nevada, a waiver has been granted because we want high standards but we don’t want teachers teaching to the test.  (Applause.)  We told governors and their states that if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards for our kids, we’re going to give you more flexibility to meet them -- because what works best in New York might not work as well in Nevada, and vice versa.
Yah, fix it like his HHS secretary "fixed" welfare:
HHS is encouraging states to consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.  Therefore, HHS is issuing this information memorandum to notify states of the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paul Ryan's Medicare/Medicaid shell game

Harold Pollack points out that Paul Ryan's plan to restructure Medicare can't be considered in isolation from his plans to block-grant and gut spending on Medicaid, which seniors also rely on. I would add that Ryan's Medicare plan places new burdens on Medicaid.

Pollack explains how Medicare and Medicaid tag-team to cover seniors' healthcare needs today:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

And you shall teach them to your children

Of the assault by a mob of Israeli teenagers in Jerusalem of several Arab teens, one of whom was beaten unconscious, one Israeli educator had this to say onIsraeli TV (as reported by the Times' Isabel Kershner):
Nimrod Aloni, the head of the Institute for Educational Thought at a Tel Aviv teachers college, said, “this cannot just be an expression of something he has heard at home.”

“This is directly tied to national fundamentalism that is the same as the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, Taliban and K.K.K.,” Mr. Aloni said. “This comes from an entire culture that has been escalating toward an open and blunt language based on us being the chosen people who are allowed to do whatever we like.”
That sweeping indictment recalls this March 2010 news from the sociological front:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

From Palin to Ryan: a short history of demonizing IPAB

The battle between the parties over Medicare reform is a battle about how best to control costs.  Ryan and Romney rely exclusively on the Competition Fairy, -- the notion that if private insurers are induced to compete for Medicare policyholders, they will find ways to hold down costs.  If that fails, Ryan/Romney would most likely shift costs to seniors, with some ostensible protections for low-income beneficiaries.  The Obama administration, via the Affordable Care Act, seeks to use the government's market clout to change the rules of the payment game for providers, creating new incentives to reduce unnecessary care and new rewards and penalties focused on patient outcomes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Can the Competition Fairy control healthcare costs?

As I've explored in the last three posts, the Medicare reform plan in Ryan's 2013 budget blurs Democratic attack lines because it looks very much like an Affordable Care Act for seniors (who, er, already have affordable care) while staking an at least ostensibly credible claim to preserve the Medicare guarantee.

The simplest counterargument was just voiced by a Florida voter to Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The counterargument is that Medicare is broken insofar as its cost to taxpayers has wildly outrun inflation and threatens to bankrupt the federal government.  The debate boils down to the best means to control costs while preserving the Medicare guarantee.

Friday, August 17, 2012

One big happy future family: Romneycare, Obamacare, Ryancare

On a second read of the Medicare reform plan outlined in Paul Ryan's 2013 budget, I was whipsawed by crosscurrents of irony.

I was going to lambaste the plan for its touching faith in the Competition Fairy, believed to shower her low cost/high quality beneficence on private insurance plans competing in a government-run and -financed marketplace. Then it occurred to me that the ode I was reading was virtually identical to the praises sung by Democrats for the prospective healthcare exchanges to be established by the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, the ode may have been composed in large part by a Democrat -- Ron Wyden, who coauthored a proposal with Ryan in December 2011 that Ryan's more recent plan resembles more than it departs from (notwithstanding important differences).  Here's part of the opening movement  of Ryan's Song -- emphasis (and repetition) in the original:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Ryan duped Wyden, cont.

In my last post, I noted that
  1. Senator Ron Wyden, by partnering with Paul Ryan last December in a proposal to convert Medicare to a premium-support program, seriously blurred Democrats' line of attack on Ryan/Romney Medicare reform proposals.
  2. Wyden himself is having difficulty articulating the differences between that joint proposal and the Medicare reform plan included in Ryan's 2013 budget ("Ryan 2013").
  3. Those differences are real, pertaining to the ways in which costs are controlled and the degree to which increased costs are passed on to seniors.
The key differences are that 1) Wyden-Ryan caps overall Medicare cost growth at GDP +1%, vs. GDP +.5% under Ryan 2013; 2) Wyden-Ryan does not abolish the ACA's Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is mandated to furnish Congress with proposals to keep costs under the cap, mainly by reducing payments to providers in various ways; and 3) Wyden-Ryan caps seniors' yearly  out-of-pocket costs while Ryan 2013 does not.

