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David Sirota
David Sirota
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A GOP Shift On Taxes


When it comes to tax policy, Mitt Romney is not merely a spinner, an equivocator or a run-of-the-mill dissembler. He's a liar. Hyperbolic and overwrought as that label seems, it is, alas, the only accurate description for someone who would, in February, promote a proposal to cut taxes "on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent" and then appear at an October debate and insist that the very same proposal "will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."

For the most part, analyzing such hideous dishonesty is where political reporting has started and stopped. How big a liar is Romney? Was he lying in the first statement or the second one? These are, no doubt, important questions — and to answer but one of them, it's obvious Romney was lying in the most recent one. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported, the Republican nominee's proposal, if enacted, would "result in a net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers."

However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

Looked at in a historical context, this could be nothing short of a much-needed, come-full-circle moment for the Republican Party.

That circle began more than a quarter century ago, when, in the midst of his push to raise taxes, President Ronald Reagan railed on "unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share" and criticized a system that "made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary."

Unfortunately, since then, the GOP reoriented itself around a destructive anti-tax theology.

In a matter of a few decades, the national debt predictably exploded as the party's orthodoxy went from "read my lips, no new taxes" (George H.W. Bush) to "if you raise taxes on these so-called rich, you're really raising taxes on the job creators" (George W. Bush) to recent years' pervasive Republican rhetoric about so-called "makers" and "takers." Yet now, suddenly, Romney is closing the rhetorical loop, repeatedly claiming during the first presidential debate that he will refuse to support any new tax cuts for the wealthy.

Of course, based on his proposal's granular details, a President Romney will almost certainly try to cut taxes for his fellow 1-percenters. Thus, it's easy to dismiss his debate statements as just unimportant campaign rhetoric representing nothing more than political expediency. But, then, Romney's lying actually underscores the potentially deeper significance of this moment. It shows even some leaders of the trickle-down party recognize that voter hostility to plutocratic tax proposals has grown (rightly) intense — so intense, in fact, that GOP leaders know their party must try to publicly disown the trickle-down image, to the point of lying about their true agenda. And here's the thing: eventually, such brand reinvention efforts often sow the seeds of more genuine changes in policy positions.

None of this means Romney is some brave hero. It merely means he is a politician who sees an America that finally recognizes how much its tax system is skewed toward the wealthy. In such a country, expedience is thankfully no longer synonymous with anti-tax demagoguery. It is, instead, congruent with a more rational rhetorical posture on tax fairness.

Coming during a fiscal crisis, that larger political shift, so perfectly reflected in Romney's lying, should be viewed as a promising development.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He co-hosts "The Rundown" on AM630 KHOW in Colorado. Email him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at



6 Comments | Post Comment
Here is a simple solution to a complex problem: Scrap the tax code. It is most certainly is skewed in favor of the wealthy. Replace it with the fair tax. I encourage everyone to read about it at It dosen't matter if you are a democrat or republican, you take a look at that site and come back here at tell me the fair tax isen't a good idea compared to the 37,000 monster tax code we have now.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:50 AM
Re: Chris McCoy

I couldn't agree more with you Chris.....and heck, you don't even have to be a Libertarian to support the Fair Tax initiative. This initiative is without a doubt the best approach to ensure that all Americans "pay their fair share."

I defy anyone who would say this isn't better than the special interest driven tax code we have today. I can't understand why this hasn't gained more momentum with the Dems and Repubs. The status qou must's killing America and it's fine citizens.

See for yourself at

Comment: #2
Posted by: Mike Matull
Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:39 PM
Steven Covey wrote "seek first to understand, then be understood." The way you phrased your criticism, you don't appear to have done the first half. While I don't know what he proposed earlier in the year, but I don't think it matters since he's now had time to work with Ryan to improve it. The latest proposal from Romney/Ryan included the elimination of some tax breaks, with more breaks for the middle class than the rich. You may disagree with what form that might take. You might also disagree with his desire to meet with congress to work out the details (wouldn't that be a switch!). Calling it a lie, though is over the top.
Ryan tried to bring up another feature of the plan on Thursday but one of Biden's 80-some interruptions stopped him. Reductions in tax RATES have many times increased tax COLLECTIONS. That happened in the early 60s with Kennedy. Part of that is due to investors moving to more productive higher tax investments, from less productive ones that are shielded from taxes.
You may disagree with the plan, but at lest include the whole plan before you try to rip it apart.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Larry Lunt
Sat Oct 13, 2012 2:49 PM
Re: Larry Lunt
Well said, Larry Lunt.
DS is smart enough to know that Romney proposes to reduce tax RATES.
At the same time, he plans to also close loopholes and pare deductions so that in the end, the wealthy pay the same AMOUNT of tax.
That's what "revenue-neutral" means, and Romney explained it clearly during the first debate.
Whether or not you agree with Romney's plan, it's plain to see Sirota has deliberately and disingenuously distorted it.
Thus DS disqualifies himself as an honest broker in the discussion.

Friends, I'm going to leave this site now. Come visit at Salon or Truthdig, much too hard to post here.
Comment: #4
Posted by: oddsox
Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:42 PM
Willard "Etch-A-Sketch" Romney absolutely is a liar. If it was just this one issue I'd be willing to cut him some slack but his entire political career has been one "flip-flop" (ie. lie) after another. He will say anything to try to get elected, and I bet you anything I have that the first thing he would do if he manages to weasel his way into the White House is to give HIMSELF and all his other rich cronies the biggest tax break ever. If you are so naive to not see that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you, Mr. Lunt and VeryOddsox!
Comment: #5
Posted by: A Smith
Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:59 PM
Romney is indeed a liar or given the benefit of the doubt, impossibly inept at expressing himself (to the point of being a liar). A 20% reduction across the board will effectively eliminate taxes on unearned income - or is he planning on lumping all income together regardless of source - not likely. Will this 20% come off the top, or only after wage earners have paid their payroll taxes? There aren't enough loopholes to make up the difference. To top it off, if his plan is revenue neutral, where is all this extra capital going to come from that will light a fire under the economy?
Comment: #6
Posted by: M Miller
Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:19 PM
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