By Bob Cesca: Throughout the last 24 hours, Republicans and Romney surrogates have been scrambling to twist their walnut brains around their candidate's remarkably wrong/misleading/stupid hidden video remarks. Some of them have desperately pointed at the president's 2008 hidden video footage as a pathetic excuse for their own candidate's ineptitude. Others, like Rush Limbaugh, have defined the video as a "golden opportunity" for Romney to define real conservative values. Paul Ryan awkwardly referred to Romney's performance on the video as "inarticulate." Odd, since I understood every word he said, and much of it was in complete sentences using actual English vocabulary and, though ridiculous and disturbing, the sentences were coherent.
Chris Christie and even Romney himself used the cliche "skin in the game" to reiterate what was said on the tape. The Republicans believe the fallacious "47 percent" who don't pay income taxes should be forced to pay up -- to have some "skin" in the process of governing the country. When they do, they'll feel better about themselves because they'll be contributing to the greater good.
Interesting. Maybe I'm missing something in the new Romney message, but this sounds a lot like a case for tax hikes, the elimination of deductions and an overall "redistributionist" approach to government. Romney and his supporters sound like they want everyone in the 47 percent to pay up, and by "pay up" they're talking about taxes.
On Fox News Channel yesterday, Romney said, "I think people would like to be paying taxes." Can you imagine this quote as the new campaign slogan? Hell, we're totally through the looking glass here. Now more than ever. A Republican candidate talking about getting people to pay more taxes. Skin. Everyone has to pay their fair share. Mitt Romney has become an Occupy Wall Street hippie!
We covered this briefly yesterday while everyone was scrambling to dissect the videos as they blasted through the tubes, but it bears repeating. Out of the 47 percent who were non-payers in 2011, 60 percent paid payroll taxes (Medicare and Social Security), 22 percent were senior citizens, 8 percent earned less than $20,000 or were unemployed, and the rest included Romney's wealthy friends who either paid a zero percent effective tax rate or only paid capital gains taxes. Once again, as Bruce Bartlett explained: "There are 78,000 tax filers with incomes of $211,000 to $533,000 who will pay no federal income taxes this year. Even more amazingly, there are 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million with zero income tax liability, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million with the same federal income tax liability as most of those with incomes barely above the poverty level." (Bartlett's actual career bio: "Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul.")
I still want to see Romney's tax returns. Now more than ever.
Deductions and tax credits, along with Bush 43 and Reagan era tax cuts, have converged to force household tax burdens to their lowest levels in American history. According to the Heritage Foundation, every time a Republican president has cut taxes, the number of filers paying a zero income tax spiked higher. Brad Plumer recalled on Ezra Klein's blog how, in 2004, George W. Bush bragged that he moved 5 million taxpayers "off the rolls." This was due to his historically expensive series of cuts. Meanwhile, deductions lumped on top of low marginal rates and low income tends to drop taxable income to zero. The Tax Policy Center: "a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax this year because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero."
The Big Lie from Mitt Romney and the Republican Horseshit Machine is that all of the 47 percenters are layabouts who have dropped out of society so they can line up for big fat checks from Socialist Obama. (Remember when Bush 43 sent everyone an actual check?) But the process of mitigating this totally fictitious problem using real world policy would actually mean rolling back the Bush -- and even the Reagan tax cuts -- as well as eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and other credits and deductions as well as forcing wealthy people like Mitt Romney to declare all of his capital gains income as personal income. I'd also like to hear Romney make the case that retirees have to start paying taxes on their fixed Social Security and retirement incomes. I'm sure that will go over well with one of the last remaining demographic groups that are still supporting Romney for president.
Put another way, the Republicans have kneejerked their way into another policy-versus-propaganda meta-scramble wherein their bumper sticker Grover Norquist anti-tax demagoguery has Mobius Looped itself around and crashed headfirst to their "freeloaders and panhandlers" nonsense. The two positions don't match. Republicans can't have both. They're either in favor of maintaining the lowest income tax burden possible, paid for by reducing government spending, or they're in favor of rolling back tax cuts, tax credits and tax deductions for everyone. Now, I can obviously grasp how the creation of more jobs might help to get "skin in the game," but it still won't address the bulk of the reasons why so many Americans don't pay taxes, rightly or wrongly.
This leads us back to the progressive Democratic policy position which is to roll back the tax cuts and deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Let's get their skin in the game for a change. They can surely afford it more than elderly people or low income working families. Meanwhile, how about kicking the asses of the corporations that are sitting on record cash assets and not investing in new employees. At the same time, how about forcing multi-millionaire Mitt Romney to pay an effective tax rate that's not lower than yours. Even better, how about getting the tax-sheltered money -- the skin -- he's stashed in Swiss bank accounts and in the Caymens into the game?
Let's see those returns, Mr. Romney.