Political Animal


August 11, 2011 8:00 AM Romney boasted of tax increases

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney bragged this week that he, during his one term as Massachusetts governor, improved his state’s credit rating. The point, of course, was to draw a contrast with developments at the national level, with U.S. debt being downgraded last week.

What Romney didn’t mention was how he improved his state’s credit rating. The Wall Street Journal had this report:

…Mr. Romney had an advantage that Mr. Obama sorely wanted but could not get from Congress: tax increases and the closing of tax “loopholes.”

Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday through the Freedom of Information Act show the Romney administration’s pitch to S&P in late 2004 included the boast that “The Commonwealth acted decisively to address the fiscal crisis” that ensued after the terrorist attacks of 2001. Bulleted PowerPoint slides laid out the actions taken, including legislation in July 2002 to increase tax revenue by $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in fiscal 2003 and $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion in fiscal 2004; tax “loophole” legislation that added $269 million in “additional recurring revenue,” and tax amnesty legislation that added $174 million. The final bullet: “FY04 budget increased fees to raise $271 million yearly.”

In other words, Romney boasted about tax increases, which in turn improved his state’s finances, and ultimately impressed Standard & Poor’s. At the time, Romney was only too pleased to rely on a fiscal policy that mirrors what Democrats in Washington are proposing now. It’s the exact opposite of the course the former governor is currently taking on the campaign trail — before the debt-ceiling agreement, Romney “applauded” the radical “Cut, Cap, and Balance” measure and demanded that taxes be left alone. Whether the credit-rating agencies liked it or not was irrelevant.

Also note, Politico ran with the same story late yesterday.

Gov. Mitt Romney lobbied the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s in 2004 to raise his state’s credit rating in part because Massachusetts had raised taxes during an economic downturn two years earlier.

The claim was part of a presentation to the ratings agency obtained by POLITICO under a state freedom of information law from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance…. Romney’s case to S&P is a far cry from the anti-tax absolutism of the Republican Party he hopes to lead.

There are two angles worth noting here. The first is, I wonder how the Wall Street Journal and Politico got the same story on the same day. Both articles cite FOIA requests, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a rival campaign tipped off the media outlets about the idea. Indeed, note that the articles are out today — the same day as a major debate in Iowa and just a few days before the Ames Straw Poll.

The other point is, one of Romney’s ongoing problems is that he was a relatively sane, moderate governor. Much to his chagrin, Romney is haunted by his record of mainstream governing, which he is now scrambling to pretend never happened, as he denounces everything he said and did during his only tenure in public service.

It’s kind of sad to watch.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on August 11, 2011 8:05 AM:

    It's kind of sad when the other cannibals reject you because you once liked some veggies as a side item with your human flesh.

    Poor Mittens, you ain't sufficiently crazy enough.

  • Danp on August 11, 2011 8:13 AM:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a rival campaign tipped off the media outlets about the idea.

    I wouldn't be surprised, either, but you have to wonder how they miss the irony that their complaint undermines their entire economic philosophy. Then again, maybe it was a Dem-originated bank shot.

  • just bill on August 11, 2011 8:20 AM:

    you know, he might even be able to beat obama if he became more centrist again.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on August 11, 2011 8:45 AM:

    A just retribution is to be expected for any republican figure who does anything that can be construed as beneficial to the working class.

    Now, if Mittens really wanted to impress the moneyed funding segment of the republican party, he would run on his record at Bain Capital. Eliminating jobs is a record to be proud of when you create a lot more wealth for the wealthy!

  • FRP on August 11, 2011 9:00 AM:

    One remembers Bill Weld entertaining the crowd when Bill Parcells made his splash in Massachusetts wearing a "Varsity Jacket" . Around the suits he sure stood out .
    The standard lack of social awareness with other niceties are a forlorn hope in the representatives of unweaned right wing welfare power sucklings , posing as "Leaders" .
    Oh how I longed for the trial balloons sent out by Gov Weld compared to the no nonsense idiocy preposterously forming its useless self contradictory constructions in what is generously framed as theorizing from Gov Romney .
    Calling the debacle over which Romney drained the Commonwealth of economic strength and vitality for four long irritating years , "Relatively Sane" , is a kindness too far .

  • j on August 11, 2011 9:13 AM:

    Has anyone done a study about how we felt
    we were making a (too slow) but recovery last year, with the stock market & the few jobs that were being created. Then came the mid-terms and it has gone downhill from there.

  • Texas Aggie on August 11, 2011 10:03 AM:

    Romney is but another example of the W syndrome. You have an accomplished father and average or below average kids. The kids feel like they've been overshadowed by their father (and they have) and want to show that they are as good or better, but they aren't. Since they can't beat their father on ability, they try to do it by any means possible, which necessitates subterfuge, dishonesty, mendacity, deceit ... This syndrome explains W and Mitt in all particulars.

  • RosiesDad on August 11, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Romney would make a great moderate Democrat but unfortunately for him, he's campaigning for the nomination of the Batshit Crazy Party. Of course, if he wins the GOP nomination and then the general election (not implausible), it will be a riot watching as Congressional members of his own party condemn him for being a Big Government socialist. (Also not implausible.)

  • TCinLA on August 11, 2011 10:17 AM:

    I wonder how the Wall Street Journal and Politico got the same story on the same day.

    Simple: they're on the same Republican disinformation team.

  • FRP on August 11, 2011 10:27 AM:

    Romney would make a great moderate Democrat

    Lets just work on being a less invasive destructive fellow first , before we graduate into complications that require discipline and consistency .
    Thank you from all the beaten unwashed millions the depraved monster from unregulated capitalism made possible with his cavalier swash and buckle "act" .

  • RosiesDad on August 11, 2011 10:42 AM:

    @FRP: Sorry but it doesn't read nearly as facetiously as it was intended. Romney is the worst kind of "Used Car Salesman" politician. He's so good at it, you can't even tell which side of his face he's talking out of.

    That said, even though he's the GOP's heir apparent, I'm not sure he will be able to convince them to nominate him. MA HCR and now a track record of tax increases will not fly with the Republican establishment.

  • DavidNOE on August 11, 2011 11:09 AM:

    I don't think it's all that sad; I think it's downright hilarious. I suppose it's sad that one of our major parties is batshit crazy, but that's been true so long that I'm used to it by now.

  • majun on August 11, 2011 11:29 AM:

    The nightmare is that Romney manages to convince enough Tea Partiers that he can be trusted, so that he squeaks through with the nomination, only to turn around 180 degrees again and start boasting of his moderate record and his ability to work in a bipartisan manner, contrasting himself with Obama who can't seem to get GOP legislators to agree that the sun shines during the day and the moon at night. If outside money can overpower the flip-flopper meme that Obama is sure to use in combating Romney, Romney could actually win.

    What would a Romney presidency look like? Think of your worst nightmare. Think of all the worst characteristics of Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, but with none of the redeeming characteristics. Weak willed, dumb as a sack of hammers, and about as trustworthy as a tissue paper condom. And this is the POTUS who will bring the Tea Party to heal?