Mitt Romney — fresh off his series of primary victories last night — appeared on CNBC this morning, where he was asked about the Tax Policy Center’s assessment that his tax plan would add trillions of dollars to the national debt. Romney responded by saying that TPC didn’t actually score his whole plan, admitting later in the interview that his plan “can’t be scored” because some of the key details have been left out:
They [TPC] don’t look at the full plan. What I say is we’re going to cut the top marginal rate across-the-board by 20 percent, and at the same time, we’re going to limit deductions and exemptions to pay for most of that and then additional growth will pay for the rest of that such that our plan does not increase the deficit. And then combine that with the savings I just described with Tom in terms of cutting back several government programs or eliminating some of those programs, and we finally get America to a balanced budget…I haven’t laid out all the details of how we’re going to deal with each one of the deductions and exemptions, so I think it’s kind of interesting for the groups who try and score it because, frankly, it can’t be scored because those kinds of details are going to have be worked out with Congress.
The reason that Romney’s plan can’t be scored, as he himself noted, is that he hasn’t explained which deductions and exemptions he will supposedly limit to pay for it. Instead, he waves his hands and promises to get to that part later. But at the same time, he feels comfortable criticizing TPC for not taking into account elements that he freely admits he hasn’t (and maybe won’t ever) release.
But even if Romney coughed up those details, his plan’s math still wouldn’t add up. Even with limiting deductions and exemptions for the richest Americans, Romney would need economic growth to be at 6.5 percent for five years to prevent his plan from adding to the deficit. But the very best five-year period in post-war America was from 1961 to 1966, when economic growth averaged 5.8 percent.
As Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden noted, “Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan relied on consistent 5 percent real growth and he was basically laughed out of the room for making such outlandish assumptions.” Yet Romney’s plan depends on the same sort of fantasy.