A few days ago I suggested that if Mitt Romney wasn't willing to tell us which tax deductions he'd eliminate to make up for his across-the-board tax rate cuts, somebody should at least ask him if there were any deductions that were off the table. Today, Paul Ryan answered exactly that question after a woman at a town hall event told him she was frustrated by his lack of specifics:
RYAN: If you subject more of their income to taxation — more of their income is taxed — and that allows us to lower revenues for everybody across the board. That means middle class taxpayers have lower tax rates, and there’s plenty of fiscal room to keep these important preferences for middle class taxpayers — you know, like charitable donations, or buying a home, or health care. Every time we’ve done this, we’ve created economic growth.”
Hoo boy. Now I really want to see that famous math that Ryan said he didn't have time to go through on Sunday. Greg Sargent comments:
By seeming to take some middle class deductions off the table, Ryan made the math even more hallucinatory. This might be good politics — Ryan is getting more specific in promising not to raise middle class taxes — but it further confirms that Romney and Ryan have completely jettisoned deficit neutrality as a goal of their plan, and that they are selling people a fiscal bill of goods that doesn’t pass the laugh test.
It's worth noting that Ryan didn't categorically promise never to touch the tax deductions he mentioned above. But he sure did come close, and he's plainly opened himself up to legitimate questions about whether these deductions are off the table in a Romney administration. If they are, Romney's plan becomes simply impossible to take seriously. After all, those three deductions, along with the tax preference for capital gains, account for about a third of all tax expenditures — and if those aren't going to be touched you have to somehow pay for the rate cuts out of the remaining two-thirds. At that point Romney's plan becomes not merely garden-variety impossible, but one of the all-time most laughable political panders of all time.