Column: Romney the tax raiser?
A secret video from a Romney fundraiser emerged Monday showing the GOP candidate waxing ineloquent about the unwashed masses he seeks to rule. Romney broke things down to his fellow one percenters: “There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims…and they will vote for this president no matter what. (T)hese are people who pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect.”
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Then, incredibly, Prince Romney declared: “(M)y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Let them eat cake!
Never mind that Romney’s flawed reasoning would be akin to accusing military families of supporting Republicans because they benefit from the GOP’s protection of defense spending.
Now, Romney got one thing right: Roughly 47 % of Americans don’t pay federal income tax. (But they do pay payroll taxes, state and local taxes and sales taxes.) But the conclusions he drew from this are factually unsupportable. The ugliest was that it’s because Americans who voted for President Obama don’t take “personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Could there be another explanation — other than the old moocher-class trope — for why so many don’t pay income taxes? There are actually a slew of them. According to a Tax Policy Center analysis and any other honest assessment of our tax system, the bulk of people not paying taxes are low income families and the elderly
If Romney wants take away tax credits from these people then he should say so. He’s a big man behind closed doors when talking to his friends, but will he put forth a tax plan that repeals the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example, which is a primary reason many working Americans don’t pay income taxes? Will he address the fact that Gerald Fordwas the president who presided over the introduction of the EITC and Ronald Reaganwas the president who first expanded it?
Also, here is a fun little factoid from Bruce Bartlett, who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, writing in The New York Times: : “During the 1990s, about 24% of filers had no income tax liability, but this number took a big jump during the Bush Administration as Republicans added a large child credit to the tax code. The percentage of filers with no income tax liability rose to 36.3% in 2008, from 25.2% in 2000.”
Many commentators believe the video is damaging for Romney because it reinforces the sentiment that he is an out-of-touch billionaire. But it’s so much worse than that. The primary problem that this video raises is that Romney’s numbers don’t add up.
Multiple analyses have found that Romney’s tax plan does not work unless he gets rid of nearly every tax credit in existence for the middle class. The Romney camp has cried foul over these analyses but refuses to offer any specifics to rebut this claim.
Watching this video, it is crystal clear that Romney has contempt for the 47 % of people not paying federal income tax, even though the reason many of them aren’t is because of a tax system that the GOP helped create. I asked the Romney campaign if he would get rid of the EITC — his plan says only that he would not expand it — and could not got a direct answer, though was told, “Governor Romney has pledged to focus the bulk of tax code adjustments on upper-income households.”
So, what is Romney’s solution to this alleged problem of the 47% of government moochers?
Weirdly, Romney claims in the video that people don’t like him because of his vision for low taxes when in fact the reason that the 47% don’t pay federal income tax is precisely because of a tax system that provides credits so they can keep more of their pay to support themselves, also known as “low taxes.”
This video backs Romney into a corner he doesn’t want to be in because it demands specifics, something he is largely allergic to, in this case, for good reason. No candidate can get elected trashing middle class tax benefits. Conservatives are claiming this is a debate they want to have. But it’s a debate they will lose.