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OP-ED | Romney & McMahon: Birds of a Feather

by Sarah Darer Littman | Oct 5, 2012 1:18pm
(16) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2012, Opinion

It seemed fitting that Quinnipiac would drop a poll showing Linda McMahon slightly ahead of Chris Murphy in the Connecticut Senate race (48 percent to 47 percent), just as the morning pundits were declaring Mitt Romney the winner of the first presidential debate. This is because they are birds of a feather. Both Gov. Romney and Mrs. McMahon are wealthy individuals who are running as outsiders on the notion that their business acumen is what’s needed to straighten out the “career politicians” in Washington.

Both have a spending advantage over their opponent — Romney through outside Super Pacs running attack ads against his opponent, and McMahon with her willingness to use her personal fortune to carpet-bomb the airwaves and the Internet.

But the greatest resemblance is in their mutability; both Romney and McMahon try to be all things to all people. Thus it’s hard to know what they stand for or what they would do in elected office.

Take tax policy, for instance. Romney stood in front of the American people in Wednesday night’s debate and said: “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut . . . My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people.”

Meanwhile, at Mitt Romney.com under Issues -Tax/“Mitt’s Plan: Individual”, we see this:

• Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates
• Maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends, and capital gains
• Eliminate taxes for taxpayers with AGI below $200,000 on interest, dividends, and capital gains
• Eliminate the Death Tax
• Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but cutting marginal rates across the board and eliminating the Inheritance Tax (don’t you love the “Death Tax” obfuscation?) would indeed reduce taxes on wealthy individuals.

Romney also stated, “I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce — the revenues going to the government. My — number one principle is there’ll be no tax cut that adds to the deficit . . . But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans.”

Sounds marvelous, right? But folks, don’t forget that in Romney-world, “middle class” is between $200,000- $250,000. Yet when his economic adviser, Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, declared Romney’s plan mathematically possible, he assumed the middle class to be $100,000 a year, which means the $17,000 itemized deduction cap Romney proposed in Wednesday’s debate is going hit a lot of middle class families. Hard. Mortgage interest and health insurance premiums alone could eat that up in no time.

The truth is, it’s hard to know exactly how much Mr. Romney’s tax plan will cost because he changes positions faster than you can flip through the pages of the Kama Sutra.

Mrs. McMahon is similarly slippery about her actual policy proposals. Back in 2010, she complained that talking about specifics became a “political football” for opponents to exploit. Unfortunately for Mrs. McMahon, voters like to hear these specifics, especially when they involve important issues like taxes and Medicare. As much as Mrs. McMahon would prefer to remain a blank slate onto which voters can project their fantasies while she spends millions trying to define Rep. Chris Murphy, her wish to be all things to all people has come back to haunt her.

On April 20, Mrs. McMahon told Tea Party supporters she believes in “sunset provisions when passing this kind of legislation” in reference to Social Security and Medicare, echoing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 2011 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. State Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, defended McMahon. “I think she just misused the word. ‘Sunset’ is almost like legislative speak. I just don’t think she knew what that term meant, because there’s no indication she ever wanted to get rid of it,” Floren said. “When something sunsets it expires, and that wasn’t her goal.”

One wonders which is a more disturbing idea for voters — that McMahon wants a sunset provision in Social Security reform legislation or that she’s a candidate willing to spend over $13 million of her own money (this time — in her last unsuccessful attempt at a Senate run it was over $50 million) without understanding basic legislative concepts. Personally, I find both rather frightening.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.

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(16) Comments

posted by: CitizenCT | October 6, 2012  10:17am

Sarah, unfortunately you’re reducing yourself to a talking points only liberal.  You’re more persuasive when your positions include factual substance.

When measuring campaign spend, you fail to mention the in kind contribution from the liberal biased media propping up Obama and Democrats.  When mentioning the Romney tax plan, you failed to point out that it limits deductions, same as Simpson Bowles did.  Even the Obama campaign on the Erin Burnett show came clean that the $5 trillion claim was bogus.  McMahon smartly says Federal legislation should be periodically reviewed to make sure it’s achieving its desired objective, but you drank the Murphy Koolaid morphing that responsible position into she’s anti-social security.

