[with contributions from Matt O’Brien and Darius Tahir]
Health care reform wasn’t the only issue Mitt Romney dodged last night. As Greg Sargent and Sam Stein point out today, Romney also refused to take a clear position on whether to extend a payroll tax break set to expire at year’s end. Here’s what Romney said when moderator John Harwood first posed the question:
I don’t want to raise taxes on people in the middle of a recession. Of course not. That’s one of the reasons why we fought so hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts were not taken away by President Obama...We cannot continue to pass on massive debts to the next generation.
Harwood, who asked tough, but substantive, questions all night, pressed Romney to address the issue directly: Did he favor extending the payroll tax cut or not? Again, Romney refused to answer, saying only that he didn’t want to raise taxes.
I want to keep our taxes down. I don’t want to raise any taxes anywhere. I’m not looking to raise taxes. What I’m looking to do is to cut spending.
This is not the first time Romney got this question in a debate. Nor is the first time he refused to take a clear position. It also happened in October, during a debate in New Hampshire, when Romney said he opposed “band-aids” but wouldn’t indicate, clearly, whether that included the payroll tax extension.
He sounded a bit more dismissive that time than he did on Tuesday night, although, in both instances, he was so evasive that it’s impossible to pin down what he thought when.
For what it’s worth, I’m willing to believe that Romney sincerely prefers across-the-board, permanent tax cuts to temporary one like the payroll tax break. Of course, I also think that’s lousy economic policy, insofar as it adds long-term pressure to the budget when what we need is short-term relief.
The shame of my state. Have you heard about the anti-bullying law that the Michigan state Senate just passed? It includes an exception for statements by teachers, staff, and school officials that reflect “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The exception’s chief supporter is a conservative activist that has criticized bullying legislation because it is “a trojan horse for the homosexual agenda.” Oh, did I mention that the inspiration for the law was the suicide of a gay teenager who’d suffered relentless harassment in high school? I hope to say more on this later. For now, I’d recommend the analysis by Time’s Amy Sullivan, who is both an expert on religion and politics as well as a native Michigander.
What conservatives used to think about the law. Writing for Slate, Simon Lazarus has a really smart analysis of Judge Silberman’s majority opinion in Tuesday’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.
Inside Rick Perry’s brain: James Fallows has argued for a while that running for president is a lot harder than it seems and that, as a result, campaign experience is more important than even many seasoned political observers seem to realize. He points to Perry’s “oops” moment last night as a case in point. I think he’s absolutely right.
The Daley Show: Speaking of Sam Stein, he has the best account I’ve seen of why why Bill Daley is handing over day-to-day operation of the White House to Pete Rouse.
Borderline trouble: Steve Coll of New Yorker ponders the future of the Mexican drug war and the risk of a “Putinization” of Mexico. Meanwhile, James Poulos in Foreign Policy contemplates the possibility that the U.S. might intervene more forcefully in Mexico.
It’s always good to share: An article by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic profiles Steve Case, former AOL CEO and current venture capitalist, who’s pushing the idea that the next big wave in internet entrepreneurialism is enabling a sharing economy. (If you don’t know what “sharing economy” means, read the article to find out.)
Line of the Day: From Jonathan Chait: “Rick Perry is going to be remembered as the man too stupid to win this Republican nomination. That is a remarkable feat.”
Video of the day: So who’s really foolin’ who in the Republican primaries? I have no idea. Maybe Def Leppard does.