President Obama is running another ad pretending Mitt Romney has a secret plan to raise taxes on the middle class, which Freudians would call projection. We're not sure what they'd call the President's bid to make us his accomplices by invoking The Wall Street Journal, but our term for it is political sociopathy.
"To pay for huge new tax breaks for millionaires like him," the narrator says, "Romney would have to raise taxes on the middle class—$2,000 for a family with children, says a nonpartisan report." Then this newspaper's nameplate glides across the screen, with the text, "Study: Romney's Tax Plan Hits Middle Class, 8/1/12."
That would be a 250-word, four-paragraph item on the Journal's Washington Wire blog, which merely informed readers of the existence of a Tax Policy Center study on the Romney tax plan. That's the supposedly "nonpartisan report" the ad cites.
Since Mr. Obama's ad makers had perhaps a million such uncritical blurbs to choose from, and most of them lacked straight-up-the-middle headlines, our guess is that they deliberately choose the Journal to associate Mr. Obama with this editorial page's antitax credibility. It's a subtle if familiar appeal to authority: "Even the Wall Street Journal . . ."
Apart from taking our name in vain, the larger problem is citing a month-old blog post about what is a single and now discredited report. The Tax Policy Center authors—Samuel Brown, William Gale and Adam Looney, the last a former Obama Administration economist—concluded that Mr. Romney's tax plan was "mathematically impossible" and therefore to avoid increasing the deficit he would have to dip into the lower-income brackets for more revenue.
But it turns out the authors made selective and speculative assumptions and even invented tax details that Mr. Romney has never endorsed. In a follow-up paper on August 16, they conceded that they were merely looking at "the broad implications" of Mr. Romney's reform.
Later in August, Harvard economist and Romney adviser Martin Feldstein published his own calculations in these pages. He concluded, "Since broadening the tax base would produce enough revenue to pay for cutting everyone's tax rates, it is clear that the proposed Romney cuts wouldn't require any middle-class tax increase, nor would they produce a net windfall for high-income taxpayers. The Tax Policy Center and others are wrong to claim otherwise."
In still another walkback, Messrs. Brown, Gale and Looney concede again that "both Feldstein and we use stylized reforms that could not be implemented in practice" and that the whole debate "over what is or isn't possible"—er, the debate they started—"distracts from the more important question of what the Romney plan actually is."
Egged on by the likes of the Tax Policy Center, the media are demanding an absurd level of detail from Mr. Romney that no candidate in history has ever been required to offer. (What will you do about the tax treatment of municipal bond interest?) Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is awarded with a get-out-of-policy-jail-free card for his budget that proposes to take on debt indefinitely until the economy crashes. A middle-class tax increase is far more likely—we'd say a certainty—under Mr. Obama's plan than it is under Mr. Romney's.
We want nothing to do with that agenda, but readers who see our name exploited in a TV ad should take it as one more sign of the Obama campaign's serial dishonesty.
A version of this article appeared September 14, 2012, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Obama Street Journal.