What you should find frightening is the debate exposed that when our president is without his teleprompter and his campaign team telling him what to say, it’s clear our country is being lead by a clueless deer in the headlights.  Considering Murphy has accomplished nothing the last six years, it’s frightening to think he could be elected senator.

I’d sincerely like to see you do a column on how the current administration treats Israel, the beacon of democracy in the Middle East.

posted by: wmwallace | October 6, 2012  10:44pm

Why should there be a death tax as the person paid taxes already on this money.

Government needs to live within it’s means. Instead it spends money it doesn’t have and borrows to cover for the excess spending. What should the country do, just spend until we are the same boat as Greece, Italy, Spain and others.

posted by: saramerica | October 7, 2012  1:16pm

saramerica

I guess if you consider paying 12-15% tax when the average middle class family paying 33%+ “paying taxes” I guess you would have that point of view.

posted by: SalRomano | October 7, 2012  5:26pm

Sarah:  At present, you are only the subject of the taxes you pay. Pres. Barack Obama created this discourse in a desperate effort to get himself reelected to office.  As an honorable Democrat, you are trying to help Obama to get reelected.  If Obama didn’t waste two years in office—pushing ObamaCare, perhaps he could have revised the tax code to a more acceptable flat rate.  Now we will have have to wait until after Mitt Romney gets elected s President on Nov. 6—before a fairer tax plan is arrived at.  Be patient Sarah.  Obama did not try to revise the tax code, but Romney will.  Vote for Mitt Romney, Sarah!

posted by: MGKW | October 8, 2012  9:15am

Gee whiz Sal—-

Now you’re tax expert telling an MBA in Finance what the real story is…oh, I forgot you’re a Republican (and a TeaPartier) and they think public education is a waste of time and money…and a breeding ground for socialism…don’t you wish you could go back to the 50’s when there was segregation, the US could blow people off the face of the earth and Joe McCarthy(known alcoholic and political flim-flam man) could take care of those socialists? Really get a life….

posted by: saramerica | October 8, 2012  11:25am

saramerica

Citizen CT - wow, you sound just like my former mother in law, who lives abroad but spams my email box with Sheldon Adelson financed GOP propaganda videos about how I should vote Romney “because of Israel.” I wrote back to her explaining why I am not a one-issue voter, how my parents, who were trapped in the Medicare donut hole, benefited from the ACA, and how I have a 16 year old daughter (her granddaughter) who I do not want to have to grow up in a country where abortion is not allowed even in the event of the mother’s health (GOP platform) , which is contrary to Jewish law.

posted by: ConnVoter | October 8, 2012  1:59pm

Sarah, I think your math needs some work.  You said, “which means the $17,000 itemized deduction cap Romney proposed in Wednesday’s debate is going hit a lot of middle class families. Hard.”  This isn’t true.  Someone with a $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% will pay about $13,500 in interest in the first year of a 30-year mortgage - well below Romney’s $17,000 cap.  In fact, Romney’s cap wouldn’t hit *anyone* (at current rates) without a “Jumbo” loan, and I don’t think many in the middle class have “Jumbo” loans.

Also, read again what Romney is saying about marginal rates: “I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people.”  Kindly, to correct you because you are wrong (you asked), this can obviously be accomplished through cutting marginal rates.  In addition to causing actual tax revenue to skyrocket, the Bush Tax Cuts increased the share of overall tax revenue paid by the wealthiest 1% from about 33% in 2003 to about 40% in 2007 before dropping off to about 38.5% in 2008 and about 35-36% in 2009 (when the wealthiest 1% saw their incomes fall by over 20%).  History should repeat itself even if Romney convinces Congress to cut all marginal rates.

posted by: saramerica | October 8, 2012  2:21pm

saramerica

Conn Voter - You’re assuming the mortgage loan interest is the only itemized deduction that a middle class family is taking. Romney’s plan working depends on eliminating the charitable donation deduction (that’s going to go down well with non-profits and Universities, NOT) the health insurance premium deduction and others.My mortgage is under $300K but as a self employed person my health insurance premium deduction alone would put me WAY over $17K cap. Oh and that’s before Romney and McMahon screw my family over on healthcare by getting rid of my pre-existing condition protection, and my parents on the Medicare donut hole when they scraps ACA.

