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Why Did Obama Lay Off Romney?

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, October 4, 2012 10:54 EDT
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Mitt Romney debates Barack Obama
 
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Well, the consensus is that Obama shat the bed. Personally, I’m not too worried about it. Both candidates got into the weeds of kicking numbers back and forth pretty quickly, which reads one way to people who have been paying attention for months (and have already decided who to vote for), but will just confuse and bore people who haven’t been. I don’t see this having much impact on undecideds.

Still, it was a surprisingly bad performance from Obama, especially since he had an opportunity to really trounce Romney and sew up his victory. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that Obama didn’t really have a strategy to deal with Romney blatantly lying. I know it’s a bit of “common sense” wisdom in America that politicians lie all the time, but in reality, that’s not exactly true. Politicians embroider or cherry-pick or throw up distractions or even say things they think are true but are misinformed, but bald-faced lying is actually not that common. Or it wasn’t until this election, anyway. After the RNC, it became clear that simply lying about their positions and policies was going to be the Romney/Ryan strategy, with the hopes that by the time the fact-checkers had rendered a verdict, most of the voters they are appealing to had tuned back out again.

Romney kicked of the debate with a blatant lie. He denies that he intends to cut taxes for the rich on the backs of the middle class, but this is simply a lie. Not a hedge, not a tall tale. A lie. This is having your spouse catch you naked in bed with someone else and telling them that they’re simply imagining the person in the bed level of lie.

Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney’s proposal to slash income taxes by 20 percent across the board would boost income for the wealthiest taxpayers while reducing it for the middle class, according to a nonpartisan analysis released on Wednesday.

The report by the centrist Tax Policy Center found that Romney’s tax cuts would boost after-tax income by an average of 4.1 percent for those earning more than $1 million a year, while reducing by an average of 1.2 percent the after-tax income of individuals earning less than $200,000……

About two-thirds of the $1.1 trillion in revenues that the government foregoes annually because of tax breaks would have to be curbed to fund Romney’s tax cut, the analysts said.

These tax breaks include popular ones such as the mortgage interest deduction, the break for employer-provided health insurance, and credits for low- and middle-income families.

In other words, in order to cut taxes for the rich, Romney would functionally raise them on everyone else. This isn’t really very complicated. He wasn’t even really hand-waving or anything. He just denied that he intends to do what he intends to do, and told the public, “Who are you going to believe: Me or your lying eyes?”

So, Obama was faced with a dilemma. Romney would have denied that he was wearing a red tie if that suddenly became an issue. Calling someone a liar to their face is a Big Sin in politics, so that response was off the table. So, instead he just decided to breeze past the lies and try to tell his own (boring) version of the story. Which meant that Romney could tell some giant whoppers, but ones that weren’t immediately obvious as whoppers because they were complex, numbers-oriented lies and so hard to spot in the wild.

That was, in my opinion, a big mistake. Obama could have owned Romney with one simple move, which was to confront him with something Romney would want to lie about, but something that is simple and straightforward, so that Romney’s lie would be obvious. Quoting Romney directly from the 47% video and asking him to answer for it would have been the swiftest way to accomplish that goal. Romney would be forced to deny something he’s been caught on tape saying, and that would be the only story the next day. It works nice and easy on TV: Video of Romney denying he said that, and video of Romney saying it. Rinse, repeat.

Instead, Romney was allowed to paint himself as some kind of big care bear who loves ordinary working people, without every having to answer for the fact that he actually called them “dependent” and unwilling to take responsibility for themselves.

This is easy. There is one thing we know about Romney for sure, and that is that he will switch his story on a dime to suit the audience he’s talking to. He just needs to be provoked into directly contradicting himself. Just mentioning the 47% comments might be enough to get him there, but Obama didn’t even try.

Well, there’s two more debates to go, so maybe he’ll get there. But last night was his big chance to catch Romney in a really obvious lie and he didn’t pounce.

Here’s a nice rundown of 27 lies Romney told last night, none that resulted in a quick and easy-to-understand rebuttal from Obama. A sample:

1) “[G]et us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs”. Romney’s plan for “energy independence” actually relies heavily on a study that assumes the U.S. continues with fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama administration. For instance, he uses Citigroup research based off the assumption that “‘the United States will continue with strict fuel economy standards that will lower its oil demand.” Since he promises to undo the Obama administration’s new fuel efficiency standards, he would cut oil consumption savings of 2 million barrels per day by 2025.

2) “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about.” A Tax Policy Center analysis of Romney’s proposal for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, eliminating the estate tax and other tax reductions, would reduce federal revenue $480 billion in 2015. This amount to $5 trillion over the decade.

3) “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.” If Romney hopes to provide tax relief to the middle class, then his $5 trillion tax cut would add to the deficit. There are not enough deductions in the tax corde that primarily benefit rich people to make his math work.

4) “My — my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” As the Tax Policy Center concluded, Romney’s plan can’t both exempt middle class families from tax cuts and remain revenue neutral. “He’s promised all these things and he can’t do them all. In order for him to cover the cost of his tax cut without adding to the deficit, he’d have to find a way to raise taxes on middle income people or people making less than $200,000 a year,” the Center found.

5) “I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families. Now, you cite a study. There are six other studies that looked at the study you describe and say it’s completely wrong.” The studies Romney cites actually further prove that Romney would, in fact, have to raise taxes on the middle class if he were to keep his promise not to lose revenue with his tax rate reduction.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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