By Alicia M. Cohn and Bernie Becker - 09/28/12 05:24 PM EDT
Vice President Biden on Friday told Florida seniors that Mitt Romney wants to make them pay $460 more in taxes on Social Security.
“Gov. Romney proposes significant changes, that would result in beneficiaries getting considerably less in their Social Security check in the future," he said, beginning a two-day campaign tour in Florida with a grassroots event at Century Village, a retirement community in Boca Raton. "If Gov. Romney’s tax plan goes into effect, it could mean everyone, everyone, would have to pay more taxes on the Social Security benefits they now receive. The average senior would have to pay $460 more in taxes on their benefits.”
Biden took a more subdued, serious tone in the speech, making a careful argument in an attempt to chisel away at the "credibility" of the Republican ticket.
Romney's campaign denies this claim. “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan to save and strengthen Social Security that does not raise taxes and ensures that our middle-class seniors receive all of the benefits they've earned," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. "Vice President Biden is using Social Security to fabricate the Obama campaign’s latest false attacks. However, these attacks will backfire when voters learn he has repeatedly supported higher Social Security taxes, and that seniors face a 25 percent across-the-board benefit cut because of President Obama’s failure to lead on this issue."
Biden began by reminiscing about his own parents and grandparents as well as spending a few minutes discussing "strong women" in his life. He said a family value passed down from his grandfather explained his criticism of the Republican ticket: "Show me your budget; I'll tell you what you value."
"I'm not being critical, but they just have a different value set," he said of Romney and Paul Ryan. "Can you imagine me and Obama supporting any plan to raise Medicare out-of-pocket costs on seniors by $6,400?"
He cited several studies, one from the Congressional Budget Office and the much-discussed study that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center released in August, which said that Romney’s tax plan could shift the tax burden away from the wealthy.
In that study, the Tax Policy Center assumed that the current policy that exempts certain Social Security benefits from taxation could be limited to help pay for Romney’s broader tax reform plan.
The Obama campaign cited estimates from the Tax Policy Center study suggesting that taxpayers making less than $200,000 a year could lose almost 60 percent of their tax preferences under the Romney plan. From that, the campaign estimated that Social Security recipients could take a $458 hit.
For their part, Romney’s campaign has pushed back strongly against the Tax Policy Center study, with the candidate himself saying it reached “a garbage conclusion.”
Conservative tax analysts have also said that the tax center wrongly assumed that certain tax credits and deductions would be eliminated and others preserved in a Romney administration. The Obama campaign has criticized the Romney campaign for failing to reveal which loopholes they are willing to close.
Romney has called for, among other things, cutting all individual income tax rates by 20 percent, and keeping or expanding current incentives for saving and investment.
The former Massachusetts governor has also said that he would pay for his plan by limiting or eliminating tax preferences, and that his proposals would not add to the deficit. But the Tax Policy Center has suggested that Romney can’t check off all his goals without increasing taxes on those making less than $200,000 a year, and that is the case Biden made on Friday.
As it stands, the IRS currently says that households or taxpayers whose only income is Social Security benefits are not taxed on those benefits. Married couples making more than $32,000 a year generally pay some taxes on their benefits.
Biden closed by pushing back hard on the "culture of dependency" he said that Romney and Ryan think defines this country. He said that was how Ryan described America in the book "Young Guns," co-written with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) in 2010. The theme was also raised by Romney's recently revealed comments to a private fundraiser last May, when Romney said 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and are "dependent" on the government. The Obama campaign has pointed out that some seniors don't pay taxes, casting Romney as out of touch and dismissive of half the country.
"I don't recognize the country they're talking about," Biden said. "I know where I come from, Americans got knocked down, but they're getting back up. I know where I come from, nobody feels dependent; all they're looking for is an opportunity."