By Ben Cohen: During the first Presidential debate of the 2012 election, Mitt Romney told President Obama in plain English, "I don’t have a five trillion dollar tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale that you’re talking about.” Romney was responding to Obama's accusation that he would be raising the deficit further with excessive tax cuts. Romney also told Obama and the audience: "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."
Politicians routinely distort figures and use evasive language to disguise their intentions, but Romney was being explicit about his taxation plans here, and one would expect them to corroborate with some evidence given the platform he was on. After all, over 67 million people and the entire news media were tuning in to see exactly what each candidate was proposing, all of whom have an unprecedented ability to fact check.
So what of Romney's bold statements that he would not propose a $5 trillion tax cut or reduce taxes on high income Americans after campaigning on doing the complete opposite?
To assess the veracity of Romney's claims, The Daily Banter spoke with Steve Wamhoff of 'Citizens for Tax Justice', a public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact on America.
"First of course Romney would make permanent the Bush tax cuts, and those would cost over $5 trillion, but those would be deficit financed," said Wamhoff. "So then on top of that Romney proposes new tax cuts, and those are things like reducing the income tax rates by repealing the alternative minimum tax, repealing the estate tax, and some other things. And these additional new tax cuts would have a gross cost of $5 trillion."
So far, not so good. But could Romney actually pay for this with the closure of tax loopholes, as he has claimed in the past?
"The thing that's being debated is whether or not Mitt Romney really can, as he proposes, close enough tax loopholes to offset those costs while at the same time meeting all these other goals that he spelled out," answered Wamhoff.
"For example he says were not going to increase the deficit any more, we're not going to give tax cuts to the rich, any more than they've already gotten, we're not going to raise taxes on the middle class, and that is what the big dispute is all about," he continued.
"We've run the numbers and found that you cannot do that, that it is actually mathematically impossible."
And what about Romney's pledge during the debate that he won't cut taxes for high income Americans?
"It's simply impossible," answered Wamhoff bluntly. "He'd have to have a whole new tax plan if that was the case. So, for example, we have a tax calculator here that we use so that we can calculate the impact of these things and we looked at how Mitt Romney's tax plan would effect people that made over $1 million a year. Romney said that he will reduce or eliminate tax expenditures in order to offset costs and the net result will be that rich people will not see a tax cut. Well, this is impossible. We calculate that even if you take away all the tax expenditures that Romney has put on the table, you take all of those away from people who make over a million dollars, on average, you'd still see a big tax cut on averaging over $250,000 in one year in Romneys plan."
"It's impossible to make this plan work," Wamhoff repeated. "He says that hes not going to give tax cuts to the rich, but literally his plans would give tax cuts to the rich."
So was Mitt Romney flat out lying during the Presidential debate?
"I don't believe it is possible to be Mitt Romney, and not have people working for you that can calculate these things, I don't believe that's possible," answered Wamhoff diplomatically. "I don't know how to phrase this exactly, but Mitt Romney has said all sorts of things about his tax plans that cannot possibly all be true."
For a more in depth look at Mitt Romney's tax plans the Citizens for Tax Justice released the following breakdown here.