Romney on Taxes: ‘I Want to Make Sure We Maintain the Progressivity of the Code’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 27, 2012 | 3:00pm EST

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Las Vegas on Feb. 2, 2012, where he was endorsed by Donald Trump, right. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

( - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said on Fox News Sunday that he wants to maintain “the progressivity” of the tax code so that as Americans make more money they are required to surrender increasing percentages of their earnings to the federal government in taxes.

Romney has a long record of opposing a flat tax--even investing more than $50,000 of his own money during the 1996 presidential campaign to run newspapers ads attacking then-presidential candidate Steve Forbes’s flat-tax proposal as a “tax cut for fat cats.”

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“What about the argument that you're saying the same class warfare?” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Romney. “And you hear this from a lot of people. The Wall Street Journal, which generally liked your plan, says it's the same old Obama class war argument. Yes, you're going to reduce capital gains taxes for the middle class, not for the rich.”

“Well, obviously, I want to make sure that we maintain the progressivity of the code,” Romney responded. “And I want to help people who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy--and that's middle income Americans.”

Romney, as summarized by Wallace, has proposed a tax plan that would cut the marginal income tax rates for individuals 20 percent across the board, and abolish the capital gains tax for people making less than $200,000 per year but not for people making more than that.  Additionally, Romney’s plan would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Also, as summarized by Wallace, Romney would increase the age at which people become eligible to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits and pay smaller benefit increases to wealthier people.

In questioning Romney about his plan, Wallace said critics say he is “playing the Obama class war game.”

“Well, we have a progressive tax code right now, and what I'm talking about are pretty significant reductions in tax across the board,” said Romney. “And the reason I'm talking about those marginal tax reductions across the board is to create incentives for small businesses to start growing and hiring again.

“I'm not trying to change the progressivity of the code,” said Romney. “I'm not trying to say that one group or another is going to get a better deal. But what I'm trying to do is to make sure that under no circumstances is the middle class going to end up with a larger share of the tax burden.

“It's absolutely essential to me as a guiding principle that middle income Americans don't get hit with a bigger share of the burden,” said Romney. “That's the point that I'm making and I'm going to make sure that as we add it all up, that the middle income Americans are not getting a bigger burden.”

Wallace then asked Romney about the Wall Street Journal saying it “generally liked your plan" but "says it's the same old Obama class war argument.”

“Well, obviously, I want to make sure that we maintain the progressivity of the code,” said Romney. “And I want to help people who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy--and that's middle income Americans.

“I'm not looking to change the deal that we have right now with regards to people looking at their share of the tax burden, but what I am looking to do is to lower the marginal rate for all Americans across the board,” said Romney.

“This is a pro-growth policy,” said Romney. “That's why The Wall Street Journal liked it, wrote a very positive editorial about it. That's why I think people look at President Obama's plan, which is calling on raising the marginal rate. That will kill jobs and make it harder for our economy to reboot. So, whatever choice of language I have to use, I want to make sure to get across to the American people, I'm cutting rates across the board by 20 percent and I'm not going to put a bigger burden on middle income Americans.”

During the 1996 presidential campaign, Romney, who was not running for office that year, invested what he said was more than $50,000 of his own money to attack Steve Forbes’s flat tax proposal in full-page newspapers ads in markets reaching Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary voters.

“Romney, the Republican millionaire who ran unsuccessfully against US Sen. Edward M. Kennedy two years ago, said the ads are aimed at voters taking part in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary to convince them that Forbes' plan will unfairly favor the rich,” the Boston Globe reported on Jan. 21, 1996.

"The problem with the Forbes flat tax is that it isn't flat at all--it's a zero tax on the wealthy and a 17 percent tax on working Americans," the Globe quoted Romney as saying. "I'm hoping that by running these ads voters will realize the Forbes flat tax is a gimmick, a phony, and not what it pretends to be."

The ad, which ran in the Boston Sunday Globe, the New Hampshire Sunday News and the Des Moines Register said: “The Forbes tax isn't a flat tax at all--it's a tax cut for fat cats!”

“Romney,” the Boston Globe reported, “said he is paying for the ads with more than $50,000 in personal funds."

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