Opinion: Romney's Economic Plan Doesn't Help the Poor OR the Middle Class

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney speaks during the Florida Republican Presidential debate.

There are a lot of people who are dealing in mountains of conjecture today, following Mitt Romney's comments about his focus being on the middle class, rather than the poor or rich. Who knows if he is "concerned" about the poor or not? A slip of the tongue isn't proof either way. The proof is in the policy that Romney is proposing.

He says he isn't concerned about the poor, and to a degree this is illustrated in a lack of talk from him on issues directly concerning the poor. But there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that he wasn't being truthful when he said he wasn't concerned about the rich.

The outline for Romney's plan on individual taxes actually does play out the way he said, with a focus on the middle class, to a certain degree. Unlike some of the more right wing candidates running for office he is not proposing slashing personal tax rates for the wealthy. Mitt's plan is to eliminate taxes on dividends, capital gains and interest income for those making under $200,000 a year. But he shows that he is, in fact, concerned with the rich as his plan also includes eliminating the "death tax".

Taxation of assets being passed from the deceased only effects the rich. The estate tax, the real name for the "death tax", only applies to assets being passed on that go over a cool $5 million. If you could put people sitting on over $5 million in assets the middle class, your definition needs serious reworking.

Reading through Romney's more detailed plan (PDF), and you'll find some nice ideas. Although doing better than his predecessor, President Obama has been a disappointment in his underwhelming response to China's continued devaluation of it's currency, as well as other unfair trade practices. If Romney would follow through on that promise, that would be very helpful for our economy.

It would be fantastic if we could just up and cut corporate tax rates, if he actually pays for it (unlikely), and expanding energy production here in the United States is a good idea with widespread support among the American people. I particularly like the idea of an expanded DARPA-like program, that would help fund the very sort of research and development we need to be doing to push clean energy technology to being competitive with polluting energy sources sooner.

But the rub is in the funding. Romney rails on Obama all the time for  exploding the national debt, and in many ways his criticisms are valid. But Romney's plans are also brimming with ideas that would either cost money, or take money out of current revenue. This is both hypocritical, as well as very much an attack on the future prosperity of the American middle class.

It is the middle class that will bear the brunt of an out of control national debt, and cutting taxes while not being open to cutting military spending. He's publicly supported Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, that is very much a threat to the benefits of the middle class, but isn't willing to expand the base of the payroll tax so upper income brackets can share in the pain of trying to dig Medicare out of the tens of trillions in underfunding it is looking at in coming decades.

I'm not going to assume that Romney doesn't personally care about poor people. I've known people who very much were convinced that more conservative or libertarian economic policies would be best for the poor in the long run, and he very well could fall into that category. What I do know is many of his policies show that he is very much focused on policy that is targeted at aiding the rich, and the ramifications of some of them threaten the economic foundations of the middle class. I just wish more of the talking heads were talking about this, rather than some small slip of the tongue.