I hate to be the one to break this to Mitt Romney, but he’s not a member of the middle class.
Mitt Romney suggested Wednesday that he feels the pain of the middle class.
At a town hall meeting here, the millionaire GOP presidential contender told his audience that he favors a tax policy that will help “those who have been hurt by the Obama economy.”
“And that’s the middle class,” Romney continued. “It’s not those in the low end; it’s certainly not those in the very high end. It’s for the great middle class — the 80 to 90 percent of us in this country.”
Look, I understand Romney may feel a little defensive about this. He did, after all, become very wealthy by laying off thousands of American workers. His similarities to Thurston Howell III don’t exactly scream “man of the people.” But the former governor’s net worth is pegged somewhere between $190 million and $250 million. If Romney is middle class, I’m on his short list of potential running mates.
On a more substantive note, Romney’s plan to help “the great middle class” is to allow those “earning $200,000 a year and less ought to be able to save their money tax-free, no tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains.” And how much would that benefit the average, middle-income earner? About $70 a year. No, that’s not a typo. Romney wants to give massive tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, but his idea of boosting the middle class is a tax break that hardly matters at all.
And in case this wasn’t quite enough, Romney also told voters in Florida yesterday, “I think it’s a real problem when you have half of Americans, almost half of Americans, that are not paying income tax.” It’s the second time this month that the former governor has raised the prospect of increasing taxes on those least able to afford it.
In case anyone’s forgotten, the relevant details matter here: millions of Americans may be exempt from income taxes, but they still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes. It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something — the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify. Indeed, many are retirees who can’t earn an income because they’re no longer in the workforce.
Romney has now said more than once that he considers it “a real problem” that these lower-income Americans aren’t paying income taxes. It’s apparently a “problem” he intends to fix as president.
There’s certainly a case to be made that Romney is pursuing a bizarre version of “class warfare,” but even putting that aside, the leading Republican presidential candidate seems to now be on the record advocating higher income tax rates on the middle class.
I suspect voters will be hearing more about this in the coming months.