That comparison was based on a report by Kaiser Family Foundation.  I have since compared the texts of the Wyden-Ryan proposal and the Medicare reform section of Ryan's 2013 budget.  The latter comparison shows that while the differences inferred by Kaiser are real, the earlier report -- surely at Ryan's impetus -- fudges the key distinction, which is whether cost increases in excess of yearly targets can be passed on to seniors. In fact, while Wyden-Ryan emphasizes controls on payments to providers as a means to keep costs below its GDP +1% cap, it leaves the door open to increases in premiums for higher income seniors as a way to cover cost increases in excess of the cap.  Moreover, while Wyden-Ryan does not demonize the Independent Payment Advisory Board (as Ryan 2013 does at length), it does not mention IPAB at all -- and dances around IPAB's function when laying out the means of keeping costs under the cap. Wyden-Ryan also takes one Ryanesque slap at IPAB-in-absence, listing as one the authors' principles,  "Build a strengthened program around the needs of patients, not bureaucrats" (p.8 )

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How Wyden muddled the Democrats' attack on RyanCare

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is upset that people are casting the Medicare reform plan he put forward with Paul Ryan last December with the Medicare reform plan incorporated in Ryan's 2013 budget:
Flashing an anger and a willingness to counterpunch that’s rarely seen, Sen. Ron Wyden on Monday denounced suggestions that his ideas for reforming Medicare mirror those of Republican Mitt Romney and his new running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.
His protestation below strikes me, however, as a self-cancelling statement:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Misrepresentation of the ACA in the Supreme Court: a postscript

In April and May,  during the countdown to the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, I did everything I could to highlight the material misrepresentation of the individual mandate in oral argument by Michael Carvin, counsel to the law's opponents.  To serve his argument that the ACA forces young and healthy individuals to buy insurance far in excess of their needs, Carvin  asserted, "Congress prohibits anyone over 30 from buying any kind of catastrophic health insurance" (p. 105). That was wrong on two counts: 1) the ACA allows not only adults under 30, but older adults who can show financial hardship, to buy bare-bones catastrophic coverage offered outside the ACA's insurance exchanges; and 2) the cheapest plans on offer in the exchanges provide coverage of an actuarial value low enough to be considered "catastrophic coverage" by most experts, including the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Via Don Taylor, I learned just last week that the plaintiffs' broader claim that the ACA forced people to buy insurance in excess of their needs was misleading on yet another count. The ACA contains a little-known option for states that want to provide affordable to those ineligible for Medicaid yet poor enough that the cheapest option within the insurance exchanges may prove a financial hardship. States may opt to establish a federally-funded Basic Health Plan (BHP). A March 2011 McKinsey report summarizes:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Two feelings about Slaughterhouse-Five

As I've mentioned before, as a teenager I was a serial reader of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.  When I read this little frame-up from a long essay on Vonnegut on the Dish, it was an absolute eureka:
William Deresiewicz argues Slaughterho
use-Five is "not about time travel and flying saucers, it’s about PTSD":
The novel is framed by Vonnegut’s account of trying to write about Dresden—of trying to remember Dresden. But a different kind of memory became the novel’s very fabric. "He tried to remember how old he was, couldn’t." This is Billy the optometrist. "He tried to remember what year it was. He couldn’t remember that, either." For the traumatized soldier, the war is always present, and the present is always the war.

He is unstuck in time in the sense that he is stuck in time. His life is not linear, but radiates instead from a single event like the spokes of a wheel. Everything feels like a dream: a very bad dream. The novel is framed the way it is because Vonnegut, too, was traveling in time. He needed to make himself a part of the story because he already was a part of the story.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Romney Rule #14: You are responsible for your side's Super PAC; I'm not for mine

No one could improve on Greg Sargent's exposure of the fathomless hypocrisy behind this demand by Mitt Romney that Obama repudiate the Priorities USA ad blaming Bain for an uninsured woman's death from cancer:
“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”
As Sargent points out, "fact checkers have called out his ads as wrong, inaccurate, misleading or false again and again and again and again and again and again and again. If Romney pulled any of those ads, I’m not aware of it."

I would just add a supplement: Romney has been very specific about the extent of a candidate's responsibility for Super PAC ads that support his candidacy.

