Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney insists that his plan to cut tax rates by 20% across the board wouldn't increase the federal deficit because he'd eliminate some of the loopholes used by the wealthy. Those changes, combined with faster economic growth, would keep government revenue rising at its current rate, Romney argues.
Whether that's actually possible is a subject of intense debate among economists, who've been left to guess which tax breaks Romney would seek to end for whom. Unfortunately, when Romney was asked in a television interview Sunday to explain how his plan would work, he responded with the same vague outline that he's offered in the past. Details matter in tax policy, and if Romney is going to make his economic plan the centerpiece of his election bid, he should stop punting on the specifics.
Lawmakers from both parties have called for simplifying the tax code by ending some exemptions and deductions, and President Obama has said he'd like to do that eventually. In the near term, though, there's a crucial difference between what the candidates want to do on taxes: Obama wants to raise revenue, and Romney doesn't. In particular, Obama has called for couples earning more than $250,000 to pay the same income tax rates that they paid before President George W. Bush's cuts in 2001 and 2003. Romney wants to slice rates 20% lower than Bush did, without reducing the amount the government would collect.