Mitt Romney has a multi-trillion dollar tax cut plan that he says won't add to the deficit. How does that work? He won't say, other than to pledge that he'd close some loopholes and deductions, but that none of those would harm "middle-class" Americans. Analysts have argued that this is not mathematically possible.
So how do you factcheck that? That was the task for CBS Evening News last night (10/15/12). And their answer seemed to boil down to: Well, maybe.
CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews explained: "Romney argues that lower rates will stimulate the economy and he is emphatic the middle-class will not pay."
Andrews goes on to say the Romney/Ryan campaign "won't say" which loopholes and deduction they'd close, "but they promise they will only target the rich."
Andrews notes that this doesn't appear workable, since "the most valuable deductions don't just benefit the rich," including the deduction for mortgage interest.
So where does this all wind up? Here's Andrews' muddled conclusion:
Romney's argument that this can be done rests on two assumptions: The first is that the lower rates themselves will help grow the economy. But the other big assumption, Scott, is that the bipartisan deal is possible when they're trying to lower some very popular tax deductions.
The bigger assumption, actually, is that there exist sufficient deductions that could be eliminated to make Romney's tax plan work out. Tax experts say they don't. It's a checkable fact, but CBS declined to check it.
In a better world, of course, journalists would demand that candidates reveal how they intend to carry out their campaign promises. The Romney campaign has done the opposite with its tax plan, making assurances without even the slightest attempt to explain how this would work in the real world–insisting that they will not offer such explanations, actually.
But the corporate media factcheckers seem willing to give them an "incomplete" grade, as CNN's Tom Foreman did after the first debate. If that's going to be the response, why should the Romney campaign bother to offer any details?
Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi offered some thoughts on what the appropriate media response should have been:
Sometimes in journalism I think we take the objectivity thing too far. We think being fair means giving equal weight to both sides of every argument. But sometimes in the zeal to be objective, reporters get confused. You can't report the Obama tax plan and the Romney tax plan in the same way, because only one of them is really a plan, while the other is actually not a plan at all, but an electoral gambit.
The Romney/Ryan ticket decided, with incredible cynicism, that that they were going to promise this massive tax break, not explain how to pay for it, and then just hang on until election day, knowing that most of the political press would let it skate, or at least not take a dump all over it when explaining it to the public. Unchallenged, and treated in print and on the air as though it were the same thing as a real plan, a 20 percent tax cut sounds pretty good to most Americans. Hell, it sounds good to me.