Remember that study Romney cited in Denver’s presidential debate, the one that backed his claim that Obama would be raising taxes on middle class people? Romney said the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was “non-partisan and independent”, but Dick Cheney is on its board and Newt Gingrich is a fellow. Furthermore, it’s chaired by Kevin Rollins, a partner at Bain Capital while Romney was running the company. AEI is widely known as right-leaning.
Obama came out with a new TV ad Saturday, addressing the fundamental problem of Romney’s dishonesty. Watch here:
“This was dishonest.”
“I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut.”
“Romney’s being dishonest here too:”
Voiceover from Romney ad:
“According to an Independent, non-partisan study, Barack Obama and the liberals will raise taxes on the middle class…”
“The Chairman of that so-called independent group is from Romney’s former company. Dick Cheney’s on its board. Newt Gingrich was there too. It’s not independent. It’s just not true.”
The chairman of AIE was a partner at Bain Capital. Their stated goals are “expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise.” While they are stocked with high profile Republicans, AIE would lose their 501(c)3 status were they to declare a partisan purpose. Dick Cheney is on the board — who can forget his sound fiscal advice, when he told us, “Deficits don’t matter” as Bush told us to “Go shopping”. This is what Mitt Romney calls “non-partisan”.
Romney obviously needed fuel against the non-partisan Tax Policy Center’s assessment of his tax plan, but to call AIE non-partisan would be as if Obama cited an organization with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid on the board, run by Move On, and called it non-partisan. The Tax Policy Center is staffed with people who served in both administrations from both parties, and Romney himself once lauded it as “non-partisan”. The Washington Post rates Romney’s ad as Three Pinocchios, “the Romney campaign really pushes the envelope to claim the AEI study shows that Obama “will raise taxes on the middle class.” That’s not what the study says — by a long shot.”
So, no. No independent organizations concur with Romney’s claim. It’s just Mitt being Mitt again; misleading, misdirecting, misrepresenting the truth. And the real issue is that he’s not over-simplifying a hard to understand concept; he’s distorting reality. The AIE study took great pains to find a way to accuse the President of raising taxes. They finally figured out that if they call the rising debt taxes, they hit the jackpot. However, the Washington Post explains that the deficit exploded under Bush and yet he did not “raise taxes.”
Romney won’t explain his tax plan. Worse yet, he just ran away from it in the debate, but it’s still up on his website. Independent analysts have repeatedly tried to run the numbers for Romney’s plan, and the only way it can be revenue neutral is if he raises taxes (or cuts loopholes, deductions and exemptions) for the middle class.
Romney’s vagueness pays off, though, because when Democrats attempt to brand him with this fact, the fact-checkers say, well, we don’t know what he would do because he won’t tell us, so you can’t accuse him of this. This leaves Obama having to explain in a 30 second ad all of Romney’s various claims and the best guess scenarios of analysts.
For claiming Romney wants to give the rich a tax cut, for example, the Washington Post gives Obama One Pinocchio, writing, “in this battle of campaign ads, the Obama campaign comes out ahead because it accurately describes the Tax Policy Center study as posing an either-or proposition — raising taxes or boosting the deficit. But it goes too far in claiming that Romney would give the wealthy huge new tax breaks, when he insists that is not the case — and the head of the Tax Policy Center says the study has been misinterpreted. The Obama ad earns One Pinocchio.”
But Romney has also said that he would give the wealthy a tax cut, and yet fact-checkers go with the time he said otherwise. It’s hard to play this game. Washington Post even admits Romney said this, “But in the GOP Arizona debate in February, he said: ‘We’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.'”
The Tax Policy Center “examined Mr. Romney’s claim and found that, even if every loophole for the top brackets were closed, there wouldn’t be enough revenue. The middle class would have to pay more.”
But the head of the Tax Policy Center writes that he can’t claim Romney intends to raise taxes on the middle class, because he doesn’t know what Romney’s goals are. Bonus for obfuscating? Rather, “I view it as showing that his plan can’t accomplish all his stated objectives.” So we are to believe that Romney won’t tell us his plans because we would like them. The Romney campaign has given every excuse in the book for not telling us, up to an including that there isn’t enough “time” in this entire election season.
The question the fact-checkers should be asking is if Romney won’t tell us, what does that suggest? Do they think he really doesn’t have a plan, or do they suspect that perhaps other independent analysts are correct, and Romney’s plan involves what he himself admitted in Ohio; i.e., raising taxes on the middle class by cutting deductions and exemptions.
It’s interesting how Romney is let off of the hook because he has publicly stated two different positions, and thus fact-checkers can’t hold him to either, so if Obama accuses him of one of them, fact-checkers can say that Romney once said that wasn’t his position. Furthermore, shouldn’t a candidate’s policies matter more than their words? Romney won’t tell us his tax policy.
Perhaps it’s time for fact-checkers to do an overall honesty grade, so that the people can get an idea of what information they are really getting from the candidates. Consistency is a part of honesty. Honesty is defined as a straightforwardness of conduct and adherence to the facts; sincerity. Romney is not being straightforward about his tax plans and he’s misrepresenting Obama’s by a long stretch.
Letting Romney off of the hook because he once said something contradictory to what he is now saying is a public disservice, especially when everyone – fact-checkers and the Romney campaign included – admits that they can’t make Romney’s math work.