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Romney wants more tax cuts than Bush did

By Ezra Klein,

“Mitt Romney has his rhetorical emphasis on the middle class and his careful refusal to endorse the kind of upper-bracket income tax cuts that past Republican nominees have championed,” writes Ross Douthat, by way of complimenting the moderation of the GOP frontrunner. But Romney has endorsed exactly the kind of upper-income tax cuts that past nominees have championed. In fact, he’s endorsed exactly the same upper-income tax cuts past nominees have championed — and proposed a few more.

Graph: Ezra Klein; Data: Tax Policy Center

Romney intends to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. So he’s taking the tax cuts George W. Bush proposed as a way to pay down a surplus and making them permanent in a time of deficits. That doesn’t just leave him supporting the same upper-income tax cuts that Bush proposed. Because larger sacrifices will be required to pay for them now than in 2001, it leaves him supporting those tax cuts at a time when paying for them will require much more sacrifice on the part of low-income Americans.

And, on top of that, Romney layers on another set of tax cuts tilted towards high earners. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Romney’s tax plan will save earners in the top 1 percent $82,000 a year, but do very little for workers in the bottom half of the income distribution.

The Tax Policy Center also estimates that Romney’s plan will cost $180 billion over and above the Bush tax cuts in 2015. So we can conservatively estimate that his plan will cost more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years. Add in the full extension of the Bush tax cuts, and Romney is promising at least $6 trillion — and likely much more — in tax cuts.

It’s not that Romney has refused to endorse the kind of plans that past Republican nominees have championed. He is going further than Bush on tax cuts. Romney’s moderation is only in comparison to the other Republicans in the race, who are going even further than him.

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