Despite the many words uttered Wednesday night about taxes, neither President Obama nor Republican candidate Mitt Romney unveiled any new policy specifics during the first presidential debate.
Even the potential zingers about taxing the rich or the huge number of people who pay no federal income taxes never materialized.
What a shame for viewers, who instead were subjected to small bore discussions on the taxes on corporate jets or caps on itemized deductions.
Republican Mitt Romney used his time to stress that he would not raise taxes on the middle class, in an effort to refute a widely cited study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. It said that in order to lower tax rates as much as he'd like, Romney would need to eliminate or scale back tax deductions that overwhelmingly benefit low and middle-income people.
More recently, Romney said he is considering a plan to cap itemized deductions (particularly for higher income people) as a way to pay for the lower rates. Still, his advisers stress this is just one option he's considering.
Obama forgot about all of the tax zingers at his disposal (hello, 47 percent video!) and instead focused on the Democrats' well-worn argument that the math of Romney's tax plan doesn't add up and can't be offset by spending cuts. Obama kept harping on the $5 trillion tax cut figure, which refers to Romney's plan to reduce individual tax rates by 20 percent across the board. (This assumes the Republicans don't find a way to pay for them).
That's a fair point to bring up, given the dearth of specifics from the Romney camp--except that Obama's own tax-the-rich message also won't cut it over the long-term. In order to make a dent in the deficit, Democrats too at some point will have to explore taxing people other than just the top 2 percent of taxpayers. That is, if they want to stick to a balanced approach to deficit reduction that involves tax increases and spending cuts.