(The Root) — Mitt Romney has been betting against America. His chances of being elected have hinged upon a weak economy, bad unemployment numbers, disillusionment with the political process and latent resentment of President Obama.
This approach, of course, has been the GOP playbook since Jan. 20, 2009. According to Robert Draper's book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the House of Representatives, key Republican leaders met on the night of Obama's inauguration to design their grand plan. Incessant ad hominem attacks against Obama by recalcitrant Republicans, and their refusal to aid policy proposals that would offer the president any political advantage, eventually delivered a landslide victory in the 2010 midterms.
Birtherism and a nonstop attack campaign waged against "Obamacare" were key factors, and it seems that Romney has been counting on a continued wave of negativity. Now aided by unbridled super PAC spending, voter-ID laws to disenfranchise minorities and a stalled economic recovery, Romney's campaign hoped that his propensity for remaining vague about policy specifics would go unnoticed amid the louder GOP propaganda machine.
What Romney didn't anticipate was actually answering questions.
Last weekend Romney and his vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, finally ventured away from the safety of Fox News, offering interviews to the mainstream press in which they failed to answer basic questions about their plans for the economy, health care, tax reform or foreign policy. In their failure to do so, the truth behind the proposals they've already made became all the more glaring — and fodder for fact-checkers.
Romney appeared on NBC's Meet the Press and was asked by David Gregory how he planned to deliver on his promise to cut taxes without increasing the deficit. Romney's response was simply that he would eliminate "some of the loopholes and deductions at the high end" while mitigating "the burden on middle-income people."
An independent study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution — headed by a former adviser to George W. Bush — suggests that Romney's plan to cut individual income tax rates by 20 percent and reduce corporate taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent would leave a revenue gap so wide, it would be impossible not to raise taxes on middle- and low-income wage earners.
Under Romney's plan, Americans making more than $1 million would receive an increase in after-tax income of 4.1 percent (a minimum of $87,000), while families earning less than $200,000 would pay between $2,000 and $4,000 more. Evaluating the numbers only serves to fortify the established narrative that Romney is more concerned about protecting the financial interests of the plutocratic top 1 percent of income earners than about promoting an economic environment that assists the majority. And choosing Ryan as a running mate has done him no favors.
The infamous Ryan budget also cuts taxes on the wealthy and corporations, increasing the deficit by nearly $5 trillion and creating an $897 billion sinkhole in nondefense discretionary spending. What does that mean? Funding for Medicaid, education, food stamps, drug- and food-safety inspection and law enforcement would all be drastically reduced. When ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked him about this on Sunday, Ryan resembled Sarah Palin being asked which newspapers she reads. Crickets.
Even the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, "Mr. Romney's pre-existing political calculation seems to be that he can win the election without having to explain the economic moment or even his own policies."
Romney's tepid, vague statements about closing some tax loopholes reveal that he's either completely uninformed or deliberately misleading voters. The truth? There aren't enough savings in tax loopholes — even if all were eliminated — to make up for the revenue that would be lost through Romney's intended tax breaks.
And herein lies the key distinction in the competing visions for America's future. Romney keeps repeating the need to assist "job creators" by slashing taxes and eliminating levies on capital gains. That message is directed at a small portion of the population: people who actually have enough money to live off interest and investments. The latest census shows that 50 percent of Americans are either poor or surviving on low incomes. What's Romney's plan for them?
By contrast, President Obama wants to return to a Clinton-era tax structure for those earning more than $250,000, raise $2.1 trillion in revenues over the next decade and help pay down the deficit. The president has begun to offer incentives to corporations that bring jobs back to America, and the American Jobs Act, which Obama announced last year — but was blocked by Republicans in Congress — would add nearly 2 million American jobs alone.
This, of course, comes from a president whose jobs record so far includes 2.5 million new manufacturing jobs and 5 million jobs added overall. Obama has already cut taxes for the middle class 19 times and fought for unemployment-insurance benefits to help support struggling families. This is the kind of platform that resonates with the 99 percent.
Romney has relied so heavily on empty attack lines, he now fails in the face of facts. The latest CNN-ORC poll, which shows Obama leading Romney by 6 points, is the latest indication that a vision of hope and change keeps its staying power — despite predictions that doubt and fear had won.
Romney and Ryan are finally being exposed for having little more to offer than rhetoric. Campaign slogans like "We built this" are insufficient when Americans want a blueprint for how to build.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.