Mitt Romney takes his 89th position* on taxes in his latest ad, including the laughably false claim that he's the one who will ask millionaires to pay more in taxes:
Let's take the claims one by one.
Claim #1: "Who will raise taxes on the middle class? Barack Obama and the liberals already have."
This claim is not true. The problem with this claim is that it focuses entirely on new taxes in Obamacare (for example, an increase in the tax on cigarettes) but ignores the fact that President Obama has cut taxes by even more. Moreover, President Obama has not increased income taxes on anybody. In aggregate, there's been a reduction in taxes not just for the middle class but for every single taxpayer, including the wealthy.
Last week, Romney himself acknowledged that Obama hadn't raised taxes. "I admit this, he has one thing he did not do in his first four years — he’s said he’s going to do in the next four years — which is to raise taxes," he said. In fact, Romney opposed many of these tax cuts, including the payroll tax holiday and the tax cuts in the stimulus bill.
Claim #2: "Mitt Romney and commonsense conservatives will cut taxes on the middle class."
The problem here is that Romney is ignoring the fact that he's promised to reduce tax deductions to pay for lower rates so that overall taxes would not go down. Last week, he told supporters not to expect to see a significantly lower tax bill under his plan. "By the way, don't be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I'm also going to lower deductions and exemptions," he said. In fact, if Romney maintains his pledge for revenue neutrality, taxes would actually need to go up on the middle class to pay for the enormous tax cuts he promises to the wealthy. The only way to avoid a tax hike would be to explode the deficit.
Claim #3: "They [Mitt Romney and commonsense conservatives] will close loopholes for millionaires."
The problem with this claim is essentially the inverse of the problem with the second claim: It's true that Romney's plan calls for reducing unspecified tax breaks enjoyed by millionaires, but it's also true that his tax plan calls for reducing their tax rate by 20 percent. The value of that 20 percent tax break dwarfs the cost of giving up deductions, so it's a trade upper income taxpayers would happily make. Sure, there would be fewer loopholes, but thanks to lower rates, the wealthy would still pay less in taxes. That's the central problem with Romney's tax plan—it means that unless he abandons his tax cuts for the wealthy, he needs to choose between exploding the deficit or raising taxes on the middle class, neither of which are politically acceptable options.
Despite the ad's distortions, it's easy to understand why Mitt Romney is running it: If he can convince voters that he actually wants to ask the wealthy to pay more and for the middle class to pay less, he could ease the sting of that 47 percent video. But the only way he can make that case is by misrepresenting the facts. As long as he insists on tax cuts for the wealthy, tax cuts for the middle class, and no reduction in revenue, Mitt Romney's tax plan is mathematically impossible. Perhaps his best bet would be to dump his tax plan altogether, but don't expect that anytime soon from Mr. No Apologies.
*Okay, I don't actually know for a fact that this is his 89th position. He's had so darn many of them, it's hard to keep track.