Mitt Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie was batted around by the unlikely source of Chris Wallace yesterday, when discussing the Romney tax plan. The talking point the Romney team has been throwing around is that “six studies” validate the claim that you can lower tax rates by 20%, remain revenue neutral, and not lower the share of the tax burden on the rich. “Share of the tax burden” is a weasel phrase that has more to do with the overall share of compensation going to the rich, but in some contexts Romney has said that he wouldn’t lower taxes for the rich, so we can read it that way.
This is all mathematically impossible, actual “studies” prove. But Gillespie and the surrogates have relied on the big-sounding “six studies” for their proof. As Josh Barro deconstructs in the seminal work on this subject, it turns out that the six studies include:
a blog post from the American Enterprise Institute
another blog post from the American Enterprise Institute
an op-ed by Martin Feldstein (which Romney contradicted in an interview)
a blog post from Martin Feldstein responding to criticisms of his op-ed
an actual paper from the Heritage Foundation
a working paper from Prof. Harvey Rosen of Princeton, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the first Bush Administration and the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under Bush II (and even he qualified it later)
So at best, two of these could be called “studies,” and none of them come from an independent source. Three of them actually merely react to the nonpartisan study from the Tax Policy Center, which found Romney’s tax plan mathematically impossible. What’s more, the “studies” are riddled with errors; just see Barro’s analysis. And the Romney campaign at one point paid for one of the six studies.
The pathetic nature of this talking point is now seeping into the traditional media. Here’s Gillespie’s exchange with Chris Wallace:
Gillespie: These are very credible sources, and, you know…
Wallace: One of them is from a guy who is – is a blog from a guy who was a top advisor to George W. Bush. So these are hardly nonpartisan studies.
Gillespie: Look, Chris I think if you look at Harvard and AEI [American Enterprise Institute] and other studies are very credible sources for economic analysis
Wallace: You wouldn’t say that AEI is a conservative think tank?
Gillespie: I would say it is a right-leaning think tank. That doesn’t make it not credible.
Wallace: It doesn’t make it nonpartisan.
Gillespie: It does make it nonpartisan. It’s not a partisan organization, I can tell you, there are many instances where there have been things AEI came out with and said, I didn’t find it to be necessarily to be helpful to the Republican Party.
Wallace: Would you say Brookings Institution is nonpartisan?
Gillespie: I would say the Brookings Institution is left leaning and nonpartisan.
Later in that interview, Gillespie said that specifics on what deductions would be used to offset the 20% cut in rates would only come out after the election. Because that’s how elections work.
Under the Romney standard, I am obliged to call this 500-word blog post a study.