Yesterday, at a rally in Wisconsin, a combative Obama characterized Romney's comments at the debate this way:
Now, last night, this may have actually been the real Mitt Romney, because he ruled out raising a dime on taxes on anyone ever, no matter how much money they make; ruled out closing those loopholes that are giving $4 billion of corporate welfare to the oil companies; refused to even acknowledge the loophole that gives tax breaks to corporations that move jobs overseas.
From the debate transcript, here's what Romney actually said about energy subsidies:
And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world.
Now, I like green energy as well, but that's about 50 years' worth of what oil and gas receives. And you say Exxon and Mobil. Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth.
But, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it's on the table. That's probably not going to survive you get that rate down to 25 percent.
First, a note on the discrepancy over the size of these subsidies. Romney corrected Obama's $4 billion figure at the debate, though he was very slightly off himself. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the actual figure for industry specific oil and gas tax breaks is just under $2.7 billion for FY 2010.
As for the other obvious discrepancy between Obama and Romney's remarks, the president was standing about six feet away from Romney when he commented on oil and gas tax loopholes, so presumably he heard what he said. Let's get this straight: At the debate, Romney is asked about cutting tax loopholes subsidizing oil companies and he says, "Of course it's on the table. That's probably not going to survive." And less than 24 hours later Obama says he "ruled out" touching corporate welfare for oil companies? Please.
Maybe this isn't an earth-shattering blow to the president's credibility, but that's about as clear a case of political dishonesty that I can think of. Yet, the Obama's new strategy is to openly call Romney a liar. And the media, as far as I can tell, has yet to note this obvious falsehood on behalf of the president.
Oh, and by the way, ending that "loophole that gives tax breaks to corporations that move jobs overseas" would save about $17 million a year. Maybe this loophole should be ended on principle, but let's not pretend that this paltry sum—relative to the size of the economy or federal budget—would do much of anything to either reduce incentives for shipping jobs overseas or reduce the deficit significantly. Pretending otherwise is pure demagoguery.