When Mitt Romney unveiled his new tax plan cutting taxes across the board by 20 percent in Arizona today, he pledged that he would “make sure the top one percent keeps paying the current share they’re paying or more.”
This illustrates how much the landscape has shifted in the wake of Occupy Wall Street and the broader public’s rising preoccupation with inquality. After all, only last month, Romney attacked Obama as divisive for using the 99-versus-one-percent language, which he termed as “entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God."
That aside, his rhetoric raises a question: What does his new plan actually mean for the wealthy?
I just got off the phone with Bob McIntyre, the president of the liberal-leaning-but-nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice. He says the upshot for the rich is a huge tax cut that’s paid for by cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Total taxes cut in the plan: $10 trillion over 10 years, by his calculation.
The central feature of Romney’s new plan is an across-the-board 20 percent tax cut — on top of continuing the Bush tax cuts, by McIntyre’s reading. For the top earners, that means the tax rate drops to 28 percent. The plan also cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, repeals the estate tax, and maintains the current tax rate of 15 percent on income from capital gains.
“The wealthy will pay far less in taxes than they do now, including a wealthy person named Mitt Romney,” McIntyre says.
McIntyre notes that the plan does allow for the closing of some loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy, but said we need more detail to see whether they will constitute anything meaningful.
The plan appears to be paid for by unspecified cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On the latter program, Romney’s plan envisions a “a premium support system that gives each senior the freedom to choose among competing private plans and traditional fee-for-service Medicare.” That appears to be a reference to the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan.
So how does this all square with Romney’s claim above about the one percent? McIntyre says the key is that Romney said the one percent’s “share” would not drop. He didn’t say the amount the one percent pays wouldn’t drop.
“If you reduce the whole thing by 20 percent then they can go down by 20 percent and still pay the same share,” McIntyre explains.
So there you have it.
UPDATE: I asked McIntyre how he thought Romney’s tax plan would impact the deficit. He said that it was hard to say, because he is “not very specific about his offsets.”
But he said that estimating that it would add $10 trillion to the deficit is a “reasonable guess.”