In an effort to discredit the Tax Policy Center’s conclusion that Mitt Romney’s tax plan would either impose higher taxes on the middle class or require increased deficits, Republicans are touting a supposedly “nonpartisan study” proving otherwise. Last week, the Romney campaign released a television ad referencing the study that purports to refute the criticism of Romney’s plan.
The “nonpartisan” analysis comes from the American Enterprise Institute, a decidedly conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. In fact, Romney’s economic team includes at least three people affiliated with AEI. Romney advisers Glenn Hubbard and Gregory Mankiw are both listed on AEI’s website as “visiting scholars.” Hubbard, who preceded Mankiw as chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, was “an architect of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003,” according to the Washington Post. Another economic adviser and surrogate, Kevin Hassett, is AEI’s Director of Economic Policy Studies.
The author of the report backing Romney’s position is Alex Brill, an AEI research fellow who also served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. While Brill insists that Romney’s plan is “not a tax hike on the middle class,” he has previously criticized President Obama’s preference for tax cuts geared toward the middle class instead of the wealthiest Americans. In October 2008, Brill co-authored an op-ed arguing that “rate cuts for high incomes or reductions in investment taxes” are superior to Obama’s “tax favors for the middle class.”
Alex Brill Served As A Staff Economist On The President’s Council Of Economic Advisers From 2001-2. [AEI.org, accessed 10/8/12]
Brill In 2008: Obama’s Plan Cuts Taxes For The Middle Class. According to an article by the American Enterprise Institute’s Alan D. Viard, Alex Brill, and Arthur C. Brooks: “For those making less than roughly $200,000 ($250,000 for couples), Obama would not only make President Bush's tax cuts permanent but would also offer an array of new tax credits. Nobody should deny this. To be sure, these ‘tax cuts’ contain some sleight of hand. More than $400 billion of the money over the next 10 years would take the form of refundable tax credits paid in cash to people who already pay no federal income tax. It would be more accurate to refer to these cash outlays as cuts in payroll tax or -- even more accurately -- as transfer payments. Regardless of what the credits are called, though, they would put more money in the pockets of some American families.” [Washington Post, 10/29/08]
- Brill Op-Ed Touted “Rate Cuts For High Incomes Or Reductions In Investment Taxes” Over Middle-Class Tax Cuts. According to an article by the American Enterprise Institute’s Alan D. Viard, Alex Brill, and Arthur C. Brooks: "Regardless of what the credits are called, though, they would put more money in the pockets of some American families. That sounds great in these tough economic times. Who can be against a boost to spending power and consumption? We can. While a few of Obama's proposals may be sensible, the overall package would be bad for the economy. Unlike rate cuts for high incomes or reductions in investment taxes, most of Obama's proposed tax cuts would do little to reduce the tax penalty on work and saving. For some households, the penalty on work and saving would even increase because the new tax credits would be phased out as income rises. These proposals wouldn't deliver the economic growth that incentive-based tax cuts would.” [Washington Post, 10/29/08]
- Brill Op-Ed Concluded That “Obama Is Offering Real Tax Favors For The Middle Class, But Not Real Benefits For The Economy.” According to an article by the American Enterprise Institute’s Alan D. Viard, Alex Brill, and Arthur C. Brooks: “In sum, Obama may very well give Joe the Plumber a tax break, but only if Joe does not become too successful. Obama is offering real tax favors for the middle class, but not real benefits for the economy.” [Washington Post, 10/29/08]