The Final Word on Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan
By Josh Barro Oct 12, 2012 12:34 PM ET
Mitt Romney’s campaign says I’m full of it. I said Romney’s tax plan is mathematically impossible: he can’t simultaneously keep his pledges to cut tax rates 20 percent and repeal the estate tax and alternative minimum tax; broaden the tax base enough to avoid growing the deficit; and not raise taxes on the middle class. They say they have six independent studies — six! — that “have confirmed the soundness of the Governor’s tax plan,” and so I should stop whining. Let’s take a tour of those studies and see how they measure up.
The Romney campaign sent over a list of the studies, but they are perhaps more accurately described as “analyses,” since four of them are blog posts or op-eds. I’m not hating — I blog for a living — but I don’t generally describe my posts as “studies.”
None of the analyses do what Romney’s campaign says: show that his tax plan is sound. I’m going to walk through them individually, but first I want to make a broad point.
The Tax Policy Center paper that sparked this discussion found that Romney’s plan couldn’t work because his tax rate cuts would provide $86 billion more in tax relief to people making over $200,000 than Romney could recoup by eliminating tax expenditures for that group. That means his plan is necessarily a tax cut for the rich, so if Romney keeps his promise not to grow the deficit, he’ll have to raise taxes on the middle class.
Various analyses have adjusted TPC’s assumptions in an effort to bring down that $86 billion deficit. But getting from $86 billion down to $0 is not enough to make Romney’s proposal work. For Romney’s math to add up, he actually needs a substantial surplus of a high-income base broadening above the cost of his high-income rate cuts.