Charlottesville and Albemarle residents may have spotted a familiar face talking politics at events and on the airwaves earlier this month when former 5th District Representative Tom Perriello swung through town. He’s stumping across the country—but not for any candidates.
Perriello now works for the Center for American Progress, and is CEO of its Action Fund. He’s been touring swing states with CAP’s data-driven message, hammering home a report on taxes arguing that when you do the math on Romney’s budget plan, it adds up to more costs for the middle class.
According to CAP’s analysis (read the full report here), Romney and Ryan’s plan would have to cut 58 percent from tax deductions like the child tax credit, the mortgage interest deduction, the exemption for employer-provided health benefits, the deduction for state and local taxes, and—one CAP emphasizes a lot—deductions for college education costs. At the same time, a rollback of the Affordable Care Act would reinstate some health care costs. That would have a direct effect on middle-income families, Perriello said: Families with incomes lower than $200,000 would see taxes rise by an average of $2,000, according to the report. Meanwhile, it says, Romney’s top donor would get more than $2 billion in direct tax benefits from the same plan.
Drilling down on specific benefits lost, Perriello said Virginians would see the most pain when it came to college costs, which would go up by an average of $5,600, and Medicare, which he said would sustain costs that would require people still in their prime to save $200,000 over their working lifetimes to keep the same level of benefits on retirement.
The report may get dismissed by Republicans, he said, because CAP leans left. “But if a liberal group says two plus two equals four, two plus two still equals four,” Perriello said. “When you have a think tank like mine, maybe people can focus on the message.” But Bush economic advisors at the bipartisan Tax Policy Center has weighed in, too, Perriello pointed out, and their analysis of the Romney-Ryan budget plan comes to similar conclusions—based on the information the former Massachusetts governor has provided, trillions in tax cuts would, TPC has said, affect the middle class.
So how do you hush the naysayers? “Unlike a lot of groups out there, we’re 100 percent transparent about our math,” Perriello said. “People can read the report themselves, see how the conclusions are drawn, and make their own judgement. We’re not hiding anything.”
Perriello said the and compromised ideals of professional politics wearied him. Doing the math on everybody’s budget plans is antidote to what ails races, he said—even if it’s not as fun and flashy as covering gaffes and smear tactics. “The media’s going to cover process stories, because it’s cheap, and it’s safe,” he said. And the only response to political spin is to keep throwing the math at politicians.
Spin isn’t what he calls Romney’s repeated debate claims about being able to cut taxes for everyone and reduce the deficit. Those, Perriello said, are lies. “That’s sort of like deciding, ‘I want to get in shape, but tonight, I’m going to have cake, ice cream, and a couple of Scotches. You’ll probably have a fun night, but you’re probably going to regret it in the morning.”