NOW with Alex Wagner | October 03, 2012
>>> the tour through governor mitt romney 's tax plan has a new turn and it's just as blind as every other turn. let's go through what we know starting from the most basic.
>> so what we're saying is plug all those special tr loopholes so everyone can get their tax rate downs by at least 20%.
>> after facing relentless questioning about how to lower everyone's rates, cut an undefined number of exships and remain revenue neutral governor romney tried to lower expectations last week.
>> by the way, don't be expecting a huge cut in taxes because i'm also going to lower deductions and exemptions.
>> how exactly would the plan make up for the massive 20% tax cut ? if, in fact, there is a 20% tax cut ? far from detailing how the plan would break even congressman paul ryan refused to say what tax cut would cost in the first place.
>> how much would it cost?
>> it's revenue neutral. it's --
>> i'm not talking about cut. we'll get to the deductions but the cut in tax rates .
>> the cut in tax rates is lower all americans tax rates by 20%.
>> how much does that cost?
>> it's revenue lowering. you can --
>> i have to -- you haven't given me the math.
>> well, i don't have the time -- it would take me too long to go through all of the math.
>> yesterday mitt romney finally gave in, sort of. he didn't detail the deductions he intends to eliminate, but at least offered a few suggestions.
>> you could say everybody is going to get up to a $17,000 deduction and use your charitable deduction or your home mortgage deduction or others, health care deduction and fill that bucket, the $17,000 bucket that way and higher income people might have a lower number or do it by the same method that bowles-simpson did it, limiting certain deductions, that's the sort of thing you do with congress.
>> so there you go. that's the sort of thing he's talking about. romney 's campaign emphasized after the interview those ideas are actually not part of his plan writing -- mark halperin , as you know, i'm an easily confused person but i think for even people like you who are not easily confused this is very confusing. is the romney campaign betting they can get through by just confusing the american public into submission?
>> alex, if i were the kind of person who got depressed by a lack of specificity and seriousness in presidential politics i would be very depressed. this cycle you can judge? in different ways. the lack of specificity is ghouling for three reasons, two serious guys, two, the country has big challenges and three both campaigns are enunciated this principle on big important serious things, rather than have the candidate be specific at all about what they do, they say really it's better for the public to have this the rashed out with congress after i'm elected. the president says the same thing about social security reform . i find it unorthodox and maybe i need to cover a few more to cover the romney campaign, a major float of a proposal in a local television interview the day or two before the debate. seems like the $17,000 cap --
>> is actually, i think, an interesting idea, but it's not one that governor romney is apparently actually proposing and not one that his campaign is answering specific questions about. why he's going to throw something out there on the eve of the debate is a little unclear to me but it is incumbent upon him. this is the center piece of what he's runni inrunning. you can theoretically offset if you scale back enough deductions but to do that requires a powerful president to take on a lot of special interests and with no mandate by talking about it specifically, i don't know how he can possibly accomplish it.
>> kurt, $17,000 bucket, dropped quite literally on the eve of the debate and you walk back, walk back and say maybe not that bucket maybe a basket of a different shape and size.
>> it's very interesting. for him to say that, here's what mitt romney was saying, he was saying let's mean test federal tax expen tours, limit to $17,000 a precise number how much you can deduct all in. that means rich people , people who have more than $17,000 in deductions, ie his base, lose out in that. moreover he said then continuing, and maybe people with higher incomes wouldn't get the $17,000. which is why i -- so he moved really left in this which is why i think his spokesperson came out and said no, no, no, the governor is going to maintain distributed neutrality, not just revenue neutral, but distributed neutrality because i'm sure they were suddenly saying, whoa, dude, no, rich people got to keep all those deductions.
>> here's the thing. you guys are talking about this like it's a serious policy idea. it's not. it's a tactic. it is a communications tactic. when you talk about things and say my plan, you know, number one we're going to do this and number two feed the dog and number three we're going to walk the dog , people -- they don't really hear about the specifics.
>> orderly proceeding. i think that's more like walk the dog and then, you know, have dinner then we're going to go to mars.
>> [ inaudible ].
>> when he's talked about his five-point plan. throw out 17,000, sounds like a specific. we have to realize a majority of the country are not getting the level of detail we are and everybody knows in a 90-second answer if you can just make it sound like i'm going to call it the reagan this or the -- people think it's a plan. okay. he's got specifics.
>> i agree with 8090% of what mark said and policy specifics are a window into the candidates but at the same time this will all be hashed out by congress and we can dwell and obsess over the numbers and how they add up but really, we don't know what the composition of the congress is going to be like, these plans dramatically change -- i went back and read the transcript of the first obama /mccain debate where obama was hammering mccain for proposing to raise taxes on health care benefits which is what obama did in his health care benefit. i'm just reminding people a lot of what we're hearing you have to take with grain of salt that big picture priorities usually are followed through on. but the details get swept away --
>> also --
>> the one big policy thing that romney has done is walking away from and at least with president obama , i mean we've got obama care, we've got the jobs act, we've got some actual ideas that he has put on the table, things he has done in the last four years to say, we can see what your philosophy is. we can see what specificity. romney won't even give you that.
>> the wall of obfuscation, brick by brick. mark halperin , we haven't talked about the coverage of "time," the debate special and we're not trying to depress anybody here but the thesis here written by one of our friends to the show, michael sherry, he talks about how voters are just increasingly less demanding of the truth, that political fibs we can get away with them and things like details on tax plans doesn't really matter to the american public anymore. your thoughts on that?
>> it's a great cover, we put it out a day early in part so people could look at the debate through the prism. it is -- there are lots of problems with our politics and political media culture and we can't solve all of them and some of these things have been around forever. it is true even with more media and with more opportunities to have serious discussions on tv and on the web and elsewhere, these two campaigns are running campaigns that -- where there's no penalty for not telling the truth either about their own ideas or attacking the other side. everybody working for the president, everybody working for governor romney knows what's going on. but we don't have any process in place, any mechanism in place to discipline them so that when they can be called out in a way that corrects their behavior. the cover story details that and i urge everybody involved in this process including jim lehrer to try to make the last 40 days better than what we've seen so far. the country deserves better and these candidates are better than their campaigns in terms of trying to actually tell the truth about the challenges we face.
>> thank you to emmy darling mark halperin for leaving us less depressed and less confused than when we started the hour. thanks for your time, mark.
>> thanks, alex.
>> coming up, not so great expectations, both campaigns try to lower the bar ahead of tonight's debate we will try to sneak a peek inside the playbook. smoke screen and strategy with the obama campaign 's ben labolt, just ahead. time