Politics

Obama’s Tax Trap

In this July 2, 2014, file photo, former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney addresses a crowd of supporters in New Hampshire. Romney told a small group of donors that he's considering a third run at the White House. (Charles Krupa/AP)
In this July 2, 2014, file photo, former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney addresses a crowd of supporters in New Hampshire. (Charles Krupa/AP)

 

(Slate) – The most notable Republican reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night did not come from official respondent Joni Ernst, the rookie senator from Red Oak, Iowa, with the camouflage high heels. It came from Mitt Romney, newly back in the fray as a possible presidential candidate for the third straight election. On his Facebook page, Romney countered Obama’s speech by zeroing in on the president’s proposal to pay for $235 billion in middle-class tax breaks, as well as new spending on education and infrastructure, by raising taxes on capital gains and inherited assets for the very wealthy by $320 billion. “His tax proposal is a maze of new taxes and complexities,” Romney wrote. “The best way to lower the tax burden on all American families is straightforward: lower rates and simplify the tax code.”

This reaction may seem entirely predictable—after all, Romney spent his entire 2012 presidential campaign calling for across-the-board tax cuts that independent analysts found would disproportionately benefit the top 5 percent of taxpayers. What’s striking about Romney’s reaction, though, is precisely that it is such a rehash of his 2012 stance at a time when he has been seeking to recast himself as a different sort of Republican, one far more concerned with poverty, inequality, and middle-class wage stagnation. At a GOP gathering last week in San Diego, Romney lamented that, “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse, and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” and called for Republicans to tackle the “scourge of poverty.”

And it’s not just Romney. A whole assortment of 2016 aspirants, including Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as prominent congressional Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, have been rushing to show their concern for the plight of the economically immobile and downtrodden.

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