For weeks now I have been watching an unending argument about tax loopholes.
In essence, Mitt Romney says he wants to cut everyone's taxes by 20 percent, a cut that would cost the government $5 trillion over time. He would pay for that revenue loss in part by closing loopholes in the tax code that often benefit the very rich.
No rich person will actually pay any less in taxes tomorrow than he pays today, Romney says. What he gives with his left hand, he takes with his right.
President Obama cries foul. He points to independent studies that suggest it is mathematically impossible for Romney to achieve the ends he claims. Romney, in turn, cites six prestigious "studies" that purport to show it is mathematically possible. Among them are an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and a couple of blog posts.
Here's the problem: This whole discussion is irrelevant because no one is going to close any loopholes.
If Romney is elected president, he will probably get his tax cuts. Everyone loves to cut taxes.
And, I'll take him at his word that he will try to forge some bipartisan program to reform the tax code.
And nothing will happen.
Well, something will happen. Every pressure group in the United States will swing into action to protect its particular loophole. It is the "loophole" that makes it possible for art museums to survive, for homeowners to afford their houses -- and for real estate agents to sell them. The loopholes provide the funds that keep Romney's Mormon faith alive and it is the loopholes that keep my liberal Protestant faith alive.
Romney may be sincere in plotting to keep rich people paying as much as they do now (which, to be fair, isn't all that much) but he is ignoring one group of people who will not agree: the rich people. The rich people will hire lobbyists and attorneys to make the case for why they shouldn't lose loopholes and the rich people will make large campaign contributions to congressmen and senators to encourage them to listen to said lobbyists and attorneys.
Republican office holders all claim to want to close loopholes and cut the deficit. Then, they take office and the deficit increases. The only two presidents we've had who actually lowered the deficit (as opposed to the national debt) are Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
So, I don't really care how Mitt Romney plans to close loopholes. It ain't gonna happen.