Obama and Romney on spending and taxes

Sunday, October 28, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:09 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This article is one of 12 that examine where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stand on some of the issues that are important to voters.

Spending and taxes

Barack Obama

Obama says he will reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years. He proposes cutting federal spending while continuing to invest in education, manufacturing, infrastructure and clean energy, according to his campaign website

Obama says he would continue to call for Congress to pass the Buffett Rule, which would ensure millionaires pay at least the same tax rate as middle-class families, with a minimum tax rate of 30 percent.

For households making $250,000 or more, Obama said “we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was president.” That would entail a top tax rate of 39.6 percent for households making $250,000 or more. 

He also would bring discretionary spending to its “lowest level as a share of the economy in more than 50 years.” 

Mitt Romney

Romney says he would cut the deficit and get the national debt under control. Romney proposes capping federal spending below 20 percent of GDP — it was at 24 percent of GDP in 2011 — and reducing the size of government by consolidating agencies. 

Regarding taxes, Romney would cut income taxes by 20 percent, repeal the death tax (the tax on the estate of a deceased person), the alternative minimum tax (a tax many pay in addition to the normal income tax) and capital gains taxes for those with an adjusted gross income below $200,000. He would maintain current tax rates on interest and dividends and on capital gains for those with gross incomes above $200,000. 

He would also reduce nonsecurity discretionary spending by 5 percent.


According to Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan public policy organization, Romney’s tax plan would cut taxes for households with income above $200,000, leading to an increase in taxes for households that make less than $200,000.

“Our major conclusion is that any revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Gov. Romney has proposed … would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle and/or lower income taxpayers.”

Revenue neutral means provisions that raise revenue offset provisions that lose revenue so that the tax proposal has no net cost.

A fact check by the Associated Press indicates Obama’s claim that those earning $250,000 or more could be taxed at the same rates as when Bill Clinton was president is untrue. Rates actually would have to be higher for the wealthiest Americans when taxes related to the Affordable Care Act are factored in. 

Brookings Institution fellow John Hudak said Obama's plan involves offsetting any spending increases and decreasing the deficit in part through increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Whether those numbers compute is not entirely clear because estimates vary in how much revenue will be generated through that tax plan. 

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