On January 16 of this year, Fox's Juan Williams, posing questions in a GOP primary debate, invited Santorum to follow up on a prior attack on Mitt's mendacity:

Hey, I caught a pattern in Oct. 2008

Via Dave Weigel, I came across this political science data relayed by Richard Johnston and Emily Thorson regarding Sarah Palin's apparent effect on John McCain's campaign:
John McCain’s August 29 announcement of Palin as his running mate surprised the Republican establishment, the media, and especially voters. She made a strong first impression: she enjoyed high approval ratings after her acceptance speech, and the percentage of voters saying that they intended to vote Republican skyrocketed. But within days of the speech, her ratings began a precipitous slide from which she—and the McCain campaign—never recovered. Throughout the rest of the campaign, vote intentions were closely tied to Palin’s approval ratings: each major Palin approval drop was followed, within a day or two, by a drop in McCain vote intention. No other factor moved McCain support with such precision. Comparison of the correlation between running mate approval ratings and vote intentions from 2000 and 2004 confirms Palin’s peculiar importance in 2008.
 I hold that truth to have been self-evident -- per xpostfactoid, Oct. 24, 2008:

Thursday, August 09, 2012

In which Kristof plays me like a fiddle

When I saw the headline, Obama AWOL in Syria, I thought, "there goes Kristof again" -- the ultimate advocate for humanitarian intervention often carefully defined not to include military intervention per se). Darfur, South Sudan, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria...

I read his case for the U.S. helping to topple Assad, and I won't presume to judge its merits, but it crossed that two-minute op-ed-reading threshold where you're following an argument and have not tipped into spending most of your mental energy pushing back.

Then, this caveat near the end got my attention, first because it struck me as a tad narcissistic, then because I realized it wasn't, because my own first response to the headline demonstrated how necessary it was:

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Mitt Romney, taxer of muni bonds?

Oh, the distortions, sleights of hand and outright falsehoods in the Wall Street Journal editorial board's ridiculous attempt to take down the Brookings/Urban League Tax Policy Center finding that the Romney tax plan would cut taxes for the wealthiest 5% and raise them for everyone else.  The falsehoods are macro, micro and legion.

Let's start with the premises on which the TPC analysis of Romney's purposefully vague tax plan (p. 38 ff) are based. Because Romney does not specify what tax deductions he would reduce or eliminate, or for whom, TPC extrapolates from broad principles he's laid out:

A boring white guy will (counter)balance Romney's ticket

Jonathan Chait points out today that Romney's veep pick will tell us whether he's decided his campaign needs a game-changer (ethnic! female! ideologue!) or whether he remains confident that hammering Obama for a limping economy will be enough, in which case the pick will be the "boring white guy" the campaign hinted at in May.

I am of the James Fallows school of Romney campaign advisers.  Romney, Fallows suggests, should stick to one message:
  • The economy is broken;
  • Obama can't fix it;
  • I can.
Of course, Romney's formula has also required hiding the fixin' prescription. And that's where the veep choice will represent a crossroads. "Boring white guy" would not mean a neutral, neither-help-nor-hinder placemarker. He (not she) would help Romney continue to hide the ball.

Monday, August 06, 2012

A data point on the conservative side

The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel has a useful primer on basic U.S. tax facts today. While highlighting the top one percent's increased share of nation wealth, Wessel also notes:
From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, the tax code has been tweaked and the economy has had its ups and downs, and the share of federal taxes paid by the top 5% and the top 1% has risen faster than their share of income:

In the 1980s, the top 5% averaged 22.6% of income and paid 28.5% of taxes.
In the 1990s, the top 5% averaged 25.3% of income and paid 34.3% of taxes
In the 2000s, the top 5% averaged 28.4% of the income and paid 40.3% of the taxes.

If taxes for the wealthy have been radically cut (which they have), and the share of national wealth captured by the top 1% has radically grown (which it has), how can the share of federal taxes paid by the wealthy have shrunk?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Buffalo Gardens 2012: A propensity for density

Here comes the annual paean to the Buffalo Garden Walk, showcase of unlikely pockets of urban paradise in a city gone mad with gardening.  The event is free-form: No prizes, no entry barriers, no commercialization; just open entry and a map to spotlight where people are opening their front, side, and/or back gardens to the public. 

In prior years I've noted the gardens' eclecticism and their often dramatic backdrops of tightly packed pastel gables, urban forest, skyscraper or 19th-century ruin. This year, a more fundamental, and more obvious, feature struck me: their density. Buffalo goes in big for profusion. In some of the maybe 30' x 40' back yards to the cottages on Little Summer Street, the narrowest of paths wind through a near-complete overhead canopy. Borders are multi-layered. In mostly small yards, Buffalonians tend to pack every inch -- back, front, and/or side.





