Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ode to Reality at the Democratic Convention

Democrat Martin O'Malley, Governor of Maryland:
"Instead of a balanced, achievable plan to create jobs and reduce the deficit, Mitt Romney says, puts forward a plan that would cut taxes for millionaires while raising them for the middle class."
Democrat Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio:
"And now we need to make a choice. It’s a choice between a country where the middle class pays more, so that millionaires can pay less or a country where everybody pays their fair share."
Democrat Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia:
"To pay for their plan, [Romney and Ryan would] slash middle-class tax breaks, raising taxes on the middle class."
Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Candidate for the U.S. Senate:
"And Mitt Romney? He wants to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. But for middle-class families who are hanging on by their fingernails? His plans will hammer them with a new tax hike of up to 2,000 dollars."
That's staying on message, I'll give the Democrats points in that regard. But it's also some serious twisting of reality. Because Romney has never said any such thing and never recommended such a move. No plan he has offered includes any sort of proposal that would raise taxes on the middle class, not by one dollar and not by two thousand. So where is this Democratic lie--because that is what it is--coming from? From one lone report published by the Tax Policy Center of the Brookings Institute.

I've dealt with this report previously, noting how those reading it when it first came out didn't have any sort of grasp on what it was actually saying. Then, the claim was that Romney's plan actually involved a specific increase on taxes for the middle class, based on a misreading of a chart in the study, wherein the report compared the actual tax consequences of Romney's proposals with a wholly made up plan based on the idea of revenue neutrality. The latter was taken--wrongly--to be Romney's plan. But it was based on several assumptions, none of which is defensible:
  1. Revenue neutrality can only be had by raising tax rates (only true if baseline budgeting is taken to be an unchangeable reality and if economic growth rates remain below a certain level).
  2. Romney would willingly renege on his promise to not raise taxes on the middle class in order to maintain all of his other proposals, when it comes to budgets and taxes.
  3. Romney has also proposed stripping away various loopholes and deductions in the tax code, but has not specifically identified which ones, so this was ignored. But barring this information, it is impossible to determine the impact on overall revenue.
The second is particularly laughable, the idea that Romney would actually propose a tax increase on the middle class to protect a proposed tax cut on the upper class. Yet, it's being taken--somehow--as a given. Greg Sargent is supposedly one of the sharper tacks in the pundit box, but here he is falling into a stupidity trap in a desperate attempt to justify the lies of Democrat speakers:
This is a bit silly. As Steve Benen and Travis Waldron note, what matters here is that Romney’s plan promises across the board tax cuts and it promises to remain revenue neutral. The Tax Policy Center has found that if both promises are kept, Romney’s plan must pay for itself by increasing the middle class’ tax burden.
Really Greg? You can't actually be this dense, can you? If both promises are kept and one of those promises is for "across the board tax cuts," then wouldn't a tax increase break that promise, thus rendering your entire analysis moot? It's not even smart enough to be called circular reasoning. But then, Mr. Sargent actually sites Steve Benen of the Maddowblog--who thinks a kiss qualifies as a major historical moment--and an article at ThinkProgress (by Waldron), two sources so biased and unreliable that, well, I'd laugh if he weren't so serious.

Sargent tries to weasel out of the intellectual void he has found himself in--by citing clueless partisans--by noting the truth. Sort of:
What is required is a message that more clearly states what Romney is actually claiming — and why it’s complete nonsense. Dems need to say: You will hear Romney promising to cut your taxes and get our fiscal house in order. But guess what — he won’t tell you how he will pay for all that — which inevitably means you will pick up the tab. Seen this movie before?
This, I think, is a fascinating and deeply telling bit of "advice" to Democrats, as it points to just how divorced from reality people like Sargent actually expect them to be. Sargent, in recommending that final rhetorical question--"Seen this movie before?"--is allowing for a total lack of historical knowledge on the part of the electorate, who will automatically take it as a given that "this movie" was last shown by a Republican or a conservative. And yet, it was his holiness Bill Clinton who last promised a tax cut for the middle class, then went back on his word. And for that, he is a hero.

Still, Romney's claims are no more nonsensical than those of any other politician. His platform is clear in this regard: cut taxes across the board, get rid of loopholes, and balance the budget (don't spend more than is taken in, as a matter of policy). He's repeated it ad nauseam, yet somehow Democrats feel free to recast reality and claim Romney's plan raises taxes on the middle class. And this fantasy is actually defended by witless media dupes like Greg Sargent. Beautiful.

Cheers, all.

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