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Anderson Cooper Relies on 'Assumptions' to Debase Romney Tax Plan

CNN's Anderson Cooper cited the liberal Tax Policy Center debunking Mitt Romney's tax plan on Monday, without noting that one of the authors admitted the plan could still work with different assumptions. He waited until the end of his report to admit that the studies in question were "making assumptions."

"[A] bipartisan panel of three authors for the Tax Policy Center examined the plan and concluded that there's really no way of making the numbers work, that is, unless the middle class pays more," Cooper reported on the night before Tuesday's presidential debate. That is misleading, since the study admitted reliance on "certain assumptions" and one of its authors said the plan could work. The TPC report was released in August.

As the Weekly Standard noted, with a different economic model and assuming Romney would get rid of certain exclusions, his plan could meet its standards of lowering taxes with revenue neutrality, without raising taxes on middle class households. One of the authors of the study said it was possible, albeit difficult. Cooper made no note of this.

Instead, he cast doubt on sources supporting Romney's tax plan, including a conclusion by Princeton professor Harvey Rosen. Rosen told the Weekly Standard that the math could add up "under plausible assumptions."

"Princeton economist Harvey Rosen assumes the tax cuts would generate enough economic growth to offset the cost, but for many, that is – that's a rather large assumption. One that's also by the way questioned by many conservative economists as well," Cooper lamely questioned the study. He could just easily have thrown water on the Tax Policy Center study that relies on "assumptions."

Cooper insists that the plan is not specific enough to be definitively graded, thus "Every one of these authors in each of these studies or so-called studies is making assumptions." That passes for the TPC study as well, which stated on page one that "under certain assumptions" the Romney plan would raise taxes on the middle class to remain revenue-neutral.

A transcript of Cooper's "Keeping Them Honest" segment, which aired on Anderson Cooper 260 on October 15 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN anchor: Ahead of tomorrow's big presidential debate we are taking a look at Mitt Romney's tax plan and his claim it'll cut rates without ballooning the budget deficit. We are interested in it for two reasons tonight. It was a major subject on the Sunday shows where Romney advisors continued to defend it and no doubt it will be a big topic tomorrow night. "Keeping Them Honest," though, a bipartisan study found the math doesn't work and other studies which the Romney campaign counters with, well they're coming under fire tonight as well. Take a look.

(Video Clip)

ED GILLESPIE, Romney campaign senior adviser: Six different studies have said this is entirely doable.

(Crosstalk)

CHRIS WALLACE, host, Fox News Sunday: – very questionable. Some of them – some of them are blogs, some of them are from the AEI, which is hardly an independent group. Those are not –

 
GILLESPIE: These are very credible sources. And –  

WALLACE: One of them is from a guy who is – is a blog from a guy who was a top advisor to George W. Bush. These are hardly nonpartisan studies.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: That was top Romney advisor Ed Gillespie. More on that in a moment. First, though, I just want to begin at the beginning, with what Mr. Romney has been promising.

(Video Clip)

MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential nominee: Under no circumstances will I raise taxes on the middle class of America.

We're going to keep our taxes down.

Rep. PAUL RYAN (R-Wisc.), GOP vice presidential nominee: What Mitt and I are proposing is a five-point plan --

ROMNEY: There will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit, but I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle income Americans.

The combination of limiting deductions and credits and exemptions –

RYAN: You can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle class taxpayers.

It is mathematically possible.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: So that's the promise. "Keeping Them Honest," though, neither he nor his running mate Paul Ryan have ever specified which tax deductions they'll cap, which loopholes they'll close, or frankly give out many details at all. Their campaign advisors didn't either, this weekend. Despite that handicap, a bipartisan panel of three authors for the Tax Policy Center examined the plan and concluded that there's really no way of making the numbers work, that is, unless the middle class pays more. Thousands of dollars more per family, according to the authors. The Romney campaign called the study biased and began saying that academic support of its own. Take a look.

(Video Clip)

ROMNEY: The good news is that five different economic studies, including one at Harvard and Princeton, at AEI and a couple at the Wall Street Journal, all show that if we bring down our top rates and actually go across the board, bring down rates for everyone in America –

You can remain revenue neutral.

Now you cite a study. There's six other studies that looked at the study you described and say it's completely wrong.

GILLESPIE: Six different studies have said this is entirely doable.

(Crosstalk)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What gives? If you're not right about your projections?

ROMNEY: Well, because, first of all, I've got Princeton, Harvard, Wall Street Journal and AEI all saying actually that we can bring down the rates.

RYAN: Six studies have guaranteed, six studies have verified that this math adds up.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," though, not quite. The suggestion is that these are full-blown academic studies. Actually, three are blog posts, one is a Wall Street Journal op-ed. In the Wall Street Journal piece, Martin Feldstein, who's also a campaign advisor, makes the math work but only by using a different definition of middle class than Mr. Romney uses in his own plan.

In another study cited by Mr. Romney, Princeton economist Harvey Rosen assumes the tax cuts would generate enough economic growth to offset the cost, but for many, that is – that's a rather large assumption. One that's also by the way questioned by many conservative economists as well.

Bottom line, though, that word "assume." Every one of these authors in each of these studies or so-called studies is making assumptions. Now some may be solid assumptions, others dubious, but they're all just assumptions because neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan nor any of their surrogates have yet come forward with specifics.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center