Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax plan would be a boon for the wealthiest Americans, a fact Romney himself admitted in GOP primary debates.
Now, though, Romney has decided that cutting taxes for the rich isn’t what his plan will do, and he insists that he won’t support any tax plan — even his own, apparently — that provides the rich with a massive tax cut. “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans,” Romney said in last night’s presidential debate.
The last Republican president used a similar argument to sell his tax proposal when he was running for election. At a debate on October 3, 2000, George W. Bush made the exact same claim, telling debate moderator Jim Lehrer that once his tax plan became law, “the wealthiest of Americans” would “pay more taxes”:
BUSH: Let me tell you what the facts are. The facts are, after my plan, the wealthiest of Americans pay more taxes on the percentage of the whole than they do today. Secondly, if you’re a family of four making $50,000 in Massachusetts, you get a 50% tax cut.
Bush’s tax cuts eventually became law, and as a result, the wealthy got a massive tax cut. In addition to rate cuts on income taxes, the Bush tax cuts included cuts to the capital gains rate and other investment taxes and an estate tax cut, all of which largely benefit the rich. The plan came at a cost of $2.5 trillion over its first decade.
And while Bush was technically correct that the rich did “pay more taxes on the percentage of the whole,” that is “a useless measure of tax progressivity,” as Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden has explained. The share of taxes paid by the wealthy grew by 25 percent under Bush, but their share of income grew by 30 percent, evidence that they actually got a massive tax cut. Bush’s promise, just like Romney’s, is a vague misdirection meant to distract from the overall tax cut he planned to provide.
Romney’s plan, at a cost of nearly $5 trillion, is even bigger. And though Romney at least says he will cover some of the cost, the closure of loopholes wouldn’t offset the cuts for the rich, and to avoid adding to the deficit, he would have to raise taxes on the middle class. Romney relies on another similar argument Bush used, insisting that economic growth will offset the remaining costs. But the Bush tax cuts were followed by years of tepid job and economic growth that blew a massive hole in the federal budget and left Bush flailing when it came to his promise to pay off the national debt in a decade.