Romney’s enablers

Why won’t the press do its job?

Mitt Romney’s latest tax plan doesn’t add up. None of Romney’s tax plans adds up. The issue is not “a lack of specifics”: it’s that his claims for the plans he refuses to specify are mathematically impossible. That’s not a matter of opinion; it’s a matter of addition.

And yet the press insists on enabling the bamboozlement by refusing to do its job and report that 2 + 2 does not equal 22, no matter how bipartisan the calculation is.

Yes, this is the product of decades of right-wing ref-working; when every act of objective reporting is treated as “liberal media bias,” there’s going to be less objective reporting. But is there really no reporter or editor who dares do the job he or she gets paid to do?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

13 thoughts on “Romney’s enablers”

  1. Talk about “working the refs”. You, Mark, are playing into the exact same game, not discussing the real issue here.

    The WHOLE POINT of these plans is not to create revenue neutrality, it is to bust the budget wide open. The progress goes as follows:
    Budget deficits are converted (initially by deliberate liars, then by idiot commentators) from “the government can’t balance its budget” into “`we` have no money”.
    Therefore `we` have to cut back on various pleasant things, from healthcare to free/cheap education to public infrastructure to public libraries.

    This has been going on for thirty years; Romney’s budget simply keeps it going for a few more. If you think I’m being ridiculous, recall the way the language changed during the Clinton era. During that brief period when budgets were actually in surplus (and thus threatened to reverse this process) we were treated to an alternate rhetoric of how dangerous it was to run surpluses because then there wouldn’t be any long term bonds for the financial industry to invest in.

    Pundits facilitate this destruction of the public sphere whenever they use this idiotic language about how `we` can’t do things because `we` have no money. America is VASTLY richer today than it was in the 1930’s, or 40’s, or 50’s, or 60’s — but now we can’t afford to do things we could do then? The issue is not ‘our` poverty, it is that a selfish cabal of .1%s refuse to accept that they are part of greater society.
    And people like Mark facilitate this every time they accept the framing of financial pronouncements like Romney’s budgeting.
    The story here is not “Mitt’s budget doesn’t add up”. The story is “WHY does Mitt push a budget that doesn’t add up?”

    1. I’ll second that. The real story is, “Romney’s tax plan/budget is one more poorly diguised attempt to starve government of everything (except a bloated military budget),” because the oligarchs don’t need public services(except for military & police protection), don’t want to pay for them, and are incensed at the idea that a public sector might provide them to the rest of us and deprive them of the chance to sell their privatized version to us at a profit.

    2. There’s a chart I’ve been shoving at anyone who will listen for several years, and I’ve seen other versions of it online as well. I’m relatively new to RBC, so maybe this has been hashed through here before, but it bears repeating, and Maynard’s notice of the .1%ers deserves an echo and a fleshing out. I don’t know how to post a chart, so I’ll just offer some numbers.

      At this link ( (Table 3 has after-tax income)), the CBO breaks households into quintiles, then breaks the top quintile into seven smaller slices, the topmost being the top 1% of 1% of households, about 9,000 in 1979 and 11,000 in 2005, the range of years shown in the spreadsheet at the link.

      In 1979, the average after-tax household income of the lowest quintile was $14,400; of the top 1% of 1% it was $4,188,300. The average household in the top 1% of 1% of households was taking home (after taxes) 291 times the average household in the bottom quintile.

      In 2005, the average after-tax household income of the lowest quintile was $15,300; of the top 1% of 1% it was $24,286,300, or 1587 times the bottom quintile’s average income.
      Graphing the numbers shows that 2005 wasn’t a sudden blip; the very rich were getting very much richer at an accelerating pace in that range of years. (I tried to find more recent numbers a while back and couldn’t find anything that had the breakdown of the top quintile any more; I’m tempted to think there’s a very good reason for that, and it isn’t a good one.) In fact, the top one half of one percent had a pretty good rise, and everyone else stagnated, relatively speaking, even the bottom half of the top 1%.

      To put it a different way, in 2005 the top 1% of 1% could have given away half their after-tax income to the bottom quintile, raising the income of the bottom quintile by about a third. Meanwhile, the poor bastards at the top would have had to struggle along on a measly million dollars a month instead of two.

      To put it yet a different way, in 2005 the 11,000 households in the top 1% of 1% had, collectively (# of households times income) almost three quarters of the collective amount enjoyed by the 25,000,000 households in the bottom quintile.

      Ron E.’s comment calls the agenda that would make this situation even more extreme “absurd and immoral.” Can I add “obscene”?

  2. Let’s look at this deductions cap more closely. I wonder if anyone did any analysis.

    The implication is that those with lots of deductions relative to income get penalized, while those with few save money.

    So taxpayers who;

    1. Live in high-tax states;
    2. Have large mortgages;
    3. Have high medical expenses;
    4. Give a lot to charity;

    stand to get hurt.

    Simplifying a little, and assuming a flat tax rate and a $25,000 deduction cap, you pay more if (D-.2G-$20,000) > 0, where D= regular deductions and G=gross (pre-deduction) income. (I think). With a progressive tax schedule it gets worse, since the deduction cap not only eliminates dedcutions, it also keeps the average tax rate up.

    1. I tried to do that analysis last night and ended up confused. One thing that is clear though is that allowing $25,000 in deductions for rich people will result in them having lower taxes than taking away all of their deductions, and so this will be even worse than the hypothetical plan the TPC analyzed way back.

      1. Unless you go through the personal and corporate codes with a fine-tooth comb, it will be easy for rich people to beat the deduction cap — sale/leaseback deals for their houses, revocable trusts for their charities, gosh knows what else for the other big loopholes.

        But all that is just taking serious a plan that’s pretty obviously meant only be be electioneering bullsh*t.

  3. Again the contents of his plan matter far more than whether it is or is not deficit-neutral. Keeping the Bush tax rates on high income individuals who have received the vast majority of the benefits of economic policy over the last 32 years and who are doing just fine right now while the rest of the country is struggling and then giving them another 20% tax rate cut is an absurd and immoral agenda.

  4. The President’s budget plan doesn’t add up either. He claims a plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion in ten years, but it’s a back-loaded 12-year plan that counts money that never would have been spent anyway, and is undoable if (as the President claims) he wants to keep 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts.

    1. More details, please, Jonathan. And by the way, has Obama made his budget plan one of the centerpieces of his campaign, a la Romney’s idiotic and endlessly repeated “five-point-plan?”

  5. Leaving aside the “Obama plan doesn’t add up, either” point (do politicians economic plans ever really add up during campaign season?) what do you mean “the press insists on enabling the bamboozlement by refusing to do its job and report that 2 + 2 does not equal 22”? Everyone is saying the numbers don’t add up. You’re LINKING to a piece of journalism saying the numbers don’t add up.

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