Mitt Romney got debate points Wednesday night on style, but not on substance.
While President Obama called his Republican opponent out on several of his more absurd abandonments of fact, and on his even more absurd attempts at repurposing himself—not as the right-wing extremist of the 2012 Republican primaries and convention but as the moderate Paul Tsongas voter of his 1994 race with Ted Kennedy—much of what Romney said went unchallenged.
That does not mean, however, that the most outlandish of Romney’s statements can or should be forgotten.
Indeed, it is in the post-debate moment that those statements will come to haunt Romney.
And none more so than his response to Obama’s mentioning of an old issue: closing loopholes that allow multinational corporations to benefit from moving jobs from communities in the United States to other countries.
Obama was taking about strategies for getting new revenues without raising taxes on struggling businesses: “(Part) of the way to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas,” said the president. “Right now, you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas. I think most Americans would say that doesn’t make sense. And all that raises revenue.”
That’s not actually a debatable point. The US tax code has, since the 1980s, provided multinational corporations with tax breaks for moving jobs overseas. Democrats and Republicans have talked for years about changing the code. The issue was debated in the Senate as recently as July, when Republicans blocked action on the “Bring Jobs Home Act,” which would have provided a 20 percent tax break for the costs of moving jobs back to the United States. That measure would, as well, have rescinded business expense deductions that CNN notes are now “available to companies that are associated with the cost of moving operations overseas."
For Romney, whose debate performance was not encumbered by facts, those details were of no consequence.
Capitalizing on the post-truth moment in which he found himself, Romney turned the entire discussion on its head and suggested that Obama was making things up.
“[You] said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas,” the Republican said to the Democrat. “Look, I’ve been in business for twenty-five years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant. But—but the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case."