Backroom Deals

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have had a very difficult time dealing with questions about budget proposals that rest heavily on undisclosed “loophole closing” in the tax code–particularly since the ticket is claiming that despite large and very specific tax cuts for top-income folks and businesses, their share of total tax liability will not go down.

But another default-drive argument from Republicans for stealthiness on tax loopholes is that it will take a great deal of wheeling and dealing with Congress–of the sort conducted during the 1986 tax reform effort–to come up with a politically viable package, so Mitt ‘n’ Paul can’t commit to a specific plan right now.

Okay, that’s at least somewhat plausible, though again, it’s unclear it’s necessary to pre-commit to top-end tax cuts instead of leaving that to the wheeling and dealing, too.

But Paul Ryan is really trying to have his cake and eat it, too, viz. this report from The Hill‘s Daniel Strauss:

“We want to say this is our vision: lower tax rates across the board for families and small businesses and work on the loopholes that are enjoyed by the higher income earners, take away their tax shelters so more of their income is subject to taxation. That lowers everybody’s tax rates,” Ryan said.

Ryan added that waiting and then working with Congress would also avoid having to resort to a “backroom deal” to pass their plan.

“And we have to be able to work with Congress on those details, on how to fill it in and more to the point we don’t want to cut some backroom deal that they did with ‘ObamaCare’ where we hatched some plan behind the scenes and they spring it on the country,” Ryan continued.

Really? You’re going to refuse to disclose your policy preferences in order to “work with Congress,” and that will prevent “backroom deals?” I’m afraid this is smoke-blowing of the highest order.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.