Political Animal


October 02, 2012 5:11 PM Arithmetic

By Ed Kilgore

Having already internalized the fact that Romney and Ryan routinely lie about their fiscal proposals, I haven’t paid very close attention to the sleuthing efforts of various analysts to prove that their latest assertions about being able to massively cut high-end tax rates while somehow balancing the budget and avoiding any middle-class tax increases is a lie, too.

But Kevin Drum (with an assist from Catherine Rampell) nails the latest Romney/Ryan mendacity so succinctly that it’s worth a shout-out:

[E]ven if you completely eliminated all tax deductions for high earners — the mortgage interest deduction, the charitable deduction, the exclusion of healthcare benefits, etc. — it still wouldn’t make up for the 20% rate cut Romney wants to give them. Their total tax bill would go down. However, Romney has also said that his total tax plan is revenue neutral, which means that someone else’s tax bill has to go up to make up for the tax cuts he’s giving to the rich. But Romney says that won’t happen either. Middle-class taxes, on net, will stay the same. In other words:
-$251 + $165 + 0 = 0
In my 7th-grade pre-algebra class, this bit of arithmetic wouldn’t have passed muster. Maybe they taught math differently at Cranbrook. In any case, all I’d really like to see from Romney is a proof of concept. It doesn’t have to be his final plan or anything like that. Just any combination of a 20% rate cut and the closing of tax deductions that produces no net tax decrease for the rich. Anything at all that proves it can be done.

Kevin goes on to predict that if cornered on their fiscal math, Romney and Ryan will retreat to the supply-side “dynamic scoring fairy,” pretending it will all come out in the wash once their tax cuts have made America a job-creating paradise where revenues pour into the Treasury from matchless growth. That’s probably true, though we shouldn’t discount the high probability that R&R will just brazen it through and not bother to square the circle.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • martin on October 02, 2012 5:17 PM:

    It's the Laffer curve all over.

    Listen to almost any discussion of economics on rightwingtalkradio and sooner or later a listener will call in to remind the host (who will agree with the "brilliant point") that when Reagan cut taxes, revenues Doubled (or maybe even tripled). They really, truly believe it happened and will happen again if only a real conservative is in office.

    Hell, this may actually be the test for a real conservative: If he cuts taxes and revenues double, He's a conservative. If revenues don't double, he's a witch.

    Into the icksfir stew-pan says Captcha

  • Peter C on October 02, 2012 5:23 PM:

    @martin is right. It's. A. Con. Trickledown was a con. Bush I was being kind when he called it 'Voodoo Economics'. It's a redistribution mechanism funnelling money from the middle class to people like Romney (the 1%).

  • c u n d gulag on October 02, 2012 5:24 PM:

    Daddy criticized it, but his son, W, carried Ronnies Voodoo Economic's spear.

    And now, it appears as if R&R want to carry a Voodoo Economic's howitzer.

    I really don't understand how the non-rubes don't laugh right in the faces of any politicians who start to talk about anything trickling down except spit, sh*t, and piss.

    If this BS worked, we'd all have had accounts in Swiss and Cayman banks since somewhere in the early-mid 80's.

  • Snarki, child of Loki on October 02, 2012 5:48 PM:

    Oh, it's much more complex that all that stuff!

    See, that $251B is really composed of both a "real" and "imaginary" component, as is the $165B. In fact the "0"
    isn't a simple zero, but has cancelling real and imaginary parts.

    The imaginary taxes (removing deduction for zillionares) go to pay for things on the imaginary federal budget: education, foreign aid, medicare, etc. The real money goes to military spending and oil company tax breaks.

    I'd show you the details, but they're written on the inside of Mitt's Magic Underwear.

  • Hue and Cry on October 02, 2012 10:29 PM:

    Paul Ryan/Lyin'Ryan fielded a question today from a man who asked if the 47% should pay a fee or something so they can contribute....
    Ryan actually said 'we want them to get jobs.'

    It was shockingly out of touch, given the fact that the 47% includes the elderly, retirees, the disabled, soldiers overseas, veterans of wars. People who HAVE contributed.

    What a turn off Ryan is. Total tea party inciter turn off.

  • del2124 on October 02, 2012 10:37 PM:

    Yea, the Romney tax plan is about as legit as the business proposition offered by @Marvin there.

  • RepubAnon on October 03, 2012 1:05 AM:

    Nothing that more austerity can't cure. For example, the Titanic's problem was that it stopped after hitting the first iceberg. Had it kept ramming icebergs, the holes in the hull would have been plugged by ice, and the shaking would have removed the excess water...

  • biggerbox on October 03, 2012 10:54 AM:

    Perhaps the reason Paul Ryan didn't have time to explain the math is that it would require teaching a course in some kind of non-Euclidean poly-dimensional arithmetic, where numbers add up in an entirely different way. I mean, they seem to think they're entitled to their own facts, why not their own arithmetic also?