Mitt Romney’s childish, churlish economic plan

Many voters remain mystified by Barack Obama’s oddly disconnected performance during last week’s presidential debate, but the real mystery is what solar system Mitt Romney is from and what his plans really are for the strange, primitive ape-men currently infesting this fertile, mineral-rich planet.

The media should stop asking economists and political scientists to parse the candidates’ answers and get someone who knows Morse code to tell us what hidden messages were embedded in Romney’s weird, frenetic blinking spree last Wednesday. My guess? “Mr. President, if you are part of the Reptilian Overlord Illuminati, blink twice. If not – and if you don’t want me to lay my eggs in Malia’s occipital lobe in the next, oh, 2.7 seconds – stammer incomprehensibly and answer Mr. Lehrer’s question as if you’ve just been waterboarded by drunken Oompa-Loompas.

To be sure, Obama seemed like a football coach protecting a lead in the fourth quarter instead of the feisty, inspiring candidate of four years ago, but does that mean Romney is a viable alternative?

Let me get this straight: Romney is captured on video essentially declaring his disdain for 47% of the population of the country he wants to lead and Obama is now the one on his heels? If video of Romney is leaked revealing his plan to balance the budget by turning 47% of the population into Soylent Green and selling them to Monsanto, will he get around it by saying, “That’s not my plan”?

Well, you know what else is not Romney’s plan? Anything. He has no plan – specifically, he has no plan for the economy. He has an outline that he hasn’t finished. When asked, repeatedly, what his plan really is, he literally tells people it’s a secret. He merely says he’ll close tax loopholes, and that those loopholes will offset the loss of revenue brought about by his tax rate cuts.

When a job applicant, played by Will Arnett, tried this approach on NBC’s The Office, it made for hilarious, absurdist satire. When a candidate for president of the United States tries it, pundits remark that he looks “presidential.” Mark Oct. 3, 2012, in your calendars as the day American sitcom characters surpassed the American media in terms of gravitas.

Think I’m exaggerating? Take a look for yourself. Here’s the transcript from The Office:

Arnett’s character: I actually have a three-step plan that I believe could effectively double your profits.

Jim Halpert: Really?

Arnett: Yeah.

Jim: What is it?

Arnett: (Laughs.) Nice try.

Halpert: Uh.

Toby Flenderson: What is your three-step plan?

Arnett: Well, I can’t just hand you my plan. I mean, if you guys give me the job, then you’ll get the plan.

Now here’s VP candidate Paul Ryan, in a recent Fox News interview, discussing the Romney-Ryan tax plan: “It would take me too long to go through all the math.”

In other words, “nice try.” You might also add, “don’t worry your pretty little head, Gladys.”

But while Professors Heisenberg and Bohr are convinced the staggering complexity of their tax plan would do little but short-circuit our wee serf brains, they are specific about a few things. They’ll reduce income tax rates by 20% and eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.

And who will really benefit from Romney and Ryan’s brave new tax world? Since they refuse to get into any real specifics about their plan, it’s impossible to say. I can only answer with a Zen riddle: What is the sound of two Koch Brothers high-fiving?

During the debate, Obama did have one good zinger, which he unfortunately delivered as if he were channeling the “time to make the doughnuts” guy. With respect to Romney’s tax plan, as well as his plans for replacing Obamacare and provisions of Dodd-Frank, Obama said, “At some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves: Is the reason that Gov. Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret, because they are too good? Is it because that somehow middle-class families will benefit too much from them?”

What Obama struggled to get across during the debate is that Romney’s tax plan, which he insists will not lower the tax burden of the wealthy or increase the tax burden of the middle class, is a farce. As the Tax Policy Center noted, if Romney follows through on his promise to reduce tax rates by 20% and eliminates every tax loophole available to those making more than $200,000, we’ll still be left with an $86 billion shortfall.

Some conservatives have taken issue with some of the assumptions the Tax Policy Center made in its study, arguing that Romney can make his plan work. Meanwhile, the Tax Policy Center stands by its conclusion that Romney’s plan would make the tax system less progressive. My take? What the hell are we talking about? Romney has no plan!

I think it’s telling that Romney brought up Big Bird during the debate. After all, he’s treating us like children. (For one thing, he expects us to believe that cutting funding for The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports both PBS and NPR and represents a small sliver of a tiny shard of the overall budget [$445 million], is a serious deficit-reduction move, while drastically increasing the U.S. military budget – which approaches $700 billion and is six times larger than that of China, the world’s next largest military power – is fiscally responsible.)

Maybe Big Bird can moderate the next debate. He’d be far more imposing than Jim Lehrer, and he’d better represent the American people – or at least what Romney thinks of the American people: Sure, he likes us well enough – he just thinks we’ve had a free ride for far too long.

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