Maybe the next debate should be between Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, about what exactly is in their tax plan.
Consider the following contradiction:
"My plan is not like anything that's been tried before. My plan is to bring down rates but also bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at the same time so the revenue stays in.” — Mitt Romney, Presidential Debate, October 3, 2012.
REP. RYAN: It is mathematically possible. It's been done before. It's precisely what we're proposing.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: (Chuckles.) It has never been done before.
REP. RYAN: It's been done a couple of times, actually.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It has never been done before.
REP. RYAN: Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan —
—Vice Presidential Debate, October 11, 2012.
Got that? Romney says, “My plan is not like anything that's been tried before.” Ryan says, “it’s been done before.” Vice President Biden agrees with Romney and disagrees with Ryan.
Well, guys, which one is it? It would be nice to get a clear explanation from the Romney-Ryan campaign before the election, so voters who care about the tax and budget issue can decide.
I’ve closely followed the Washington debate over taxes, growth, and revenues for nearly two decades now, and even I was so baffled by this situation that I had to call bigger brains than mine for reinforcement.
I got the Cato Institute’s Daniel Mitchell on the line after the Romney debate, and Mr. Mitchell told me that on taxes, “I’m not quite clear what Romney is saying.” Mr. Mitchell said that as a practical matter, given the retiring baby boom and the size of the deficits left by George W. Bush and Obama, “I’m not overly optimistic that tax cuts, at least in any significant sense, are likely.”
I played phone tag with Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, who left me a voicemail message to the effect that he thought Mr. Romney was explaining revenue-neutral tax reform in words that were addressed to independent, nonaligned, undecided voters.
Mitchell’s comments and Norquist’s were helpful enough that I’ve now come up with at least a few possible explanations for the Ryan-Romney divide on whether their tax approach has been tried before.