posted by: SalRomano | October 8, 2012  2:31pm

MGKW:  Go easy on the juice before you write “as a No Namer.”  You can’t defend Pres. Obama’s massive and hapless $5.2 trillion dollar spending spree in his tenure in office, that didn’t even include a jobs plan.  Instead you go back 70 years to attack Joe McCarthy.  I don’t blame you for not using your name “to spare you shame.”

posted by: ALD | October 8, 2012  2:36pm

“Government needs to live within it’s means. Instead it spends money it doesn’t have and borrows to cover for the excess spending.  What should the country do, just spend until we are the same boat as Greece, Italy, Spain and others. “

Wmwallace, 

I suspect the answer to your question is if we like the direction we see Greece, Italy, and Spain headed, then the answer to your question is, yes…....

Having grown up 50 years ago in a very poor immigrant Italian family at least I can say the food was always good…......When we had any.  I was kinda hoping my grand kids wouldn’t have to wonder when their next meal might come around.  But then the country does need to lose weight.  So I guess there is always a bright side.

However if we really are concerned about what country our children will have to grow up in I would say your radical idea that we start to live within our means maybe an interesting thought.  Where did you ever come across that interesting concept anyway??

What I do know for sure is no tax rate on the rich, above 12-15%, or middle class 33%, or any other numbers anyone wishes to use will be enough to satisfy the current black hole money pit mentality we have in Washington. 

To them there is always more money right???  And if we run out just print some more!!!!  We can just pass it all on to our kids and their kids,and have then pay for our foolishness.

posted by: ConnVoter | October 8, 2012  2:49pm

Not necessarily.  Some studies have shown that middle class taxes would go down under Romney’s plan, and a few have shown that they would go up.  It all depends on how you define “middle class” and the size of your deductions. 

Also, Romney has said that his plan would cover those with pre-existing conditions.  Not to worry.  Maintaining that simple concept is not enough reason to keep the whole, big, ugly, and economically devastating ACA bill in its current form.  You can do that and kill the remaining 99% of the ACA, and Romney has said that he’ll do just that.

Finally, any comments on the fact that the Bush Tax Cuts drew more revenue out of the top 1% of earners, or my opinion that Romney’s tax cuts would either do the same or at least keep the current proportions intact?

posted by: SalRomano | October 8, 2012  3:14pm

ConnVoter and Sarah:  You appear to be looking at a pro-Obama-Murphy crystal ball.

posted by: saramerica | October 8, 2012  4:38pm

saramerica

Actually Romney lied about pre existing conditions in the debate, as admitted by Eric Fehrnstrom: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/10/top-romney-adviser-states-will-have-to-cover-people-with-pre-existing-conditions-under-president-rom.php

And as to the tax cuts being revenue neutral - not true:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/revisiting-the-cost-of-the-bush-tax-cuts/2011/05/09/AFxTFtbG_blog.html

posted by: ConnVoter | October 8, 2012  8:31pm

Sarah, the answer to my question lies not with the Washington Post but with the IRS.  Do you think that tax revenue increased after the Bush Tax Cuts?  Yes or no?  If you say “no,” I recommend visiting irs.gov and searching for “Statistics of Income” tax statistics for 2003-2009 by tax rate and income percentile.  There, you’ll find that, even when adjusted for inflation, we received historic sums of income tax revenue after the Bush Tax Cuts were enacted.

Actually, that was my second question.  My first was, did you know that the portion of income tax revenue paid by the richest 1% went up (considerably) after the Bush Tax Cuts?  If you say, “no,” you’ll find the real answer at the same website. 

Finally, ask your friends at the Post why they think we would have made more money under the Clinton rates when we broke records under the Bush Tax Cuts.  If it were possible to make more money at higher rates, don’t you think we would have done so before?

posted by: wmwallace | October 9, 2012  1:23am

Does anyone know when America took in it’s most in taxes in US history…...I will save you from looking it up it was 2007 during the Bush tax cuts.

This tax and class warfare is more garbage from the left to take the onus what is happening in the country.

posted by: SalRomano | October 9, 2012  10:44am

Sarah:  You hypothetically hit Romney and McMahon over your Democratic psychology that Romney is screwing your family over on healthcare—when   Obama and Murphy HAVE ALREADY SCREWED YOUR FAMILY OVER—by taking $780 million dollars out of the Medicaire Fund. Please describe facts over fiction—Sarah!