Political Animal


October 19, 2011 9:25 AM The gap between Romney’s plan and his ‘wants’

By Steve Benen

As part of his critique of Herman Cain’s absurd “9-9-9” tax plan, Mitt Romney said in last night’s debate, “I want to reduce taxes on middle-income families.”

It was a throw-away line, mentioned in passing. But it’s important to realize what Romney claims to “want” is not even close to what Romney actually intends to do.

In fact, there’s no real ambiguity here. The apparent Republican frontrunner has already said he wants to see middle-class taxes go up right away, having endorsed an increase in payroll taxes in 2012. Romney has also backed higher federal income taxes on lower- and middle-income earners for the foreseeable future. He’s been surprisingly explicit on this, recently telling voters, “I think it’s a real problem when you have half of Americans, almost half of Americans, that are not paying income tax.”

Of course, those who aren’t paying income taxes include a fairly narrow group of people: lower- and middle-income workers who fall below the tax threshold; the unemployed; students, and retirees. Romney thinks it’s a “real problem” that they’re not paying federal income taxes — and it’s a problem he intends to fix by raising their taxes.

But, the former governor says, that’s only part of the picture. Sure, Romney will raise middle-class income taxes, but he also intends to give the middle class a capital-gains tax break.

Under Romney’s plan, those making less than $200,000 a year would see their capital gains taxes eliminated entirely. And what’s wrong with that? Pat Garofalo explained:

Romney may think he focused his tax cut on the middle-class, but according to a ThinkProgress analysis of Tax Policy Center data, nearly three-fourths of households that make $200,000 or less annually would get literally nothing from Romney’s tax cut, due to the simple fact that most of those households have no capital gains income

To be exact, 73.9 percent of the households upon which Romney “focused” his tax cut will see zero benefit from it. […]

For families making between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, Romney’s tax cut comes out to a whopping $216 per year. Meanwhile, the payroll tax cut enacted by the Obama administration in 2011, which Romney derided as a “temporary little Band-Aid,” gave those same households a tax cut of $800 to $1,000.

Romney also, incidentally, wants massive tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.

“I want to reduce taxes on middle-income families”? What Romney “wants” is irrelevant.

To be sure, there are some who might argue that middle-class taxes should go up, and it’s a subject worthy of debate. The problem here is that Romney just isn’t telling the truth about his own agenda. If he intends to raise middle-class taxes, and his own plan suggests that he does, Romney should prepared to defend his agenda.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on October 19, 2011 9:33 AM:

    Mitt's tax cuts per each third of the population.

    Bottom Middle Wealthiest
    Nein! Nein! JA!!!

    This is Mitt's nes "Nein! NEIN!! JA!!! Plan."

  • Josef K on October 19, 2011 9:41 AM:

    There's an even bigger (and much more worrisome) gap we should think about: the one between Romney's ears.

    Of course, the same can be said for the rest of this freakshow and the entire Republican party. Sad, isn't it?

  • walldon on October 19, 2011 9:45 AM:

    I'd like to point out that there's one other group of people who don't pay any income taxes -- the moderately wealthy retired people, like me. I am lucky enough to have retired with a portfolio that's worth several million dollars. Apart from Social Security, all my income comes from dividends, interest, and capital gains, which, of course, are taxed at the ludicrously low maximum rate of 15%. However, there is a little known exemption of almost $70,000 (for married couples, filing jointly) if your income is from dividends, interest and capital gains. For the last two years, I had gross income slightly in excess of $100,000 and taxable income less than $70,000 after itemized deductions. So, with the roughly $70,000 extra exemption, I have paid no federal income tax in either year. As I said to my accountant when he told me I wouldn't have to pay taxes, "It's no wonder the country is going bankrupt."

  • walt on October 19, 2011 9:47 AM:

    At this point, let's simply stipulate that Romney will say absolutely anything in order to become president. So, if he's saying taxes should go up on the beleaguered poor and middle class, that's pandering to the Social Darwinists in his party. And when he says the opposite in next fall's campaign, it will be pandering to a newer exigency.

    I think Romney is inevitable but I am surprised how he's able to get away his innumerable Mitt-flops. Oh, scratch that. I do know. I'm just surprised that I am surprised.

  • DAY on October 19, 2011 10:09 AM:

    A few retired coupon clippers like walldon are an insignificant part of the "going bankrupt" problem.
    I assume he worked and paid taxes on those millions he now has, and was prudent enough to prepare for his retirement. Good for him! If we had an entire nation of walldons, we could indeed do away with Social Security.

    But that will not solve the greater problem, at the heart of which is Ike's military/Industrial Complex.
    Admiral Sestak was on MSNBC yesterday, pointing out that there is a military base of some sort in EVERY congressional district. And they are employers.

    (92% of senators get money from military contractors.)

  • jlt on October 19, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Mr, romney is a pompous pious panderer who does not play well with those he does not control...Put your finger up...mitt will be spitting in the wind!

    Real issues that need to be addressed..JOBS...and This:


  • paul on October 19, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Walldon is right. Not so much because the taxes not paid by his slice of the population accounts for such a huge portion of the deficit, but because any tax code that assumes he shouldn't be taxed is going to give huge unwarranted breaks to lots of other rich people. (Remember, rich people don't have to take salaries; they take dividends and gains and royalties and other tricks.)

    Knowing Romney, the capital-gains tax elimination is something his middle-aged trustafarian friends would benefit from enormously (as would he himself). They have lots of old stock and real estate holdings that they'd like to turn into cash, and this would let them do it tax free. (There's also a huge potential gotcha on this: it's bad enough if you just don't tax capital gains for people who make less than $200K. But if you do the "nontaxable" part by simply omitting the gains from income entirely, the sky's the limit.)

  • Daddy Love on October 19, 2011 11:15 AM:

    same shit, different day. I remember during the riegn of GHW Bush how tired, REALY TIRED, I became of him harping on the need to cut the capital gains tax. Again and again he told us how much he wanted it.

    It's the same Republicans "solution in search of a problem" that they ALWAYS propose. Why does our media pretend that the situation is anything different from that?