Romney Flip Flops Yet Again


Hell, he’s reversed his position on every other major issue. Why not the flat tax as well? In 1996, Romney scoffed at the idea and blasted Steve Forbes for advocating one. Now? Why, he positively hearts the idea.

As several leading Republican presidential candidates embrace a flat tax as a core campaign position, one contender stands out in not doing so: Mitt Romney, who has a long record of criticizing such plans and famously derided Steve Forbes’s 1996 proposal as a “tax cut for fat cats.”

Lately, though, his tone has been more positive. “I love a flat tax,” he said in August.

This is my favorite part:

Some conservative tax activists say his murky flat-tax stance highlights a broader complaint: his lack of consistency on conservatives’ core issues, like abortion.

“His problem is that people don’t have confidence that they know what he believes in, and I think there is a pretty good reason for that,” said Chris Chocola, a Republican former congressman from Indiana who is president of the Club for Growth.

Ya think? Mitt Romney only has one core, unshakable belief — that he should be the president. Every other position is prone to reverse itself on a dime depending on the audience to whom he is trying to sell that one core belief.

Comments

  1. ewanmacdonald says

    As much as I despise Mittens, do you not think going all the way back to 1996 is reaching a bit? Very few politicians will hold exactly the same views now as they did then, particularly over something technical like the method of taxation.

  2. ManOutOfTime says

    It’s been half an hour since you posted this, Ed. Did you check to see if he’s flipped (or flopped, whichever is next in the sequence) again?

  3. jeremydiamond says

    As much as I despise Mittens, do you not think going all the way back to 1996 is reaching a bit? Very few politicians will hold exactly the same views now as they did then, particularly over something technical like the method of taxation.

    This has been a pattern of behavior for Mitt. If he truly and honestly took that position in 1996 and then changed it between then and now based on some hard thinking or new evidence… it would be the first time he had ever done that.

    No, it’s not reaching. Not for Mitt.

  4. Michael Heath says

    ewanmacdonald:

    s much as I despise Mittens, do you not think going all the way back to 1996 is reaching a bit? Very few politicians will hold exactly the same views now as they did then, particularly over something technical like the method of taxation.

    As I’ve asserted before, some nuance on this matter is necessary. The difference which justifies criticism of Gov. Romney is his moving from a rational position to an irrational position, making it obvious both demagoguery and pandering are in play. Even conservatives [unconsciously] project more disdain from politicians who regress in their positions.

    So conservatives might accept a candidate (in the general election) within the tribe with whom they disagree in spite of the politician’s views adapting to non-conservative positions. Or else they’ll reject them based on their new position alone. But they go apoplectic with candidates who change their positions to more primitive ones that can’t withstand scrutiny, even when those new positions are more in line with positions they hold. I think because it’s obvious even to conservative sheeple that the politician is pandering in a manner that shows the politician’s overt lack of respect for the base being pandered.

    One notable exception is Ronald Reagan. However he did his flip-flops decades before becoming a national candidate where he earned his conservative spurs as a long-time CA governor, he didn’t merely campaign as a reformed conservative, he governed as one. Here we have Romney switching positions as a candidate with no record he’ll actually govern to his new positions. I happen to think he would govern as a conservative because he’s a lot like George W. Bush, Romney also reveals he doesn’t give a shit about the national interest, it’s all about him and those around him.

  5. says

    Very few politicians will hold exactly the same views now as they did then, particularly over something technical like the method of taxation.

    A flat-tax vs. a progressive rate structure isn’t a technically complex issue, although Republicans do their best to mislead people into thinking that it is. Romney had it right back in 1996: a flat-tax is nothing more than a tax cut for rich people at the expense of everyone else. Maybe he’s had a sincere change of heart since then, but if so it’s a change of values, not a technocratic reevaluation of the merits.

  6. Chaos Engineer says

    I think the key paragraph from the article is this one:

    Romney aides dispute the criticism and say his objection to the Forbes plan was specific: that it would raise taxes on the middle class. Gail Gitcho, a Romney spokeswoman, said there was “no inconsistency” in his position. She said he could support a flat tax that did not raise taxes.

    So Romney supports the sort of flat tax that lowers the rates for the top brackets to match the current rate for the lower brackets. I guess this is easy enough to implement. Revenues would go down, but we’d just need to take a few federal programs and turn responsibility for them over to the state governments. (I’d go with: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Defense.) State taxes might need to go up a little to compensate.

    Of course, this tax plan puts Romney well outside the Republican mainstream. This year the mainstream is horribly upset that 47% of the population doesn’t pay federal income tax, and they want to correct this problem by raising taxes on the lower and lower-middle classes. (The Cain and Perry plans are two ways of doing this. I think the Cain plan is preferred as it’s more burdensome on the poor.)

