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     Oct 5, 2012

The $5 trillion question
By Pepe Escobar

The President of the United States (POTUS), Barack Obama, has had to run a country - and try to keep up with the world - for these past few weeks, whereas Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney only had to run his 47% mouth - as he was prepped, re-prepped, and mega-prepped for Wednesday's Denver debate, or

Colorado shoot-out, that would make or break him in this race.

Himalayas, Hindu Kushes, Karakorams and Pamirs of spin are being crossed and re-crossed as winning debate attributions of the "Romney reboot" kind keep flying about. None of this matters; what matters is what moves independent and undecided US voters in, especially, Ohio and Florida. Theater critics for their part may be inclined to muse how Mitt looked like a bat out of hell at an Actor's Studio workshop trying to impersonate a politician with fire on his belly.

And then there's the small matter of a tax plan.

In his eagerness to spew out all matter of memorized talking points in virtually any intervention, as if he had a date with destiny (he actually had), 47% Mitt seems to have forgotten that for months he's been running a campaign in which one of the central planks is to lower the taxes of everyone in the US by 20%. Every worthy independent analysis in the US has concluded that this will mean a revenue deficit of $5 trillion over 10 years.

Here's what Mitt had to say about it when confronted by POTUS:
I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of the scale you're talking about. I think we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I won't reduce the share of tax paid by high-income people. I'm not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce revenues going to the government. My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that no tax cut will add to the deficit.
If taken at his word - and that's a stretch unheard of in the annals of yoga - 47% Mitt has in fact said that he would create millions of jobs without increasing the deficit and without increasing taxes on the battered US middle class; his magic recipe would be to close all loopholes and all deductions for high-income US taxpayers.

Now ask the non-partisan Tax Policy Center; even if Mitt actually did that, which he won't because he is the 1% - make it even 3% - candidate, the end result is absolutely unattainable. [1] The only way for Mitt not to increase the deficit would be to apply what he says he won't; more taxes on the middle class.

As he still refuses to provide any details - or "specifics" - about his tax plan, Mitt in the Colorado shoot out did what he does best; he flip-flopped on his own tax plan. He said, "If the tax plan he [POTUS] described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I would say absolutely not."

So it was up to CNN to do some fact checking about all this. Mitt said cuts in loopholes and deductions would cover his proposed $5 trillion in tax cuts. So, if you take Romney's word for it - according to CNN - then he is right. Fact checked.

Let's assume Sun Tzu was watching this debate somewhere in a Dante-esque circle of gray eminences, sipping rice wine and trading zingers with his peer Machiavelli. He might say POTUS played it right. POTUS did manifest the enthusiasm of someone facing the guillotine. Why didn't he go after Mitt? Why didn't he even mention the 47%? Why didn't he contradict those Mitt figures that don't add up?

Because this may be part of a long, give-him-enough-rope strategy. Concede a battle to win the war. One just has to wait and see when those independent, undecided middle-class voters in swing states - especially Ohio and Florida - do fact check Mitt's $5 trillion game and realize he's going to do what he swears he won't. By then he will have more than enough rope to conduct his own extinction.

1. See here

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

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