The Media’s Know-Nothing-about-Romney Party

by Patrick Brennan

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski does some great work dredging up statements by political figures, some entertaining, some revealing, some damning. But today he’s seized upon a couple clips as evidence of the false meme I addressed below, the idea that Romney’s abandoned the tax-cut proposal he had during the primaries. He writes:

Romney Contradicts Himself On Cutting Taxes Of The Wealthy From Earlier Debate

The Republican presidential nominee said he wouldn’t lower the share of the burden higher income people pay in taxes the debate Wednesday night. In a February Republican primary debate, Romney said would cut taxes for everybody “including the top one percent.”

First of all, it’s obviously quite possible to cut taxes for everyone, “including the top 1 percent,” and not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals; this is in no way a mathematical contradiction, since you could just cut poorer people’s taxes by more than you do richer people’s (indeed, the Bush cuts lowered everyone’s, and by moving millions off the tax rolls, made the system in some ways more progressive).

But this is a revealing point about how the media have ignored Romney’s actual plan in order to claim that last night he contradicted himself or walked back on his proposal’s main principles. In the first bit, from last night, he says, “I will not reduce the share [of taxes] paid by high-income individuals.” In the second clip, from a primary debate, Romney says, “we’re gonna cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.”  

As I said above, it’s perfectly possible not to reduce the rich’s share, and reduce the amount everyone pays in taxes, as Kaczynski suggests he promises in the second clip — but that’s not at all what Romney says, or what he’s proposing, as members of the media should (and do) know. He’s explaining that he would lower the statutory marginal rates, not the amounts paid, for everyone, “including the top 1 percent.” That’s the core of his plan: lowering the 35 percent rate by seven points to 28, etc. This is clearly what he’s describing here, and the “20 percent” reference clues in anyone who’s bothering to pay attention and tell the truth, rather than fuel a false media narrative.

(It’s a fair question whether Romney will be able to eliminate enough deductions such that 20 percent marginal-rate cuts don’t decrease the share the wealthy pay — maintaining progressivity, cutting rates, and being deficit-neutral is really tough, and will require, say, getting rid of the muni-bond exemption despite a promise not to touch investment preferences. But Mitt is, as ever, not proposing a huge cut in taxes paid, but rather, a large cut in rates, which is where Kaczynski, and Obama last night, went wrong.)

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