The Hill Pundits Blog

By Peter Fenn – 08/13/12 11:15 AM ETThe Romney-Ryan shell game


The Romney-Ryan Shell Game

Let’s lay it all out on the table  —  the Romney campaign is now all in on a tax and budget plan that makes no sense.

In the past, Romney was content to tell us that he would cut taxes by an additional $5 trillion over and above the Bush tax cuts, spend as much or more on defense and give us a balanced budget.  Loopholes would be closed, waste attacked and the economy would grow by leaps and bounds.  The pie in the sky promises were devoid of specifics.

That plan wouldn’t take an act of congress, it would take an act of magic.

Now, by embracing the Ryan plan and being forced to explain his own scheme it is a whole new ball game.  Romney can run but he can’t hide from his fuzzy math.

The Romney-Ryan shell game is being exposed by the press, the pundits and the Obama campaign.

In the past, Presidential candidates campaigned on generalities and broad policy prescriptions.  They did their best to avoid specifics and hard choices on the most thorny issues.  Initially, this was the Romney game plan.

But, now we are turning up the microscope on just what Romney and Ryan are up to.  I refer you to an excellent piece by New York Times editorial writer David Firestone in Saturday’s paper.  Here is what he spells out.

First, the tax cuts proposed by both men would extend the Bush tax cuts, reduce rates by an additional 20%, get rid of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, as well as end capital gains taxes for many taxpayers.

The Tax Policy Center puts the cost at $456 billion a year.  Keep in mind that those who make more than a million dollars a year would see an average tax benefit of $245,551 while the middle class taxpayer would be hit with an additional $2,000 bill.

So, how would Romney make up that $456 billion?

Close loopholes, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan contend.

There are over 200 individual tax breaks in our tax law.  According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, they are projected to total $1.1 trillion in 2014.

Here is the problem as the CRS analyzes the infamous issue of “loopholes.”  The top two of these deductions are for employee health insurance and pensions, and account for 25% of that $1.1 trillion. So who in their right mind wants to get rid of those?  The next three are for the mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion of Medicare and the current lower rate for capital gains, and those three account for another 25%, now totaling 50% of all deductions.  Then you get to other popular deductions like gifts to charities, deduction of state taxes, tax exempt bonds, the earned income tax credit, IRAs, child credits, etc.

The bottom lines is that of the over 200 deductions, the top two account for 25%, the top 5 account for 50%, the top 10 account for 70% and the top 20 account for 90% of that yearly $1.1 trillion.

So when Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan tell you they are going to make up this $456 billion deficit by closing “loopholes”, be damn sure you are holding on to your wallet.  Especially if you are a middle class family and these deductions for your home, your savings, your health care are critical to your monthly budget.

The Ryan-Romney plan also calls for deep cuts in government spending, even though that would not come close to making up the huge difference from the tax cuts to the wealthy.  These cuts would remove 200,000 kids from Head Start, cut Pell Grant scholarships for 10 million students and cut funding for Veterans’ Affairs by 15 percent.  And, though Romney-Ryan talk a good game, you can forget about funding to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure or money to the states for police, fireman and teachers.

The final question, of course, is just how is this going to grow the economy?  More Swiss bank accounts, more car elevators in super mansions, more expensive toys for those at the top of the income pyramid? We know trickle down doesn’t work, we  tried it under Bush.  It nearly destroyed our economy.  Do we really want to go back to the future?

It is clear that the debate over the next two and a half months will revolve on how best to move our economy forward.  Romney-Ryan would destroy the middle class and put them deep in a hole. The Republicans now have no choice but to explain the specifics of their reverse Robin Hood plan.  The power of the microscope is rapidly getting turned up – the devil is in the details.  And the exposure of the shell game is just beginning.  Buckle your seat belts.