Conservatives are increasingly worried that Mitt Romney’s vagueness about tax reform and other policy issues will be his downfall on Election Day.
Romney’s sympathizers are raising red flags, after he and his running mate repeatedly declined to provide details during a round of Sunday interviews about the loopholes he’d close to pay for large tax rate cuts.
“If you don’t start telling people what you believe — if you really do, in fact, believe in anything — and if you don’t start telling people, yes, these are the tax exemptions that we’re going to get taken care of … unless you have somebody that’s willing to do that, Romney’s going to lose,” said conservative Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC show Monday. “The Romney people think they can run a Bob Dole campaign, a John McCain campaign … Republicans do not win by running these types of campaigns.”
The former Republican congressman wasn’t the only right-leaning commentator to fret that Romney’s skittishness is becoming a political liability.
“The Romney campaign continues looking schizophrenic,” wrote Matt Lewis in a Daily Caller blog post about the candidate’s “secret” tax plan. “This is problematic. … [T]he possible long-term damage to the already-weakened Republican brand could be incalculable.”
On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Romney reiterated that he’ll fund his roughly $5 trillion in tax cuts by closing loopholes for high-income Americans but not the middle class. Pressed for specifics, both he and Paul Ryan declined to identify a single tax deduction or credit they would eliminate. Ryan insisted it wasn’t a “secret plan,” saying the details would be determined by Congress.
On ABC’s “This Week” roundtable, prominent conservative columnist George Will hinted at why Romney may not want to reveal his cards: his tax math doesn’t add up.
“There is uncertainty surrounding the Romney-Ryan tax cut plan, because they have not specified the deductions that will be closed,” he said. “And we know where the big money is: mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions … employer-provided health insurance, and state and local taxes. All of those, you either hit only the rich, in which case you don’t get much money, or you hit the middle class.”
Will implicitly endorsed the conclusion of a study by the Tax Policy Center, which said Romney won’t be able to recover revenues on the scale he needs to via tax loopholes unless he also targets incomes under $200,000. The GOP nominee labeled the study “garbage” and biased against conservatives. Conservative economist Martin Feldstein, under highly optimistic economic assumptions for Romney, reached the conclusion that the goals are potentially achievable if his high-end tax cuts spur significant growth and if he’s willing to consider hike tax receipts from families with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.