Lies, Damned Lies and Jonathan Alter on Romney Tax Plan

Isn't it amusing when liberals allege deceit by Republicans while engaging in it themselves?

Yet another example of this shabby dynamic was on display during last night's Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC when its host and one of her guests, Bloomberg gnome Jonathan Alter, tried their best to buff a gloss on President Obama's mail-it-in debate performance. (video after page break)

Here's what Alter said about Mitt Romney's tax proposal after Maddow complained about Obama missing chances to challenge claims by Romney --

MADDOW: Another part of it is Mitt Romney saying that he does not espouse positions that he has been running on all year. The president did try to get him on that, on the $5 trillion tax cut thing. I'm not sure that he effectively did pin him down on that, although the Obama campaign was spinning that today.

ALTER: OK, I think they made a mistake on that issue, the Obama people did, by going with the $5 trillion. (Translation: it isn't accurate). Because that, you know, policy wonks can debate whether it amounts to $5 trillion or not.

Wonks may be disinclined from debating the matter further after Obama flack Stephanie Cutter, doing her best to avoid becoming this campaign's Tommy Flanagan, conceded that Romney's plan won't slash taxes by $5 trillion. Back to Alter --

ALTER: What they can't debate is it's a 20 percent tax reduction for the wealthiest Americans. That is a plain, irrefutable fact. And if they used that it would, first of all, explain more what this is, which is a tax cut for the wealthy, which was one of several points that the president wasn't able to actually convey in a clear way. (Seeing how he faced a more intelligent, articulate and agile opponent).  It would also be, um, you know, be on dispute factually.

Turns out Alter is wrong by a mere five-sixths -- Romney's tax plan would cut rates by 20 percent of all six federal individual income tax rates, not just those in the top bracket. The only way for Alter to be accurate would be if all Americans were wealthy. Rest assured, nothing resembling this will come to pass as long as left wingers like him live and breathe the politics of confiscatory taxation.

Alter laughably suggests that for Obama to cite this bogus claim would "explain more" of Romney's tax plan. Obviously it would explain less, based on the premise that the less said about Romney's plan, the better. Imagine the febrile reaction at MSNBC if any Romney surrogate made the comparably dishonest claim that Romney's tax plan would cut taxes only for the middle class.

Romney's tax plan isn't above criticism -- no plan is, regardless of origin. Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, in a column yesterday on "Obama's $5 trillion tax cut myth," wrote that Romney is partly responsible for confusion about his proposal --

Some blame belongs to Romney. He has made many vague, inconsistent and contradictory promises. He would cut all individual income tax rates by 20 percent and then offset lost revenues by eliminating tax breaks -- but he doesn't say which ones. He would reduce government spending from today's 23 percent of gross domestic product to 20 percent, a $450 billion annual cut -- but he doesn't say how. He would balance the budget and raise defense spending. And so on.

There's more to Romney's plan than its 20 percent across-the-board rate cuts, as detailed in the 87-page "Believe in America" report at Romney's campaign site and a skeptical analysis released from the center-left Tax Policy Center in August (the latter dissected by The Weekly Standard's John McCormack).

But Alter referred to a specific feature, the 20 percent reduction, which applies to rates, while he suggested it would benefit only the rich. Lies of omission such as this pollute our discourse and serve no purpose, except to provide content on MSNBC.  

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts