Romney, like every Republican candidate, promotes tax cuts. Since Reagan, this message has put the gospel into the G of the GOP. No Republican would ever let himself get cornered with a question about what rate of taxation is low enough because the answer is always - of course - lower.
Yet federal taxes as a percentage of GDP are the lowest they've been in half a century: 15% of the American economy is paid into federal taxes. During the last half century, taxes have ranged from about 18% to 20% of GDP and spending has ranged from about 18% to 21%, resulting in chronic but sustainable deficits. Between Obama and Bush, taxes were drastically cut and spending radically increased. The result is the biggest deficit in the history of the nation, with spending at about 24% of GDP at the same time that taxes are 15%. In a $15 trillion dollar economy, a gap of nearly 10% is huge - more than a trillion dollars. And so it goes.
The truth that no Republican will admit is that there is no way to eliminate - or even seriously reduce - the deficit without a combination of spending cuts AND tax hikes. And yet, in a comment that went completely unnoticed, Romney did just that the other night.
In one of the recent debates, Romney said that he'd support a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget at about 18% to 20% of GDP. Put differently, the man said that he would support not just spending but taxes (in a balanced budget the two are equal) of 18% to 20% of GDP - a sweeping rise of about 3 to 5 percentage points, or a rise of 20% to 33% percent over the current rate of 15%.
That, it seems to me, is a little detail worth talking about. Instead, we chatter about moon bases and whether Romney has the nomination sewn up.