WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- In a line that event attendees found a bit puzzling, Mitt Romney warned a crowd of mostly middle-class onlookers on Wednesday not to expect too much tax relief under his administration.
"We have got to reform our tax system," Romney said at a morning event here. "Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don't be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I'm also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people."
The comments were either a flub on Romney's part or an admission that many of the deductions and exemptions that he will have to target in order to make his tax plan deficit neutral will end up affecting the middle class.
To date, Romney has said that he will only eliminate deductions and exemptions above a certain income level. He hasn't said what that income level would be. But when asked whether he would make $100,000 the cutoff, he said that he considered "middle income" to be "$200,000 to $250,000 and less." (One of the few Romney-backing studies has said that the only way his tax plan adds up is if he eliminates deductions and exemptions above that $100,000 income level).
Romney's comment on Wednesday left some in the crowd believing that their deductions and exemptions -- be they on home mortgage interest payments, charitable donations or employer-provided health insurance -- would be targeted if he became president. And it wasn't a top-income-bracket type of crowd. In 2009, the estimated median household income in Westerville was $76,154. Census data from 2011 shows that the mean household income in Franklin County, which contains part of Westerville, is $65,607. For Delaware County, which contains another part of Westerville, that number is $107,231.
"I'm curious what he meant by that," Westerville resident Phil Bentley said of Romney's comment. "I don't know if I have seen those details."
Still, Bentley said, he supported Romney's overall tax plan, which calls for a 20 tax cut across the board for all income brackets, and which Romney insists will remain deficit neutral In fact, none of the half-dozen attendees interviewed after the event expressed concern about the remarks, offering up lines of explanation that one wouldn't often expect at a Republican presidential candidate's rally.
"We need the taxes to stay the way they are because we have to get the debt down," said Margo Belkofer, of Powell, Ohio.
"He's not promoting a tax cut, he is preventing a tax increase," said Jim Bachelder, of Westerville.
Cynthia Beitman, of Westerville, said she was fine with Romney eliminating deductions and exemptions for people like her, so long as he lowered the rates overall for small businesses. "People run small businesses," she exclaimed.
"I thought that line was really good," said Patty Karst of Gahanna, Ohio. "You have to realize as a society that we have to have the funds for infrastructure, the protection of the country and the social programs we support."
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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
Commenting on Occupy Wall Street and the redistribution of wealth on ABC's "This Week" recently, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-speaker-john-boehner/story?id=14892830&page=5#.TswHj3NPkqV" target="_hplink">House Speaker John Boehner said</a>: <blockquote>Come on. The top 1 percent pay 38 percent of the income taxes in America. You know, how much more do you want them to pay? Well, I'll tell you what: Let's take all the money that the rich have, all of it. It won't even put a dent in our current budget deficit, much less our debt.</blockquote>
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)
Rep. Larry Bucshon <a href="http://gcdailyworld.com/story/1786079.html" target="_hplink">said in an interview</a> with a local Indiana paper that the tax code needs to be simplified, and he invoked the Republican party line that the wealthiest Americans are creating jobs: <blockquote>I'm not for raising taxes on one sector of the economy. I think right now when you have a high unemployment and you raise taxes on the higher income earners, and they are not going to create any jobs. Arguing right now that the higher income earners aren't paying their fair share is not true. The data shows that. The top 1 percent of income earners are paying about 38 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent are paying about 70 percent of the taxes.</blockquote>
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.)
During an House Education and the Workforce Committee markup, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEArFmRDtrw&feature=youtu.be" target="_hplink">Rep. Mike Kelly made a plea</a> to "stop railing against the really wealthy": <blockquote>I've got to tell you something. As a guy who has had to pay his own way his whole life, I am greatly offended by the idea that somehow somebody in Washington knows how to spend my money better than I do. That somebody in Washington knows how to regulate me to the point where I can't even borrow money anymore. You want to talk about people who are afraid? The small banks. They're scared to death to do anything. Why? Because their government has such onerous regulations on them anymore that they don't know about the rules and the regulations that have been put through or haven't even been written. So when you want to sit back and talk about these wealthy, evil people ... you want them to spend money? Make their future certain.</blockquote>
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.)
Commenting on President Barack Obama's proposed jobs bill in September, Rep. Scott DesJarlais also <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:uHUJCTcKdokJ:www.wbir.com/rss/article/183289/2/TN-lawmakers-reaction-mixed-on-Obama-speech-+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a " target="_hplink">used the "job creators" line</a>. The congressman argued that wealthy Americans are "shouldering the burden" by "already paying the lion's share of taxes, and taxing them more is going to hurt jobs."
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)
Two months ago, a handful of local Democrats protested outside Rep. Blake Farenthold's office in opposition to the proposed Buffett Rule Act, which would allow taxpayers to make donations with their income tax returns to help pay down the federal public debt. The bill was named after billionaire Warren Buffett, who has said he should be paying more in taxes. GOP lawmakers responded by suggesting wealthy Americans voluntarily donate extra money when they file their tax returns. "I think everybody is paying their fair share," <a href="http://www.kiiitv.com/story/15591779/local-democrats-stage-protest-on-congressman-farenthold" target="_hplink">Farenthold said</a>, adding, "And before we look at raising taxes on anybody, we've got to get the government spending under control. There's no point in pouring more money into something when it's hemorrhaging out the other end."
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.)
In March, months before the Occupy Wall Street movement arose, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2011/03/half_applaud_half_jeer_at_rep.html" target="_hplink">expressed sadness</a> at the class warfare in America. "The middle class is being screwed," said the congresswoman at a town hall meeting, but added that the wealthy aren't to blame. "Why do we have class warfare?" she said. "Why do we want to punish the rich? They worked hard for their money."
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.)
Rep. John Fleming made more than $6 million last year, according to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. In September on MSNBC, he <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/09/tea-party-rep-only-400000-left-after-i-feed-my-family/" target="_hplink">used himself as an example</a> of why he opposes raising taxes on millionaires: <blockquote>The amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million. And so by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment.</blockquote> MSNBC's Chris Jansing responded that the average American makes more like $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 a year, to which Fleming responded: <blockquote>Again, class warfare never created a job. That's people that will not get jobs. This is all about creating jobs. It's not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know, in this country most people feel that being successful in their businesses is a virtue, not a vice. And once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down.</blockquote>
Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.)
In August amidst the heated debate over raising the debt ceiling, Rep. Dan Benishek <a href="http://www.petoskeynews.com/news/pnr-benishek-delves-into-debt-ceiling-vote-federal-budget-during-forum-20110824,0,4643945.story" target="_hplink">addressed federal spending</a> at a public forum in Michigan. The congressman said that he would like to ease up on taxing corporations' foreign earnings and that he disagrees with raising taxes on oil companies. <blockquote>I think oil companies pay their fair share. I can understand where the oil company wants to deduct the cost of drilling a well. That's one of the tax breaks for oil companies, the subsidies. They get to deduct the cost of the well the year you drill.</blockquote>