Saturday, August 04, 2012

Why is Bowles-Simpson more progressive than Romney's "very similar" plan?

Yesterday, the New York Times' Jackie Calmes provided a bracing model of how to reality-check a politician's ridiculous claim:
Mr. Romney said “my plan is very similar to the Simpson-Bowles plan.” The Romney proposal, however, has little in common with that bipartisan deficit-reduction proposal from a majority on the fiscal commission that Mr. Obama created in 2010. The Simpson-Bowles plan called for reduced income tax rates, but it would have raised about $2 trillion more in tax revenues over 10 years, mostly from high-income taxpayers, and cut spending to reduce the federal debt.
This discrepancy raises a more fundamental question.  Because Bowles-Simpson raises new revenue and Romney's plan doesn't, it should be easier, not harder, for Romney to make his cut-rates-and-reduce-loopholes plan more progressive than Bowles-Simpson. According to the Brookings/Urban Institute Tax Policy Center, the opposite is true. Why?

Friday, August 03, 2012

You didn't gild that: TPC hands Obama a sword of unvarnished truth to wield against Romney's tax plans

As we await the next jobs day bomb this morning, my anxious and superstitious nature can't help but fear that the Obama campaign is like the Confederate army approaching Gettysburg -- at its high water mark in the wake of a raft of good polls, Romney twisting in the tax return wind, and the Tax Policy Center dissection of his gap-ridden and fraudulent "tax reform" plans.

But with that gesture to ward off nemesis, I can't help but delight, like (I assume) all who have been waiting for team Obama to pivot from Bain attacks to spotlighting tax cut/spending cut plans so extreme Americans don't believe Romney would actually propose them, in the way Obama has taken up the Tax Policy Center's analysis of Romney's tax plans and used it to tear into said plans.  As reported by the Times' Jackie Calmes, this Obama riff in Florida yesterday is scarlet sweetmeat to me:

Thursday, August 02, 2012

My land, how Romney whined when caught lying in 2002

By now the story is well known: when Massachusetts Democrats challenged Romney's residency in Massachusetts as he geared up to run for governor in early 2002, Romney first said that he had maintained at least part-time Massachusetts residency during his years in Utah running the Olympics. He retroactively altered his tax returns to reflect that claim. When it came to light that he had gained a $54,000 tax break by claiming his Utah home as his primary residence, he said that that filing was the result of a clerical error. When reporters questioned whether he'd also profited on his income taxes by declaring Utah residency, Romney first said that he would respond to questions posed in writing. When those questions were submitted, 
Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that Romney would not be responding because "he values his privacy and his wife's privacy." A few minutes later, pressed on whether he benefited financially in Utah by filing as a resident there and a nonresident in Massachusetts, he said: "That's as far as I'm telling you, that's it. That's the answer I'm going to give you, and that's all I got" (Boston Globe, 6/8/02, "Tax Benefit Unclear and Candidate Mum").
 Of course that pattern of behavior now looks very familiar. Also according to now-familiar type: Romney's response to being subject to scrutiny. During his testimony before the Massachusetts Ballot Commission, his attorney drew the waterworks. The Boston Globe's Stephanie Ebbert reported on June 19, 2002 ("Romney Taxes Show No 'Domicile')":

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Where Gore Vidal's ice melted

I knew next to nothing about Gore Vidal's personal life or public persona before I read his Times obit today. One passage in the obit jumped out at me, though, because I'd like to believe it wasn't true -- or at least, was true only in some senses. Here it is:
Television was a natural medium for Mr. Vidal, who in person was often as cool and detached as he was in his prose. “Gore is a man without an unconscious,” his friend the Italian writer Italo Calvino once said. Mr. Vidal said of himself: “I’m exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.”

Quote of the day

“It is not mathematically possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that preserves current incentives for savings and investment and that does not result in a net tax cut for high-income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers.” 
-  Brookings/Tax Policy Center study of Mitt Romney's tax reform proposal.

The study, which according to the Washington Post's Lori Montgomery, "seem[s] to bend over backward to be fair to the Republican presidential candidate," finds that Romney's
rate-cutting plan for individuals would reduce tax collections by about $360 billion in 2015, the study says. To avoid increasing deficits — as Romney has pledged — the plan would have to generate an equivalent amount of revenue by slashing tax breaks for mortgage interest, employer-provided health care, education, medical expenses, state and local taxes, and child care — all breaks that benefit the middle class.