At the first presidential debate in Colorado Wednesday night, former Gov. Mitt Romney disputed a central criticism of his tax reform plan — and appeared to disavow one of its central features.
Responding to President Obama’s description of Romney’s proposal, Romney claimed: “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale you’re talking about. I think we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I won’t reduce the share of tax paid by high-income people. … I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce revenues going to the government. My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that no tax cut that will add to the deficit.”
So who’s right?
Romney has run for months on a plan to lower everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent — an amount that independent analysts have concluded will reduce revenues by $5 trillion over 10 years.
Romney has also insisted that his plan will be deficit neutral and that it won’t increase taxes on the middle class. But according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and other analysts, Romney won’t be able to make good on both of those latter promises.
According to TPC, even if Romney closes all loopholes and deductions for high-income earners, that alone will not account for all the revenue he loses because of the rate cut. Thus, to make the overall plan deficit neutral he’d have to raise the tax burden on middle income Americans.
Faced with this basic description, Romney said, “If the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I would say absolutely not.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.