Mr. Romney Needs a Working Calculator
Published: October 15, 2012
To the annoyance of the Romney campaign, members of Washington’s reality-based community have a habit of popping up to point out the many deceptions in the campaign’s blue-sky promises of low taxes and instant growth. The latest is the Joint Committee on Taxation, an obscure but well-respected Congressional panel — currently evenly divided between the parties — that helps lawmakers calculate the effect of their tax plans.
Last month, the committee asked its staff what would happen if Congress repealed the biggest tax deductions and loopholes and used the new revenue to lower tax rates. The staff started adding it up: end all itemized deductions, tax capital gains and dividends as ordinary income, and tax the interest on state and local bonds, along with several other revenue-raisers.
The answer came last week: ending all those deductions would only produce enough revenue to lower tax rates by 4 percent.
Mitt Romney says he can lower tax rates by 20 percent and pay for it by ending deductions. The joint committee’s math makes it clear that that is impossible.
The analysis doesn’t include every possible tax expenditure, leaving out, for example, the tax break employers get for providing health insurance. But because Mr. Romney refuses to raise capital gains taxes and wants to end the estate tax, it is hard to see how he could do much better than 4 percent.
This is why Mr. Romney has refused to say which deductions he would eliminate, just as Representative Paul Ryan refused when asked a direct question in last week’s debate. Specify a deduction, and some pest with a calculator will point out that it doesn’t add up.