Published Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:26 pm
Froma Harrop: Romney’s arrogance is on display, as are his misleading election claims

It can’t be by accident that Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs made the Sunday talk-show rounds using the word “masterful” to describe Mitt Romney’s performance at the presidential debate.

True, President Obama looked tired, while Romney was brimming with old ideas. But Romney’s master-of-the-universe act was not universally admired. It will be turned on him.

Romney’s trampling on moderator Jim Lehrer’s gentle requests to observe the debate rules reminded many of the Bain Capital raptor who made a fortune off a strip-and-flip strategy that sent companies into oblivion after cheating workers of their pensions and even stiffing the guys delivering the coffee. Off his game during the debate, Obama didn’t make such connections. No doubt he will next time.

Obama also seemed unprepared for the new Romney tactic of flinging crumbs of compassion to the peasantry. After the cameras went off, the Romney staff took some of the crumbs back, particularly the ones seeming to support more health-coverage security for workers — but how many noticed?

In a related divide-and-conquer strategy, Romney made a point of reassuring Americans 55 and older that their generous Medicare-as-we-know-it benefits were safe. In the real world, it won’t be. The idea that Americans born after 1957 (who will become more numerous as time goes on) will meekly pay taxes to support a benefit level far above what they will get is most unrealistic.

The centerpiece of the debate was Romney’s plan for $5 trillion in tax cuts. The Republican held that they would not add to deficits because any lost revenues would be covered by closing various tax loopholes and deductions.

When Obama noted that Romney had refused to name a single example, Romney brushed aside the impertinence. With all the self-assurance of George W. Bush, he insisted that the revenues would appear and that was that.

In a new ad, Romney says in his take-charge way, “There’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.’’ As Igor would say in the old horror movies, “Yes, mahster.”

But forgive a non-economist for taking the liberty to ask: If you are specific about cutting marginal rates by 20 percent, ending the estate tax and lowering corporate income taxes, and you insist those lost revenues will be made up by closing loopholes and deductions, aren’t you a teensy bit obligated — though master you may be — to reveal what loopholes and deductions would go?

“Meet the Press” addressed Romney’s silence on these details. Republican strategist Mike Murphy volunteered that Romney has talked about the mortgage-interest deduction. This is a tax deduction that actually doesn’t make much economic sense but is beloved by many middle-class homeowners.

If Romney wanted to shrink or end that deduction in service of cutting deficits, he would deserve credit for a politically courageous proposal. But his plan is to shrink the loopholes and deductions not to lower deficits but to cover additional tax cuts for the rich.

And no, his numbers don’t work.

To make the tax cut revenue-neutral, he’d have to break his vow to maintain the wealthy’s overall tax burden. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says you can’t cut rich people’s tax rates by 20 percent and make up for the lost revenues without collecting more taxes from the middle class.

Team Romney was understandably bucked up by Obama’s failure to punch back. But Obama and his people eventually will.

When they do, the master-of-the-universe bit will get taken apart — and in a masterful way.

Contact the writer:

Read more related stories
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
< >
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »