Both President Obama and Mitt Romney took their tax messages on the road Tuesday.
Voters in Iowa heard Obama pitch his plan to extend the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the middle class — those earning $250,000 per year or less. Meanwhile, voters in Colorado heard Romney, this year’s presumptive GOP nominee, call for a continuation of the current rates for all taxpayers.
Romney argued that allowing the rates to revert back to their pre-2001 levels for top income earners would hurt small businesses across the country.
“At the very time the American people are seeing fewer jobs created than we need, the President announces he’s going to make it harder for jobs to be created,” Romney said to supporters in Grand Junction. ”I just don’t think this President understands how our economy works.”
A few hours later, Obama defended his tax plan, saying it would generate roughly $1 trillion in new revenues that the government could then use to pay down the country’s nearly $16 trillion debt. He also dismissed Republican suggestions that he’s out to punish the wealthy for being successful, stating that it’s only fair to ask people to pay more if they can afford to do so.
Obama, who is essentially running a campaign against Romney and Republicans in Congress, accused the GOP of holding the middle class tax cuts hostage in return for providing tax relief to those who, he said, don’t need it.
“Why don’t you [Republicans] compromise to help the middle class?” he asked. “Go ahead and do the 98 percent, and we can keep arguing about the two percent…Let’s agree where we can agree.”
Obama and his supporters have been pointing to a recent report by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation that shows how sunsetting the high-income tax cuts would impact only three percent of small businesses.
Still, the White House has had a difficult time corraling all Democrats to get behind the president’s plan. Some, like retiring Sen. Jim Webb (Va.), believe Congress should keep all the cuts in place for another year. Others, like influential Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), want the $250,000 threshold raised higher.
Even former President Bill Clinton, arguably Obama’s top surrogate on the campaign trail, has advised Congress to continue the complete package of tax cuts until early next year.
In addition to railing against the notion of ending some of the cuts, Romney took issue with how Obama has been marketing his plan. Rather than saying he wants to cut taxes for the middle class, Romney said, the president should say that he’s advocating merely to keep the current rates in place.
“You got to be careful: when people in Washington say they’re lowering taxes, hold on to your wallet, because, in fact, he [Obama] didn’t lower taxes for anybody. For some people, he announced, your taxes are going to stay the same. In Washington, that means you lowered taxes. So, your taxes are going to be the same. And then for others—for job creators and small businesses—he announced a massive tax increase.”