Trust or Obey?

Yesterday Greg Sargent drew attention to Mitt Romney’s bland admission (in an interview with Bob Schieffer) that he wouldn’t be disclosing anything about how he’d pay for the large new tax cuts he’s proposed until after the election. Given his record of mendacity, that’s hardly reassuring.

But there’s another aspect to Romney’s positioning on taxes that’s worth emphasizing: he keeps making it clear he will defer to Congress (presumably Republicans in Congress) in determining how he will structure his tax-cut proposal, and particularly the “loophole closing” measures that will supposedly make it possible not only to cut rates for everybody, but to ensure that tax cuts will not “reduce the burden paid by the wealthiest.”

That’s interesting, since I haven’t heard any congressional leaders make this promise to ensure that “tax reform” does not change the tax burden of the wealthy. Paul Ryan, who seems to view progressive taxes and “welfare spending” as deeply immoral looting, sure hasn’t made this pledge. Nor have the conservatives so exercised about the “lucky ducky” poor who don’t have net income tax liability, or who conveniently tend to exclude payroll and state and local taxes in assessing the overall tax burden.

This question may be largely academic, since Romney’s general promise not to reduce the tax burden on the wealthy is, as James Kwak demonstrated at The Atlantic back in February, is almost certainly mathematically impossible, given the specific rate-cutting promises he’s made that benefit the top tier. But his “I’ll have to work it out with Congress” disclaimers provide him with a perennial excuse for reneging on the tax burden pledge, aside from letting him disguise his intentions until such time as he is in office with a GOP majority ready to “work with him” to implement the Ryan Budget. Anyone who thinks Mitt can be trusted to do anything other than obey the conservative fiscal counter-revolutionaries who have agreed to support his candidacy isn’t paying much attention to the dynamics of the Romney candidacy.

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.