  7. slc1 says

    In fairness, the proposal by Mr. Forbes in 1996 for a flat tax included much larger exemptions for the taxpayer and his/her dependents. As I recall, his original proposal called for a 20% flat tax with a $7500 exemption for the taxpayer and each dependent. Thus, a family of 4 would not be taxed at all on the first $30,000 of income. One can argue that the rate is too high or that the exemptions are too small but the bottom line is that such a proposal is not as regressive as some would have you believe.

  8. says

    One can argue that the rate is too high or that the exemptions are too small but the bottom line is that such a proposal is not as regressive as some would have you believe.

    Of course you can do things to make it look like less of a raw deal than it really is. But the bottom line is that if you change the tax structure in such a way as to cut taxes for the rich, either someone has to pay more, or federal revenues go way down. Either way, if you’re not the one getting the tax cut, this is not in your best interest.

    All flat-tax proposals have, as their 1st order effect, a dramatic lowering of tax rates for rich people. The only way implement one that is both revenue neutral and maintains progressivity would be to start with a very high rate and then insert all sorts of deductions and exemptions, which is necessarily more complicated than keeping deductions to a minimum and implementing a progressive rate structure. So as a “tax reform” measure it fails its basic purpose. Which makes it obvious that the real purpose is to make the code more regressive and and blow a hole in the budget.

  9. Aquaria says

    One can argue that the rate is too high or that the exemptions are too small but the bottom line is that such a proposal is not as regressive as some would have you believe.

    Yes it is.

    How many times does this have to be explained to people like you?

    If after deductions you make 150,000 a year with a flat tax rate of 20%, you will pay 30,000 a year in taxes, leaving you with 120,000 a year to live on (and pay all the other flat taxes out there, like sales tax).

    If after deductions you make 15,000 a year, with a flat tax rate of 20%, you will pay 3,000 a year in taxes, leaving you with 12,000 a year to live on (and pay all the other flat taxes out there, like sales tax).

    Maybe you don’t live in the real world, but having 120,000 after taxes is a hell of a lot less painful than having only 12,000 a year. Someone making 150K/yr will hardly miss the 30,000. I can guarantee you that the person making $15K a year will miss that $3000. It will hurt more. A lot more.

    All flat taxes will do is increase income inequality and decrease demand for products.

    That is why it’s both a regressive tax, and a stupid one.

  10. fastlane says

    Aquaria, while I agree with your math, I don’t agree with your reasoning.

    The goal should not, in my opinion, to try to make sure everyone has the same amount of money to live on after taxes are paid. That makes taxes punitive, not progressive (and yes, I think there is a difference.)

    The system should be progressive, but it should be truly progressive, such that as one makes more money, one gets taxed at a higher marginal rate. The system should also have the following features:
    1) Simplicity, it should have a minimum of deductions, exemptions, and other allowances, closing many of the existing loopholes mostly available to the uber-wealthy.
    2) Actual progressiveness. This ties in to the first item. It doesn’t help to have a progressive tax structure, when there are enough loopholes and exemptions that it winds up being the opposite.

    It would probably require revamping a lot of other taxes (goods, gasoline, property, etc), which would require some cooperation from the states to achieve these goals. As has been shown on this blog, when all federal taxes are considered (not just income tax), the lowest quartile actually pays a higher real tax rate than the middle and upper quartiles.

    The main reason I hate paying so much taxes now is because I feel like I have so little control over how it gets spent (mostly wasted on wars and useless military gadgets). I wish there was a way for individuals to steer where their taxes went.

  11. slc1 says

    Re Aquaria @ #9

    Apparently, Ms. Aquaria has a reading comprehension problem, in addition to not knowing the difference between a deduction and an exemption. Let’s take the case of her example where she posits an income of $15,000 after exemptions (under the Forbes plan, there would be no deductions). For a family of 4, that would mean an income of $45,000 so that the flat rate tax of 3,000 amounts to a tax rate of 6.6%. In fact, the family 4 would be living on $42,000, not $12,000.

    However, let’s diddle with the numbers a little. If the exemption was increased to $10,000, the family of 4 would be paying a 20% tax on $5,000, for a tax bill of $1,000, a tax rate of 2.2%.

    On the other hand, a taxpayer with a family of 4 making $100,000/year would be taxed on 60,000 yielding a tax bill of $12,000 for an effective rate of 12%. Sounds pretty progressive to me.

  12. rork says

    slc1:
    Yes, there’s a flaw in 9’s math, and in fact you have shown a pretty sweet spot. Try arguing with the link give at 10.

    Fastlane: “The goal should not, in my opinion, to try to make sure everyone has the same amount of money to live on after taxes are paid”
    Nobody is saying that except that straw man over there. The rest was not-so-bad, I grant.

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