The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Election 2012

October 13, 2012

READ THE TRANSCRIPT: On paper, a different debate emerges

(Continued)

ROMNEY’S TAX PRIORITIES

Romney was more explicit than he’s previously been on how he’s thinking about taxes. For instance:

“My No. 1 principle is that there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.”

He’s always said he won’t permit his tax cuts to add to the deficit. But he also says he won’t cut taxes on the rich, and he will cut rates by 20 percent across the board, and he won’t eliminate tax breaks for savings and investment, and when you add up all these promises, you find the math doesn’t work.

One way of reading Romney’s comments is that if the math doesn’t work, he’ll sacrifice his tax cuts before he adds to the deficit. That is, I think, the right set of priorities. But it’s undercut by this:

“In order for us not to lose revenue, have the government run out of money, I also lower deductions and credits and exemptions, so that we keep taking in the same money when you also account for growth.”

Romney is saying, clearly, that he intends to assume faster growth will help pay for his tax cuts. How much faster growth is he expecting? What will he do if it doesn’t happen? He hasn’t said.

WHERE’S OBAMA’S PLAN?

It’s striking, while reading the transcript, to see how much of the debate focused on what Romney wants to do and whether it will work. The impression you come away with is that Romney has a bunch of big ideas that may not add up, but that Obama doesn’t have any big ideas at all. That isn’t entirely true to his policy agenda. The American Jobs Act, for instance, is a big idea. But Obama’s not running on it.

As Ron Brownstein wrote after the debate, “to a remarkable extent for an incumbent, Obama and his team have redirected this campaign into a referendum on the challenger.” Before the debate, I think the conventional wisdom was that this has been an accomplishment for the Obama campaign. In the debate, I think it hurt them badly.

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