Did you happen to catch Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan on the Sunday news shows? It was an extraordinary performance. On CBS, Ryan looked like a deer caught in headlights and Romney looked dyspeptic. What was it that was upsetting their stomachs? They were asked for specific answers to specific questions...oh my!
The Romney/Ryan budget would cut taxes another 20% on top of the Bush tax cuts, which they would make permanent. They would increase military spending by more than one trillion tax dollars. Over ten years, this would cost the American treasury over $10 trillion. At the same time, Romney/Ryan promise to reduce government spending to about 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), reduce the deficit and balance their budgets. (If this sounds familiar it's because both Ronald Reagan and Bush '43 promised to do the same thing. Reagan ended up increasing taxes 8 times during his time in office including the largest tax increase in history, and both Reagan and Bush exploded the national debt and deficit.)
On CBS, Ryan was asked how they would pay for all this tax cutting and increased spending and he promised to close tax loopholes which would generate enough savings to more than pay for their profligacy. You didn't need to be a highly paid anchor to ask the next question. "Congressman Ryan, which specific loopholes would you close?" Ryan stared into the camera as if in a stupor. With wide eyes he sputtered, offered generalities, and promised there were plenty of offending exemptions from which to choose. With a look of relief he stopped only to face the same question again. "Can you give us some specifics?" Ryan did not offer a single one. Here was his chance to really hit Obama...his chance to show his and Romney's bonafides...his chance to show his legendary command of all things budget related...his chance to show they are serious about balancing the budget and instead he had nothing, bupkis, nada, zip, zilch to offer. Later in the program, Romney was asked the same question and the anchor got the same response. The best Romney could offer is to say when he is president, "...everything will be on the table."
In his speech to the Democratic convention in North Carolina, Bill Clinton gave the sound bite that could dominate the last two months of this campaign. He announced this whole contest is "...about arithmetic." He then attacked the Romney/Ryan budget as not adding up. He is right. Ironically, Bush '41, who called Reagan's version of this fairy tale "voodoo economics", and Al Gore, who said Bush '41's numbers "...didn't add up", were both right and yet Reagan and Bush were elected and, surprise, surprise, it was all true.
The Tax Policy Institute has issued a report which analyzes the Romney/Ryan approach and concludes there are not enough loopholes to close to pay for the tax cuts and increased military spending. The report goes further and says the only way Romney/Ryan can pay for their proposals, reduce the deficit and balance the budget, is to raise taxes on the middle class by an average of over $3,000 per family. Romney and Ryan feigned outrage at the report, but when asked to refute it with specifics, they declined.
This warmed over trickle down economics has never added up and never will. Ryan knows this. It's the reason why his budget proposal, which Romney has endorsed, says he would gut everything from food stamps to job-training funds, from funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to Medicaid. It's the reason he champions cutting money from the budget for roads and bridges and the entire national infrastructure. It's the driving force behind his agreement to cut Pell grants for middle class kids who want to afford to go to college and the earned income tax credit that helps people who work, but are still poor.
Romney and Ryan will never answer questions with specifics. They know to do so would be to reveal the emperor has no clothes. They are going to try to sneak into the White House, like Reagan and Bush, hoping the American people don't read any of their proposals or actually demand specifics before they vote.
You can do the numbers yourself. Don't take my word for it. Add up the tax cuts and the military increases and then look at the basic exemptions in the tax code, like mortgage interest or charitable deductions, and add up the numbers. Clinton is absolutely correct. The deafening silence from Romney/Ryan when asked for any particulars will tell you all you need to know to confirm it is all about arithmetic and Romney and Ryan are on the wrong side of the equation.
So what do we do now?