On Saturday's CBS This Morning, CBS assembled a panel of undecided voters and tried to take their questions about the campaign. All three of the CBS folks talking -- host Anthony Mason, political analyst John Dickerson, and CBS MoneyWatch expert Jack Otter -- agreed that the economists say that "tax increases are inevitable."
Dickerson reported Mitt Romney says no to tax increases, but insisted that if he were elected, Romney would raise taxes in one way or another as he did in Massachusetts:
DAVE HOLLENBACH, undecided voter: Well, I guess my question basically for Mister Romney would be, with all he hopes to do for the economy, Medicare reform, creating jobs and everything, would he ever commit to raising taxes if that`s what it took to get this country living back within its means?
JOHN DICKERSON: He says no way, no how. He will not raise taxes in any form. But he said that version of that before. And in Massachusetts, he-- he did something called raising fees, which is basically exact same thing. The idea would be that if they-- and whatever-- whoever wins, there's going to be an immediate fight over the budget. And in that fight, they're very-- there's going to be some trade-off. And the betting is probably, even though he said absolutely no tax increases, the only way you can really get to a deal is to have something. So it may just come down to the name they put on what will essentially be some kind of a tax increase.
ANTHONY MASON: But Jack Otter, let me just jump in here because a lot of economists will tell you if you want to get the debt down, which we all know we have to do, tax increases are inevitable, yes?
JACK OTTER: There is no credible plan for really attacking this nation's debt that doesn't involve pain on both sides. You have to cut benefits, you have to cut entitlements, and you have to raise revenue, which is another way of saying increasing taxes one way or the other.
None of the CBS staffers pondered the idea that previous budget deals have often promised big spending cuts to match tax increases (like the 1990 budget deal), and then the spending cuts never match the tax hikes. Another voter said he's heard Romney only wants to take care of the super-rich:
MASON: Let's go to Sean Monts now. Sean, you're from a swing state, Virginia, going to be hardly fought, you're on the fence still, too. What do you want to know?
SEAN MONTS: I want to know what Mister Romney has in plan to help build the lower and middle class. If you`re going to build a building, you got to start with the foundation. And what I hear is he`s more interested in taking care of the rich and the super rich.
Monts wasn't the only one loading up on Romney's wealth:
JAMES LAWSON: I need to know how does a billionaire like Mitt Romney relate to somebody working in a big box store for sixteen dollars an hour? I would think a president would need to have some idea what`s happening down there.
OTTER: Wow. That-- that`s a tough one. I'm-- I'm tempted to punt it but I would say, you know, it's-- it's interesting because the Waltons are known as big-- the Walmart owners are known as big supporters of the Republicans. The founder of Costco spoke at the Democratic Convention. So it really depends on who you're talking to. But Romney would say, look, you know, if you are a hard-working guy and making sixteen dollars an hour, you understand capitalism. I`m your guy. Obama would say what you're saying, you know, that this is a billionaire who can't possibly relate.
When they ran into an undecided voter who was skeptical of Obama, CBS's Dickerson said the huge debts are not Obama's fault alone, and that both candidates are committed to deficit reduction [?]:
MASON: Okay. Jeff Stevens, you're still undecided. Why?
JEFFREY STEVENS: Well, when candidate Obama was running four years ago he called the nine-trillion-dollar debt unpatriotic and promised to cut it in half by end of his first. We just topped six-- sixteen trillion dollars and he`s asking for a four trillion cuts by the next four years, meaning twelve percent. So I'm just wondering, you know, why should we give him another chance?
DICKERSON: Specifically, on the question of the debt, I mean, it`s a great question. You know, it`s also not the President`s fault alone that this hasn't been solved. So the question really going forward is which of the two candidates is going to-- they're both committed to the debt-- reducing the deficit. The question is which one is actually going to get anything done in Washington. And that's tricky because you can say you're committed all day long to getting this done, but you've got to come to some agreement with Congress.
Dickerson admitted Obama hasn't had much luck with Congress, and then added that Romney is "untested."