By Justin Sink
President Obama on Wednesday attacked Mitt Romney's tax plan as benefiting the wealthy at the expense of middle-class families.
The president made his charges at a campaign event in Ohio, the latest push to depict the presumptive GOP nominee's economic philosophy as exploitative. During the speech, Obama cited a new report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that concludes a tax plan similar to the one proposed by Romney "would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers."
Obama is spending the day in Ohio — a critical swing state — as a new poll from Quinnipiac University/The New York Times/CBS News shows him leading Romney there by 6 points.
In his remarks, the president argued that Romney is prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy over either deficit reduction or infrastructure.
"They found that if Gov. Romney wants to keep his word and pay for his plan, he’d have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on to pay for your home, or your healthcare, or send your kids to college," Obama said. "That means the average middle-class family with children would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000.
“But here’s the thing — he’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, or to invest in our kids’ education," he continued. "He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a tax cut.”
The president's statement is the latest foray in an increasingly bitter battle over tax policy. Democrats have pushed for a reform package that would permanently extend the Bush-era tax rates for all but the wealthy. Romney's plan involves temporarily extending cuts for all, then instituting an across-the-board cut on tax rates and maintaining tax breaks on savings and investment accounts — but eliminating other deductions.
Democrats charge that the Romney plan would benefit the wealthiest disproportionately and eliminate funding for important programs, while Republicans say the president's plan would hurt small-business owners who pay taxes as individuals.
The Romney campaign fired back at the president in a statement emailed to reporters.
“President Obama continues to tout liberal studies calling for more tax hikes and more government spending," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. "We've been down that road before – and it's led us to 41 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent. It's clear that the only plan President Obama has is more of the same. Mitt Romney believes that lower tax rates and less government will jump-start the economy and create jobs.”
And, last month at an event in Colorado, Romney said the president's tax plan added "insult to injury."
"This week, the president added insult to injury with another kick in the gut by announcing that he has a plan, he said, to lower taxes,” Romney said. “And the idea, I mean, the very idea of raising taxes on small business and job-creators at the very time we need more jobs is the sort of thing only an extreme liberal could come up with.”
Romney went on to describe the president's plan as outside the political mainstream for either party.
“This old-style liberalism of bigger and bigger government and bigger and bigger taxes has got to end, and we will end it in November,” Romney said.
Obama plans to hammer tax policy throughout the week, with dozens of events planned across battleground states with local officials and business leaders.
While the majority of the president's address was spent drawing contrasts over tax policy, Obama did warm up the crowd by telling the story of calling the gold-medal winning American women's gymnastics team. The president said unlike running and swimming — where athletes simply did things he knew how to do, but faster — the gymnastics competition left him in amazement.
"These gymnastics folks, I don't know how they do what they do," Obama said, adding he asked the girls, "How do you not bust your head every time you're on that little balance beam? I could not walk across that balance beam."
Obama went on to extol the games for bringing Americans together, even during a bitterly divided political time.
"The wonderful thing about the Olympics is that it reminds us that for all our differences, we're Americans first," Obama said.
— This story was originally posted at 10:59 a.m. and updated at 12:32 p.m.