After throwing everything at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney including the kitchen sink, President Obama’s re-election brain trust may have finally found its best argument.
It’s not Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, which drew blood earlier this summer, nor his poor job-creation record as governor of Massachusetts, which never really gained traction. And it’s not completely what’s in his tax returns—or his reluctance to release more of them.
It’s actually the tax impact of his economic policy that may hit home the most from here on. That’s because Romney’s tax cut plan, which mirrors that of President George W. Bush and was cooked up by some of the same advisors, just doesn’t work, and a highly respected nonpartisan group, the Tax Policy Center, has pointed it out dramatically.
Simply put, three analysts connected with the Center looked under the hood and took apart the engine of Romney’s growth plan, the 20% cuts in personal tax rates he’s proposing. But when they reassembled the engine, they found that the only way they could get the car running again was by removing popular tax deductions that primarily benefit the middle class—essentially raising taxes on that key group while cutting marginal tax rates for the wealthy even beyond those of the useless Bush tax cuts.
As Ezra Klein explained:
No matter how hard the Tax Policy Center labored to make Romney’s promises add up, every simulation ended the same way: with a tax increase on the middle class. The tax cuts Romney is offering to the rich are simply larger than the size of the (non-investment) deductions and loopholes that exist for the rich. That’s why it’s “mathematically impossible” for Romney’s plan to produce anything but a tax increase on the middle class.
The president’s team is already running attack ads on this in key swing states, and the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who has criticized the president for distorions in some of his earlier ads, actually called this one accurate.
Voters don’t really care about wonkish Beltway reports or fact checkers of campaign ads. But they do like a good story about a candidate.
And the Obama campaign has concocted a doozy about Romney. If you just watch Team Obama’s ads, you’d view Romney as a vulture capitalist who sent jobs overseas at Bain, parked his cash in Swiss banks and the Cayman Islands, and won’t disclose more about his taxes because he probably paid a lot less (in marginal rates) than you did.
And now he wants to take the tax system that helped him so much and twist it to enrich his wealthy friends—and himself–at the expense of the middle class. So, can you, Joe and Joan Sixpack, really trust this guy to handle the economy in a way that’s going to help you?
This is all a huge caricature, of course, but Romney and his advisers brought it on themselves when they proposed this ridiculous economic plan in the heat of the primary season, dumping a more reasonable one the candidate held before. ( Romney’s plan is riddled with impossible contradictions even if he doesn’t raise taxes on the middle class.)
Why did they do that? The same reason they’ve done everything else—to appease the Tea Party and the rest of the Republican “base” that didn’t consider him conservative enough.
Now Romney’s going into the Republican Convention with very high disapproval ratings and a narrative that links his business experience and policies in a highly negative way. If the president can luck out and get a couple of more lukewarm, OK jobs reports like the one we got last Friday, Romney will find it hard to persuade voters he’s the knight in shining armor riding to the economy’s rescue.
Or as ABC News’ Rick Klein put it:
The nation has met Barack Obama’s Mitt Romney. If it’s going to meet Romney’s version of himself, it will happen this month, or not at all.