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:

Mr. Obama, egged on by his audience, mocked the Romney campaign’s response to the study. Citing Romney aides’ complaint that the Tax Policy Center, a joint operation of two centrist research organizations, the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, is a liberal entity, Mr. Obama noted “the fact that it’s headed by an economist who worked for George Bush.” 

“Then they said that the study failed to fully take into account the massive economic boom that would come from cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “because we all know how well that worked out the last time we tried it.” 

He continued: “They have tried to sell us this trickle-down tax-cut fairy dust before. And guess what? It didn’t work then. It will not work now. It’s not a plan to create jobs. It is not a plan to reduce the deficit. It is not a plan to build our middle class. It is not a plan to move our economy forward. It takes us back to a place we don’t need to be.”
Trickle-down tax-cut fairy dust? Ooh. Aah. Ooh. 

I have always felt the force of David Brooks' warning in mid-2008 that Obama was putting himself in a policy straitjacket by promising not to raise taxes on people earning less than $200k per year, or familiar earning less than $250k. But given the ever more intense foaming-mouth extremes of Republican antitax dogma, I can see the political necessity of that pledge. Obama now has the cleanest of contrasts. Republicans have dug in, not against tax hikes for Americans generally, but against tax hikes for the top 2% -- and the TPC has exposed Romney as pushing for tax hikes on middle- and lower-income Americans.  It is quite heavy enough a lift to get $1-$2 trillion in new revenue over ten years out of the wealthiest without doubling the demonization by reaching further down the food chain.  If, in the process of compromise, tax reform does require higher overall tax bills for more Americans (as I think on the merits it should), it may be Republicans who force the middle-class increases (e.g., by limiting popular deductions) on Obama rather than vice versa.

The glee and energy with which Obama has seized on the TPC study forms an instructive contrast with the Romney campaign's equally gleeful recent seizures on new 'data' thrown up by the campaign. For its most ferocious attacks, the Romney campaign has relied, as Steve Benen and Greg Sargent have highlighted, on gross distortions of the plain meaning of Obama's words ("you didn't build that" cast as referring to businesses rather than the infrastructure supporting them, "it worked" referring to Obama's own economic policies rather than Clinton's tax policies).  Obama, in contrast, has the duplicitous essence of Romney's (and Ryan's) tax and spending plans to work with:  marginal rate cuts that will necessitate effective tax hikes on most Americans; enormous revenue shortfalls that, in combination with defense spending increases, would require debilitating cuts in domestic government functions.

Incidentally, a memo to James Fallows: Jackie Calmes, in the story linked to above, strikes a blow against dueling-quote false equivalence, providing her own internal fact check to Romney's claims about his tax plan:
But in an interview with conservative Fox host Sean Hannity, 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.

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