Watch George W. Bush debate Al Gore and claim his tax plan was really great for the middle class and didn't give high-earning taxpayers a break. Then watch Mitt Romney say the very same thing.
Indulge me here for a minute, because there are some common threads which have proven to be outright lies. How do they get away with them? Twisted logic, that's how.
Tax cuts won't add to the deficit. Here's how they get to say this nonsense with a straight face. Republicans do not believe tax cuts factor into the deficit at all. In other words, the deficit is purely a question of spending, and not of revenues. So reducing revenues doesn't increase the deficit because revenues aren't a factor. I did warn you it was twisted.
Republicans care about the deficit. No, no, Republicans don't care about the deficit, and Mitt Romney especially doesn't care about it. Look, he ran Bain Capital as an enterprise that used debt financing to pay millions and millions in profit to investors while leaving ordinary people out of a job and solid businesses bankrupt. So no, he doesn't care about deficits, and neither did Dubya.
Republicans really, really care about the middle class. That Dubya bit at the end of his little rant was so interesting. First he claims that high-income taxpayers will pay "more as a share of the total" than anyone else, as if that isn't already something happening. Then he makes the big case that a family of 4 earning $50,000 per year will walk out with $2,000 more in their pocket at the end of a year, while Gore's plan would only give them $145.
Mitt Romney's tax plan includes letting capital gains go untaxed. Who benefits most from that? Not the middle class taxpayer, who mostly has investments in tax-deferred instruments like IRAs and 401k plans. No, the beneficiary of untaxed capital gains would be people like Mitt Romney and his hedge fund buddies and investors.
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If I had to point to one single thing that drove this country deeper into unequal territory and bolstered the oligarchs' share of the wealth, it would be the lowered capital gains tax to 15 percent. Far too many of the one percent of the one percent, like Mitt Romney, shirked their tax burdens by making sure their income was characterized as capital gains instead of earned income like 99.99 percent of the rest of us.
Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Listen to George W. Bush and remember that when he uttered those empty promises about how wonderful the economy would be if we just lowered tax rates, he wasn't elected president yet. Then he was elected, and he got that tax cut passed, and he got it extended, and extended again. What happened? A lost decade in terms of economic growth.
Here's what that looks like:
Stunning, isn't it?
The Bush/Gore debate and the Romney/Obama debate are bookends, but we have the benefit of seeing, rather than predicting, what Bush tax and economic policy did to this country. It's right there in the graphic. It will take much longer than four short years to fix it and set the course for more equality and less oligarchy, but one thing is certain: Mitt Romney isn't the one to do that, since he's just a repeat of George W. Bush.