Aw, Nuts. I Was This Close to Joining Rob and Ann

Under deadline pressure yesterday, I had time to do nothing more than look at the headlines, but Mitt Romney’s twenty percent across-the-board cut in personal income tax rates sounded darned good–even (the highest compliment I know how to pay) Reaganesque. 

At last, I thought, Romney has come up with a truly big idea, a policy proposal that combines detail with a truly sweeping sense of vision, a real affirmation of his intention to restrain the federal government, promote dramatic economic growth, and let us all keep more of what we earn.

Except, I see on Googling around this morning, that he hasn’t.

As so often these days, our own Ben Domenech provides the best round-up in The Transom:

The WSJ points out that the new 28% top rate is actually higher than the 25% Romney had promised earlier in the campaign. http://vlt.tc/5j6 Glenn Hubbard: http://vlt.tc/5jb  “[T]he plan would cut all six current tax brackets – 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, 28 percent, 33 percent, 35 percent, depending on a taxpayer’s income – by the same proportion of 20 percent. That would produce this new set of tax brackets: 8 percent, 12 percent, 20 percent, 22.4 percent, 26.4 percent, and 28 percent. ‘It’s a marginal rate cut for every American,’ Mr. Hubbard said.” But for my part, I’m having trouble sorting out from the website’s post a number of key issues. Here’s what they’ve released so far: http://vlt.tc/5j4

We’ll see what he says on Friday, but Romney’s initial comments in the rollout – video here – are very troublesome: http://vlt.tc/5ib  “And in order to limit any impact on the deficit, because I do not want to add to the deficit, and also to make sure we continue to have progressivity in our code, I’m going to limit the deductions and exemptions particularly for high income folks. And by the way, I want to make sure that you understand, for middle income families, the deductibility of home mortgage interest and charitable contributions, those things will continue, but for high income folks, we are going to cut back on that so we make sure the top 1% keeps paying, paying the current share they’re paying or more.”

Romney’s proposal isn’t all that bad, as best I can tell, but it appears to reflect one more tactical repositioning, not a strategic vision.

As much as I’d have liked to join my beloved Ann Coulter–and as acutely as I remain aware of Santorum’s and Gingrich’s flaws–I find that I’m still unable to pick up the Romney pom-poms.

UPDATE:  For what it’s worth–and, yes, I know that the world is scarcely hanging on news of my personal deliberations–but after doing more reading and mulling while I had a couple of cups of coffee just now, I find myself concluding that Romney deserves more credit than I was at first disposed to give him.  As the Wall Street Journal put it in its lead editorial, “Romney’s Tax Reboot,”

Conservative voters who have wondered if he [Romney] is one of them can now see a tangible proposal that will be a governing priority, no merely a pledge to fight for reform some day.  It gives him something to fight for beyond his business biography….

Now we’re getting somewhere.

We’ll see how Santorum and Newt respond–whereas for weeks now it has been they who have been threatening Romney from the right, now he has flanked them on their own right, and a race in which all three scramble to demonstrate that they’re conservative on taxes could prove a thing of real beauty–but Romney does indeed appear to be taking us somewhere. 

Mitt deserves credit for that.  A lot of credit.

  1. ParisParamus

    Nothing like offering benefit of the doubt. 

    What about high income earners whose rates will go up with the closing of loopholes?  By definition, if you close a loophole, tax paid will increase.

  2. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Oh Goody! Mitt Romney is going to make it harder for high-income Americans to make donations to charitable organizations. This is precisely what Barack Obama was arguing for back in 2009. The latter understood what he was about. His aim was and is to strangle civil society, which depends of this species of support. Does Mitt Romney have any idea of the consequences of what he is proposing?

    The man often seems to be out of his depth.

  3. F. L. Booth

    Strategic vision? Like what really makes sense, the elimination of all corporate taxes, and therefore eliminating “legislative favor?” That will not sell to the middle. Sorry, don’t like the guy but with Newt claiming that Iranis speak Arabic and Santorum chasing Satan away, which only RWR could do, there is no choice.  

  4. Todd

    “Romney’s proposal isn’t all that bad.”

    The problems with the tax code are its progressivity and complexity.  His plan makes both of those problem worse.

