In this peculiar election year, President Obama is pulling off the small
miracle—no, make that the kind of thing that happens in Lourdes—of
winning the tax debate. This should be impossible, and Mitt Romney has
to turn that around if he wants to win. ...
The main cause of this role reversal is that Mr. Obama has driven a
relentless tax message—albeit a wildly deceptive one: That Mr. Romney is
a sleeper agent who wants to raise taxes on middle-class families by
$2,000 to finance tax cuts for him and his fellow tycoons. ...
As a factual matter, the claim is as bogus as any in years because
Mr. Romney has proposed no such thing. The claim hangs on an August 1
report by the liberal Tax Policy Center that even its authors have since
admitted was merely "stylized." The outfit's gnomes concluded that Mr. Romney's actual reform
proposal—cutting rates across the board by 20%, combined with closing
loopholes at the higher end—was "mathematically impossible." They then
imagined multiple details for a "Romney" tax plan that existed only in
their own minds and that would raise taxes among the lower brackets by
$86 billion. ...
Amid this barrage, Mr. Romney has also played dumb, as in silent. Only
this week has Boston rolled out a response ad to Mr. Obama's
middle-class tax hike TV buy, which ran unanswered for a month in a
half-dozen swing states. ...
This is modest progress, but Mr. Romney's larger failing is that he
hasn't even tried to sell his own proposals, much less their broader
pro-growth, practical and moral foundations. ... A better argument would begin by
explaining how lower rates and a more efficient tax code—simpler,
stabler, more transparent—would increase economic growth that would
raise incomes for everyone. ...
[E]ven if he
increased tax rates on the rich to 100%, Mr. Obama would still have to
find more revenue to pay for his spending ambitions. This means he's
inescapably going to have to tee up the middle class for a tax wallop
unlike anything in U.S. history. Mr. Romney should say that, having
taken federal spending to a quarter of GDP, a second Obama
Administration would make a European-style value-added tax, carbon tax
or another money maker inevitable.
So far this year's tax debate features one candidate with no credible
plan running against a fake plan that his allies made up and another
candidate with an admirable plan that for some reason he doesn't want to
talk about. Mr. Obama is winning by default, but that doesn't mean Mr.
Romney can't execute one of those turnarounds he's famous for, if he