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Romney's Tax Cut Mantra Fails To Convince One Of America's Richest Neighborhoods

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NEW YORK –- Judging from the black limousines that delivered them and the luxury-brand hunting coats that protected them from the late autumn chill, the voters arriving here at the polling place on Manhattan's Upper East Side might have seemed inclined to vote with an eye to tax cuts promised by presidential aspirant Mitt Romney.

This particular polling place was set up inside Lillie Devereaux Blake Elementary School, which occupies 81st Street between Park and Madison avenues, in a neighborhood that is a veritable bastion of the 1 percent. Its surrounding terrain comprises one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States, meaning that local residents would be among the primary beneficiaries of Romney's tax-cutting largess.

But conversations here on Tuesday morning revealed that these predominantly wealthy voters were not preoccupied with their tax bills. Rather, they came with concerns about the vigor of a nation whose future seems clouded.

"The candidates' tax plans are less important than other issues, like social issues," said Jeff Dupler, an attorney who lives on the Upper East Side with his wife and two young children. He signaled he planned to cast his ballot for Obama because of the candidate's pro-woman politics. "My candidate will raise my tax burden but it's for my daughters."

Perhaps such sentiments speak to the location, a neighborhood known for its so-called limousine liberals. Some voters this morning told HuffPost they felt Romney was too vague about his tax plan while playing fast and loose with arithmetic: Many assumed their taxes would rise, campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, for the simple reason that federal budget deficits are enormous.

"I am a registered Democrat and in the 1 percent," said Christopher Tamis, a senior vice president for a financial services firm. "I am a firm believer that our taxes will go up under anyone, Obama or Romney."

Others said they had no problems paying higher taxes, because they value government services.

"I am a huge advocate of public school, public transportation and having potholes filled," said Gayle Bernstein, who has lived on the Upper East Side for 35 years and is a consultant to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

As voters streamed steadily into the school, many wore the understated designer-brand uniform of the posh neighborhood: Barbour hunting coats, quilted Chanel flats or Belgian loafers, and Louis Vuitton tote bags. Theirs is a neighborhood where even a simple egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread costs $14 and the doormen wear white gloves.

Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg voted at this polling location shortly before 9 a.m., casting his vote (presumably) for President Barack Obama, whom the mayor endorsed last week.

Many Upper East Side voters who were interviewed outside the polling place said Romney had failed to articulate a clear plan for taxes. Others felt that it was the duty of the country's richest citizens to pay more in taxes and that other issues, including women's issues and the environment, were more important this year.

Upper East Side resident Paul Brown, an attorney, emerged from the polling location just after 10 a.m. and said neither candidate's plan for taxes had impressed him.

"What tax plans?" he said. "It's really making an assumption the electorate is stupid."

Whitney Gerard, also an attorney and who lives on the corner of Park Avenue and 81st Street, said that social issues were his main concern this year. "Taxes are important to me, and it will hit me," he acknowledged, "but I am not voting for my pocket book. I am voting for social issues."

But not all voters in this zip code felt the same way.

Lauren Levin, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and manages her husband's orthopedic surgery practice, said she felt she paid her "fair share" in taxes.

"Personally, Romney's plan is better for me," she said, "but I think both will have to raise taxes to meet the budget shortfalls."

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