National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


When Harry Reid said the candidate was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” who knew he was talking about Biden?

You want to hear more about Mitt Romney’s tax returns? The Obama campaign wants you to. Just release three more years of returns, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina suggested in a letter to the Romney camp, and we won’t ask for more. Not that pro-Obama PACs wouldn’t ask for more, or that they and the Obama campaign wouldn’t wring every droplet they could out of the data dump. NR advised Romney to go the whole nine yards on his tax returns; he didn’t. Businessmen often feel proprietary about fortunes that they have built. Obama’s minions keep chewing at the issue because they have nothing else to run on: three-plus years of a flatlined economy, three years without a budget from Senate Democrats, an asphyxiating health-care reform. Romney has Obama’s number: As he put it in a blazing speech in Chillicothe, Ohio, the president is “intellectually exhausted, out of ideas, and out of energy. And so his campaign has resorted to diversions and distractions, to demagoguing and defaming others. . . . This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.”

During the Republican primaries, Romney released a simple sketch of his tax plan: Lower all income-tax rates (by 20 percent) and broaden the tax base by eliminating most tax deductions while preserving those for savings and investment. He also promised that his tax reform would maintain the current code’s level of progressivity. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers and concluded that there was no way to keep all these promises. The Obama campaign has taken this analysis as evidence that President Romney “would raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans,” even going so far as to offer a calculator on its website to show you how much “your taxes” would rise. The Tax Policy Center denied that it had shown that Romney would raise anyone’s taxes. It also reran the numbers with slightly different assumptions — it had thought that Romney would leave the tax exemption for interest on municipal bonds untouched, but his advisers denied this — and found that the numbers came much closer to working. Romney seems to us much more likely to scale back his tax cut or add to the deficit than to raise middle-class taxes. The chief real threat to middle-class taxpayers is the runaway growth of entitlements, which President Obama will not stop.

The Romney campaign ran an ad saying that Obama had “announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.” Democrats and the press — we really need a shortcut key for that phrase — said the ad was dishonest, even racist. Obama ran a rebuttal ad citing Democrats and the press. (See?) The welfare-reform law requires states to make nearly half of their welfare recipients work, get on-the-job training, look for work, or perform similar activities for at least 30 hours a week. Obama’s bureaucracy has recently claimed that it can waive this rule for states. It cited Nevada’s request to exempt “hard-to-employ” people from work requirements. (Are they really more than half the caseload?) These people “wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” as the Romney ad says, to get checks. Now it’s true that Obama’s administration has not yet handed out any waivers. Whether what it has done amounts to a plan to gut welfare reform turns on its intent. As a follow-up Romney ad says, Obama has a history of hostility to welfare reform. The claim that he is trying to move us back to the bad old days of pre-reform welfare is at least defensible. Liberals certainly seem prepared to move us back to the days when legitimate differences over policy were dismissed as racist.


September 10, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, NO. 17

Republican Convention Special
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Sean Trende reviews An American Son: A Memoir, by Marco Rubio, and The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Roig-Franzia.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Queen of Versailles.
  • Richard Brookhiser evaluates the transatlantic exchange.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .