Last week, I took a break from my weekly self-imposed chore of selecting Mitt Romney's biggest lie of the week, because I believe in the old tradition of not criticizing American politicians while they're on foreign soil. Sadly, no one had to criticize the governor during his trip, because he was doing the work for them--coming across not like a very, very well educated (he has, after all, two post-graduate degrees from Harvard), sophisticated man, but like a bumbling rube making his first trip off the farm. It's a good thing that the populaces of most of our allies think more of us now, since President Obama took office, than they used to (a fact that Romney still lies about), because if they didn't, after Gov. Romney's performance they might have written us off entirely.
Spending time overseas didn't keep Mitt from lying, though--apparently nothing can do that. One of the many dubious statements he made over there, in fact, goes to exactly that issue. "I tend to tell people what I actually believe, and referring to the comments that were made in the media is something which I felt was an honest reflection of what was being concerned, or what was concerning folks," Romney said.
I suppose the most generous interpretation of that comment: "I tend to tell people what I actually believe," could argue that he actually believes all the untrue things he says, even when they vary from day to day or moment to moment. Maybe he is just that gullible, his beliefs so freeform that one day he can talk about how inferior Palestinian culture is to Israeli culture, then the next he can say he wasn't talking about their culture, and a the next he can release an op-ed in which he claims that he had to talk about culture, because culture is important. And by the way, the reason those Mexicans are poor is the same, it's all in their backward culture.
But maybe, just maybe, he really does believe everything he says. Maybe when he said, “As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” although those numbers bear no semblance to reality--in fact, are so far from reality that he must have made them up, as they could not, under any circumstance, be confused with reality--maybe he believed it in that instant. In that case, he's not lying. He's woefully ill-informed--and worse, for a candidate (or especially a president), willing to spout off on topics about which he apparently knows nothing.
The real numbers, by the way, are that in 2011, Israeli per capita GDP was $31,000, and Palestinian was $1,500. And the gap has much more to do with the fact that the Palestinians are living in an occupied country, with restrictions on trade, travel, and business activities, than with culture. But those are just facts, about which Gov. Romney is apparently unconcerned.
And maybe he wasn't lying, but actually ignorant, when he praised Israel's healthcare system (which is more socialized than Romneycare and Obamacare), or when he praised Poland's "small government" (which not only provides its citizens free healthcare but also free universities and other not-so-small services).
Either way, his trip will be remembered more for the damage it did to international relations than it will for being a statesmanlike voyage. And either way, the most memorable turn of phrase came not from Romney, but from his press secretary, when he said, "Kiss my ass! This is a holy site!" Way to stay classy.
So yes, I took a break last week. And part of me was hoping that when he returned, Romney would have thought better about truth-telling, rather than just claiming to be a truth-teller. But instead, he has continued his usual pattern, even continued telling some of the same, long-discredited lies, like his insistence that when President Obama said, "If you have a business, you didn't build that," the "that" refers to the business and not to the infrastructure and educated, middle class customer base, etc., that allows American businesses to succeed, and to which he was clearly referring.
But we've done that one. So this week, I have to say that the biggest lie was about his tax plan. He's been telling us for months that a) we can't know the specifics of his plan, but we should trust that it will magically heal the economy and create jobs, and b) it will lower taxes for everybody.
Now we know that the second claim is not true. Here's a PDF of independent analysis showing that under his plan, millionaires and billionaires see their taxes go down, while, in order to pay for those tax cuts, everybody else has to pay more. Period. Mitt claims that cutting certain deductions (which he won't specify) will change that, but the facts don't support that claim. The facts tell us that all of our taxes will go up--not to fix our crumbling infrastructure, not to put more teachers in classrooms and more cops on the streets, not to lower the deficit--but to give Mitt (and Obama, and the relative handful of millionaires and billionaires around the country) huge tax breaks. All those other things, infrastructure and education and deficit reduction? They have to take a backseat to the more important priority of tax cuts for the rich. Mitt's tax plan is a huge income redistribution scheme, taking from those who can least afford it and giving to those who least need it.
And this report is no lefty hatchet job. Although Romney and his team spent the week running down the organization that released it, the Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center, as partisan and biased, in the very recent past he and his campaign have praised that same institute. They also claim the study used biased expectations, although in fact the authors bent over backwards to give Romney's plan every benefit of the doubt. And Romney continues to insist that tax cuts for the rich create jobs and growth, and, in his words, "When you raise taxes, you lower growth." Economists differ, but not much--by far, most economists think we need a pro-growth plan that includes more government spending, and more revenue from taxes. As far as Romney's claim, one has only to look back at the Reagan and Clinton eras to know it's not true.
So Romney gives us a plan that can't be scored because he won't release the details, and says it will spur growth and create jobs. When it turns out that the best independent analysis says that all it will do is hand more of our nation's wealth to the already-rich while putting everybody else in worse straits, and will not help with the real problems facing us because there's nothing left in the budget for those things after the tax cuts, instead of offering whatever details he thinks disproves their point, he and his team attack the messengers (who they have previously cited to make arguments of their own).
Maybe he isn't lying, though. Maybe, as he tells us, he really believes the things he says, however self-contradictory or nonsensical.
That just leaves the Romney supporters with one question: is it better to vote for a candidate who lies to you almost daily, or one with the grasp of issues and logic of a three-year-old? It's got to be one or the other, doesn't it?