Open Thread: An Imaginary Tax Increase

Ever since his early days as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama has had a penchant for creating straw men out of his opponents' policy ideas and then arguing against his fictictious version of their viewpoints.

He's been very careful to do this of late in the area of taxes. While he likely wants to raise income taxes on all taxpayers similar to the other taxes he's raised on health care, tanning, and dividends, currently, the president is only arguing in favor of raising taxes on those earning more than $200,000 annually. Even though this increase would do little to actually raise revenue, Obama says it's necessary in order to close the budget deficit. He says he favors this approach in contrast to Republican Mitt Romney who, according to him, wants to raise taxes on the middle class. Unfortunately, this crucial argument for the president is actually based on a distortion of a hypothetical put forward by a left-wing group:

The Obama campaign says that Mitt Romney plans to raise taxes on the middle class and cites a study from the Tax Policy Center as evidence. Given that the only sets of eyes that have seen the Romney tax plan in detail reside in the skulls of Mitt Romney and his closest advisers — if indeed Romney has finalized his thinking on the issue, which he probably hasn’t — such analysis is at best speculative. That fact is clear at least to the gentlemen at the Tax Policy Center, who have written that if Romney’s final plan does indeed, as he has suggested, eliminate preferential tax treatment on some specific investments — namely interest accrued on life-insurance policies and municipal bonds, both tax-free under current law — then, in the authors’ own words, “an increase in the tax burden on lower and middle income individuals is not required in order to make the overall plan revenue neutral.” The Obama campaign is attributing to the TPC study a certainty that its authors do not share, an act of dishonesty.

Which is to say, the Obama campaign has added an imaginary tax-hike plan to the fictitious war on women. By November, we fully expect them to be all over the airwaves denouncing Mitt Romney’s plan to exile the Easter bunny to Guantanamo Bay.

Romney is a nuts-and-bolts details man, and he is also prudent. He has laid out his tax plan in very broad strokes communicating his guiding principles, which are to make the tax code flatter and simpler. To that end, he proposes lowering all tax rates by 20 percent and offsetting the forgone revenue by eliminating certain tax breaks for high-income taxpayers, and lowering and reforming business taxes. The TPC study argues that there are not sufficient revenues to be had from eliminating those tax breaks to make up for the rate reductions, leaving an annual gap of some $86 billion. The Obama campaign picked up that $86 billion and simply pretended that the Romney tax plan would make up the difference with higher taxes on the middle class — a proposal Romney has specifically and repeatedly rejected.

Expect this fictitious tax increase line to appear more and more frequently in the media as reporters and liberal commentators parrot it back, likely not knowing or caring how completely baseless the accusation is.

Matthew Sheffield's picture