WASHINGTON - The Romney campaign is willing to discuss its proposals on taxes "in the light of day," vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Tuesday evening -- just not until after the election.
Multiple tax policy analysts have concluded that Mitt Romney's tax plan -- to close loopholes and reduce taxes for the wealthy -- means higher taxes for most people in order for the math to work. Brit Hume of Fox News asked Ryan to counter that charge. "What we're saying is get rid of special interest loopholes and deductions that are uniquely enjoyed by the wealthy to lower the tax rates for everybody," Ryan said.
But lowering middle-class tax rates, if coupled with eliminating key deductions, could lead to an effective tax increase, the cornerstone of the analyses of Romney's tax plan. Hume pressed for specifics.
"That is something that we think we should do in the light of day, through Congress," Ryan told Hume, promising to "have a process for tax reform so that we do this in the front of the public. So no, the point I'm trying to say is, we want feedback from Americans about what priorities in the tax code should be kept, and what special interest loopholes we want to get rid of."
One of the "loopholes" that costs the IRS the most money is the mortgage interest deduction. Another relates to municipal bonds. Hume asked Ryan if either would be on the chopping block. Ryan refused to say.
The mortgage deduction is enjoyed by millions of homeowners and is the primary policy by which the government encourages homeownership. Taxing municipal bond interest would drive up the cost of borrowing for local governments substantially.
Ryan's refusal to lay out the ticket's tax plan is in line with Romney's earlier resistance to specify which programs, beyond funding for Planned Parenthood, he'd be willing to cut. During his failed Senate bid in 1994, Romney was open about programs he'd be willing to cut, and faced a backlash. He has cited that negative experience in explaining why he now won't tell voters what spending he plans to eliminate.
Taking the basic contours of the tax plan that Romney has laid out, the Tax Policy Center concluded that for people making less than $200,000, Romney's plan leads to a tax hike.
“Our major conclusion is that any revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower- income taxpayers," wrote the center. "More specifically, after-tax, take-home income for those Americans making less than $200,000 would fall by an average of 1.2 percent under the Romney plan, while after-tax income for those Americans in Romney’s tax bracket would increase by 4.1 percent."
Ezra Klein, in a column for Bloomberg, took a close look at Romney's plan and compared it with the candidate's promise to give a tax cut to everyone. Such a proposal, Klein concluded, was "mathematically impossible."
"He has promised to reduce the deficit, but refused to identify the spending he would cut. He has promised to reform the tax code, but refused to identify the deductions and loopholes he would eliminate. The only thing he has put on the table is dessert: a promise to cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board and to do so without raising the deficit or reducing the taxes paid by the top 1 percent," Klein wrote. "The truth is that Romney is afraid to put his plan on the table."
UPDATE: 7:25 p.m. -- Danny Kanner, a spokesman for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, said in a statement that the TV interview shows Ryan "not ready for primetime." The statement continues:
First, he attacked the President for the very same Medicare savings that he includes in his own budget. In the same breath, he falsely claimed that the Romney-Ryan budget protects Medicare -– in fact, their plan would end Medicare as we know it, leaving seniors with nothing but a voucher in place of the guaranteed benefits they rely on today.
Then, Ryan refused to name a single tax loophole they’d close to pay for their $5 trillion tax plan. We know what that means: as independent experts have confirmed, Romney and Ryan’s tax plan would either explode the deficit or raise taxes on middle class families to pay for their tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. As Romney and Ryan run away from the plans they have laid out -- and in Ryan’s case, passed through the Republican House twice -- they’re revealing that they’d take the American people back to the same failed policies that crashed our economy in the first place, and have zero interest in the bold, honest, substantive debate that they claim is at the center of their campaign.