Bill Gale clarifies the debate over the Romney tax plan with an analogy even those who aren’t tax policy geeks can understand:
[L]et’s get out of the hyper-charged world of tax policy for a second.
Suppose Governor Romney said that he wants to drive a car from Boston to Los Angeles in 15 hours. And suppose some analysts employed tools of arithmetic to conclude that “If Governor Romney wants to drive from Boston to LA in 15 hours, it is mathematically impossible to avoid speeding.” After all, the drive from LA to Boston is about 3,000 miles, so to take only 15 hours would require an average of 200 miles per hour. Certainly other road trips are possible — but the particular one proposed here is not.
(Note: this is just an example that uses the logic to be employed; I am not suggesting that Romney has in any way broken a law.)
Especially in this inflamed campaign environment, one can imagine the frenzied responses. The Obama campaign might put ads out that say Romney wants to speed or is going to speed. Romney’s campaign might respond by saying the study is a “joke” and “partisan,” that he supports speeding laws and would never, ever speed, and it is ridiculous to suggest that he would. The Romney campaign and its surrogates might say that the analysts must be wrong because they don’t even know what his road plan is or which car he would drive. Besides, Romney never really said he wanted to go LA, he might want to go somewhere closer; he could get to LA without speeding if he took more than 15 hours; he could get somewhere else in 15 hours without speeding. And so on.
With a few substitutions, this is almost exactly how the tax debate has evolved. Substitute “the various tax cuts Romney has proposed” for “driving from Boston to LA;” substitute revenue-neutrality for “in 30 hours; substitute “tax increases on households with income below 200k and tax cuts for higher income households” for “speeding” and you have the basic story: Romney can’t do all of the tax cut proposals he has advocated, remain revenue neutral, and avoid taxing households with income below $200,000 or cutting taxes for higher income households.
My bet is that he’s not really going to speed, because he’s not really going to get anywhere close to LA. (Were he to become president, there would be detours and roadblocks along the way, labeled “Congress.” And with both “D” and “R” stickers on the signs, by the way.) But for now he wants to keep up the illusion that he has this super-fast, flying race car that can magically and legally get the job done. Maybe Romney’s tax plan is like the Batmobile.