  5. Albert Arthur

    I’ve been critical of you in the past, Peter, for what I thought were generally unhelpful, negative comments about the candidates, so I thought I should let you know that I share your unease with Romney’s proposal. Why is he being into this class distinction language of Occupy? It’s too bad. But for me, last night solidified that no one else is capable of taking on Obama.

  6. Mark Wilson
    Paul A. Rahe: Oh Goody! Mitt Romney is going to make it harder for high-income Americans to make donations to charitable organizations.

    He is giving them a 20% cut in their tax rates, which in most cases will more than offset the loss of the charitable deduction.  That may remove some of the incentive, but I don’t see how it will be any “harder”.

  7. Robert Promm

    God’s advocate rather than the devil’s advocate might say: Is it necessary that we receive a tax deduction to do good?  That is, should one’s charitable giving be any less if there were no tax deduction?

    I personally am for removal of all deductions in exchange for a lower flat rate. Or, a flat tax based totally on consumption rather than income.  Under this condition, charitable giving would clearly not be consumption.  Neither would any gifting be consumption for that matter. The receiver of the gift would bear the tax upon consumption of the gift.

  8. ParisParamus

    When did Romney propose cutting individual rates for all to 25%? He proposed cutting the corporate rate to that, no?

  9. Percival

    I’m not picking up the pom-poms at all.  For one thing, I don’t have the legs to be on the cheerleading squad — that’s why I played sousaphone in the band.

    For another thing, every time I start to think “Mitt’s not really that bad,” he manages to get a wee bit worse.

    Does Mitt have it in him to be a strategic thinker?  Probably, but it’s tough to see where he thinks he’s going.  Winning a class war when you are as rich as Mitt is doesn’t seem to be the kind of fight one should be taking on.

  10. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Mark Wilson

    Paul A. Rahe: Oh Goody! Mitt Romney is going to make it harder for high-income Americans to make donations to charitable organizations.

    He is giving them a 20% cut in their tax rates, which in most cases will more than offset the loss of the charitable deduction.  That may remove some of the incentive, but I don’t see how it will be any “harder”. · 8 minutes ago

    Incentives matter bigtime.

  11. MJMack

    In other news, the sky is blue.

  12. Robert Promm
    Paul A. Rahe

    Mark Wilson

    He is giving them a 20% cut in their tax rates, which in most cases will more than offset the loss of the charitable deduction.  That may remove some of the incentive, but I don’t see how it will be any “harder”. · 8 minutes ago

    Incentives matter bigtime. · 3 minutes ago

    Who’s incentives matter the most?  I recall someone said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

  13. Leigh

    I think the moral of this story is that Congress matters.

  14. Leporello

    Republicans should be able to state that taking a larger share from those who have managed to make more in the past year is simply un-American, That is, it runs contrary to our unalienable right to property, which means the right to keep the fruits of our labor.

  15. Leporello

    Pres. Lincoln’s response to Mr. Romney:

    Again, as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

  16. F. L. Booth
    Paul A. Rahe

    Incentives matter bigtime. · 21 minutes ago

    Sure they do, but to .05% of the electorate. Is that a win?

  17. katievs

    This is why I’m behind Santorum.  I trust him.  I don’t trust Romney.

    Why was Santorum tripped up last night?  Because he thinks he owes the public an honest explanation for his votes.  A “no more than one minute” debate format wasn’t the place for it.

    Politicians like Obama use words to disguise the truth.  I can’t shake the impression that Romney shares the trait.

  18. Joseph Eagar
    Paul A. Rahe: Oh Goody! Mitt Romney is going to make it harder for high-income Americans to make donations to charitable organizations. This is precisely what Barack Obama was arguing for back in 2009. The latter understood what he was about. His aim was and is to strangle civil society, which depends of this species of support. Does Mitt Romney have any idea of the consequences of what he is proposing?

    The man often seems to be out of his depth. · 43 minutes ag

    Except that the higher marginal rates necessary to pay for that also damage society, by lowering the long-run growth potential of our economy at a time when we face an aging population and bankrupt entitlements.

  19. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Leigh: I think the moral of this story is that Congress matters. · 24 minutes ago

    On questions like this, it will matter a lot.

  20. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    F. L. Booth

    Paul A. Rahe

    Incentives matter bigtime. · 21 minutes ago

    Sure they do, but to .05% of the electorate. Is that a win? · 5 minutes ago

    It is a big win for charitable organizations — which generally spend their money in a more intelligent fashion than the government.