Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has a problem: he lies. A lot. It can be hard to keep track of all the many lies Romney tells on the stump, but in the last week, he’s told at least two whoppers and one lie by omission. In honor of the London Games, here are Mitt’s top three lies of the last week — starting with the bronze medal winner.
“I Have Paid Taxes. Every Year. A Lot of Taxes.”
Romney has been dogged by questions about his tax returns, exacerbated by his steadfast refusal to release more than one year’s worth of taxes. (He’s promised to release one more year in the fall.) Romney faced added scrutiny over the last week, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said that a reliable source told him that Romney paid no federal income tax for several years, and that is the reason he won’t release his returns.
Romney and Republicans have demanded that Reid retract the statement, but so far, Romney has been unwilling to release the tax returns that could prove Reid a liar. Instead, Romney chose to go before his supporters and declare that he has too paid taxes — trust him.
“Let me also say categorically: I have paid taxes every year. A lot of taxes. A lot of taxes,” Romney said Friday. That is, of course, almost certainly true. Romney likely paid sales taxes and property taxes and gasoline taxes, just like everyone else. Of course, Romney left a very important word out of his defense: “income.”
Romney was careful not to claim he paid income taxes every year, which are the taxes Reid was talking about. Does that mean Reid is right? Well, without seeing Romney’s tax returns, it’s impossible to say.
One other part of Romney’s statement is a lie: the part where he says he paid “a lot” of taxes. Romney only paid 14 percent of his income in taxes in 2010. That’s because most of his income was investment income, which is taxed at a far lower rate than job income is. Certainly, the dollar amount Romney paid was higher than your average Joe, but the percentage Romney paid is far from burdensome.
Obama is Going to “Gut Welfare Reform”
For those of you who are either too young to remember the late 20th century (or for those of you who’ve chosen to block it out), welfare reform was once a great Republican bugaboo, the “immigrants are stealing your jobs” of the Reagan era. Ronald Reagan himself once decried the “strapping young bucks” who used welfare to buy “t-bone steaks,” and if that sounds incredibly racist, you’re right.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton helped Republicans achieve their goal of slashing — er, reforming — welfare. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act made it harder to get public assistance, especially for women who were seeking post-secondary degrees. While the act did have the effect of kicking a lot of people off of assistance, the initial reports of its significant benefits in reducing poverty were primarily due to the roaring economy of the tech boom.
Why do I mention this? Because Mitt Romney’s base is made up of people who were well into adulthood when the PRWOA was signed into law, people who remember welfare reform as a salient issue. Romney is attempting to appeal to those voters with his second-biggest lie of the week, the lie that President Obama wants to “gut welfare reform.”
Romney’s lie hinges on waivers that the Obama administration is issuing to states that want flexibility to adjust work requirements in the face of the current recession. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote last month, “The actual language is rather strict and rules out a number of potential waiver applications.” Job requirements are not going to be eliminated; rather, states will be able to use increased flexibility to help move recipients toward long-term employment.
Given the Republican love of giving the states more power, this may seem like something they would support the president in doing, or at the very least, have trouble arguing against. Romney makes the argument simpler by lying; in the ad, the campaign says, “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.”
Incidentally, if you’re wondering where Barack Obama could have gotten the idea of giving states more flexibility on welfare requirements, it may have come from this 2005 letter from the Republican Governor’s Association requesting exactly that from then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The second signature on the request was then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was for Obama’s welfare rule changes before he was against them.
“I’ll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them.”
Mitt’s biggest lie of the past week is a doozy. Romney claimed that Barack Obama was trying to limit the voting rights of members of the military in Ohio, because of a lawsuit filed in the state over Ohio’s decision to eliminate early voting except for members of the military. Was Obama trying to “undermine” the rights of soldiers? In a word, no. Instead, Obama and the Democratic Party sought to give everyone in Ohio the same rights as Ohio wanted to give soldiers — in other words, to give everyone the opportunity to vote early.
Nevertheless, Romney took to Facebook to play more-patriotic-than-thou, lambasting Obama for “claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period,” something Romney said was an “outrage.” Of course, Obama wants to keep those early voting privileges in place for the military, and extend it for everyone — including veterans. Romney would refuse to give veterans early voting privileges. Who’s undermining voting rights now?
Indeed, Romney’s bald-face lie drew a rejoinder from John Soltz of VoteVets.org, who said, “Obviously with the narrative the Romney campaign is pushing, they probably don’t have a lot of people around them who have actually served. We also agree, like the president does, that someone who served in World World II in the Battle of the Bulge or someone who lost their legs in Vietnam has just as much of a right to vote as today’s veteran.”
With three whoppers in the last week, it’s tempting to ask why Romney thinks he can lie with impunity, but of course, the answer is simple: the media won’t call him on it. Given over to fake even-handedness, the media is stuck saying things like this:
Republicans say a lawsuit brought by Obama for America in July seeks to eliminate additional time for in-person early voting allotted to service members in the battleground state. Democrats, on the other hand, contend the presumptive GOP nominee is deliberately trying to distort the facts.
Yes, some say the sun is hot, others say it is cold; who can say who’s telling the truth? Well, the media could, but that would require them to care more about the truth than balance. As long as the media keeps playing at “balance,” Romney will keep spitting out a few notable lies every week.
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey