Political Animal


January 14, 2012 9:20 AM An odd way of showing ‘concern for the poor’

By Steve Benen

NBC News reported yesterday that Mitt Romney made a “slight tweak to his usual campaign message” during an appearance in South Carolina yesterday.

Traditionally on the stump and in debates, Romney says the poor are “taken care of” by the country’s social safety net. Today he appeared to call for reinforcing that net, in addition to helping the middle class.

“I’m concerned about the poor in this country. We have to make sure the safety net is strong and able to help those who can’t help themselves,” Romney said, before returning to his standard remarks. “I’m not terribly worried about the very wealthiest in our society; they’re doing just fine.”

I can certainly understand why Romney would say something like this. As has become quite clear recently, the Republican frontrunner is a multi-millionaire, who got rich laying people off, and who “likes” being able to fire people. It stands to reason Romney is going to shift gears a bit, express some concern for the poor, and tell voters the wealthy are already “doing just fine.”

The problem, though, comes when we look past what Romney says and focus instead on what he intends to do.

Taxes would fall for the country’s wealthiest and rise for a some of the poorest Americans under the tax plan proposed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, according to an analysis released today by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

The reduced government revenue could widen the country’s budget deficit by at least $180 billion, according to the analysis of Romney’s 59-point, 160-page economic plan.

Romney said yesterday he’s “concerned about the poor,” but he has a funny way of showing it. According to the non-partisan TPC analysis, Romney would give the wealthy yet another significant boost by making the Bush-era cuts permanent, reducing the corporate tax rate, and repealing the estate tax. Those with the least, meanwhile, would take it on the chin: Romney would scrap all Obama-era tax breaks, including the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the American Opportunity tax credit for higher education, and the more generous child credit. The changes for those in the bottom 20% would see an annual increase of about $157 a year.

The bottom line: if you’re very wealthy, Romney intends to stuff more money in your pockets. If you’re already struggling, Romney intends to increase your tax burden. It’s just like the Robin Hood story — only in reverse.

Or put another way, the multi-millionaire who’s hiding his tax returns, owns a few mansions (one of which he’s quadrupling in size), and who got rich orchestrating leveraged buyouts and laying off thousands of American workers, has quite a policy agenda in mind for 2013: free rein for Wall Street, taking health coverage away from millions, slashing public investments that benefit working families, more foreclosures, tax increases on those already struggling, and tax cuts for the rich.

Here’s a potential follow-up question for reporters covering Romney on the trail: “Governor, when you say you’re ‘concerned’ about the poor, what do you intend to do for these struggling families, aside from cutting their benefits, raising their taxes, and giving tax breaks to the rich?”

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.


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  • SWENXOF on January 14, 2012 9:38 AM:

    “Governor, when you say you’re ‘concerned’ about the poor, what do you intend to do for these struggling families, aside from cutting their benefits, raising their taxes, and giving tax breaks to the rich?”

    To which Romney replies, "I have never proposed anything like that".

    To which those "reporters" shrug their shoulders and "report" the all important "he said" side of the story.

  • c u n d gulag on January 14, 2012 9:48 AM:

    Well, in all fairness, you don't understand the context.

    The wealthy are doing fine, it's the poor-rich that he's worried about.

    How can the poorer members of the rich join the wealthy if it's not with tax cuts?

    This is today's edition of, "You're full of Mitt!"

    Tomorrow's edition will be either "The Mitt people say!" or, "Mitt happens..."

    In the former, the answer is Anything to get elected."
    And regarding the latter, it just never seems to happen to wealthy people like Mitt.

  • bob h on January 14, 2012 9:53 AM:

    In a comment on the Boeing/NLRB/South Carolina dispute, Romney referred to "union stooges". Given that he might want to appeal to blue collar voters outside the South Carolina zone of derangement, how intelligent are comments like this? Do you really want to write off a constituency that Ronald Reagan probably made inroads with?

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 14, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Our next president, Mitt Romney, shows his compassionate desire to help the poor by solving the real economic problems facing our country.

    Those problems which President Romney will work hard to solve are that:
    - the wealthy do not have enough wealth
    - we have too large of an unsubstainable middle class
    - the poor do not pay enough taxes

    As far as President Romney's tax plan increasing the deficit, that is just further evidence that we need to start eliminating the social welfare programs of social security, medicare, medicaid, and food stamps.

  • kevo on January 14, 2012 10:48 AM:

    A good question for Romney: Was Jesus looking for an honest wealthy man when he fatefully entered the temple that day? -Kevo

  • Squishy Mitt on January 14, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Most of my poorer friends like riding on top of the car.

  • zandru on January 14, 2012 1:44 PM:

    The Republican Rationale for Cutting Taxes on the Rich and Corporations...

    ... is that, if you lower their taxes, they'll be able to use all the money they save to create jobs and innovate.

    But that's brain dead. Any money used to "create jobs and innovate" is a DEDUCTION FROM INCOME and therefore not taxed AT ALL.

    On the other hand, by reducing tax rates, the government frees up money and increases the incentive to just pay big bonuses and salaries to the few at the top, while diminishing the advantages of hiring and innovating. Studies have been done proving this; even a cursory look at economic growth vs tax rates on companies and the top 1% show the trend.

    Actually, "innovation" in the traditional sense of creating better products and processes is MUCH less lucrative than lobbying. Each dollar spent lobbying for more tax breaks, more corporate welfare yields over $200 in gains. That's a profit margin of 20,000% !

    And you wonder why the US is falling behind the rest of the world...

  • exlibra on January 14, 2012 2:40 PM:

    The changes for those in the bottom 20% would see an annual increase of about $157 a year. -- Steve Benen

    $157 is less than tip money for a single meal to someone like Mitt. Not to Mitt himself -- he's too much of a cheapskate to leave any tips -- but that's beside the point; someone who's willing to make a casual bet to the tune of ten grand is hardly going to notice an amount of less than two hundred. So he can't be expected to understand what that same amount could mean to someone else, in a different situation. It's the same mind-boggling mindset that McCain exhibited in '08, when he "guessed" (that church "debate" he had with Obama, in California) that anyone making less than 5mil a year was middle class.

  • H.H. McCool on January 14, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Like the bandit "Robbing Hood" in Parker and Hart's comic strip, The Wizard of ID, Romney wants to "take from the wretch and give to the peer."

  • FirstBlackLaddieBreet1953 on January 14, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Mitt Romney's a prototypical Ken doll who,as the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards opined of her successor,George Dummy Bush,was born on third-Romney father,George Romney,ruined American Motors,which Romney,Sr. ran,before becoming Michigan governor-and though he-Mitt-tripled.Add his mega-wealth obtained as a "corporate rai-
    der" who sank companies and jobs to obscenely enrich himself,and OF COURSE his only concern is for himself and the other members of the hundreds of millionaires'-EVEN BILLIONAIRES-white boys' club.

  • Anonymous on January 14, 2012 4:30 PM:

    Couldn't have phrased it any better,H.H. McCool!!!!

  • FirstBlackLaddieBrett1953 on January 14, 2012 4:33 PM:

    It was this handsome black Canadian cowboy who lauded your opinion of W.M. Romney,H.H. McCool!!!!

  • Eric Arthur Blair on January 14, 2012 7:24 PM:

    He's "concerned" all right. He's concerned that there are so many poor that he will promote a society with conditions that will kill them off so there will be fewer of them.

  • DHFabian on January 14, 2012 10:20 PM:

    Just one point: Our poorest don't directly pay taxes other than sales taxes on what little they're able to buy.
    They don't have much (if any) incomes, property, etc., nor any money to pay taxes. Tax cuts for the poorest, therefore, doesn't make sense.The working poor are eligible for a tax refund. What we need to do is to reverse Reaganomics, rolling back all of Reagan's deregulation, provide financial DISincentives on exporting jobs, end the massive annual corporate tax cuts (i.e., restore the free enterprise system), and reinvest in the American people. In the late 1980s, our government began taking the money previously used for poverty relief, using it instead for corporate tax cuts, grants, etc. We are living with the results of this. Reverse this upward redistribution of US wealth.

  • bfb on January 15, 2012 10:08 PM:

    DHFabian, you have it partially correct with one item pointed out: All tax of any sort is paid by the buyer of a product.
    Any worker's pay and taxes is part of the product price, as is raw materials and management/owner/stockholder profits. The totally regressive "sales tax" is just added insult to people on the low end of the economy; they're paying that "sales tax", in part, on the 1%'s profit and bonus. How fair is that?

  • amorphous999 on January 15, 2012 10:20 PM:

    One thing I've always wondered about with these Republican tax plans: where is Grover Norquist? For instance, Cain's 9-9-9 plan would impose a VAT tax. I thought Norquist was opposed to tax hikes of any kind. If he is ok with replacing income taxes with VAT taxes, he's marked himself pretty clearly as a class warrior for the 1%.

  • myna lee johnstone on January 16, 2012 7:37 AM:

    These guys just don't get it.
    Jesus was a socialist.
    The loaves and fishes sermon was not about hoarding

  • Don Schneider on January 16, 2012 8:12 AM:

    So for how long are we going to let WILLARD hide behind this "Mitt" moniker ? This lack of attention to detail is what could allow "Mitt to Happen" in 2012 ! Since the right is so good at remembering The Presidents middle name "Hussein", don't you trhink it appropriate to refer to "Mitt" by his first name of WILLARD ? got it ? WILLARD, WILLARD, WILLARD, Has a nice ring doesn't it ?