US President Barack Obama hounded Republican US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Saturday, saying his wealthy rival would pay only 1 percent in taxes on his vast wealth under a plan authored by his running mate, US Representative Paul Ryan.
Obama escalated his effort to use the pick of the conservative Republican congressman last week to drive votes away from Romney in swing states, including New Hampshire, where he was campaigning on Saturday.
“The centerpiece of my opponent’s entire economic plan is a new US$5 trillion tax cut, a lot of it going to the wealthiest Americans,” Obama said. “His new running mate, Congressman Ryan, he put forward a plan that would let governor Romney pay less than 1 percent in taxes each year, and here’s the kicker — he expects you to pick up the tab.”
The president is demanding that Romney, a former venture capitalist, release more than the two years of personal tax returns he has already promised, and paints his rival as the epitome of a society tilted toward the rich.
On Thursday, Romney insisted that he had always paid at least 13 percent in taxes, but that figure could still be politically damaging because it is much lower than what most middle class Americans pay.
Romney, estimated to be worth about US$250 million, has his income taxed as investment earnings rather than as an annual salary, hence the lower rate, complicating his campaign to deny Obama a second term on Nov. 6.
In his budget proposal, Ryan would eliminate double taxation on interest, capital gains or dividends, reasoning that greater savings would lead to higher productivity and more investment.
However, Romney has said he would keep taxes on capital gains, interests and dividends at the current rate, but eliminate them entirely for those earning less than US$200,000 a year.
Obama cited a study by the bipartisan Tax Policy Center that said that Romney’s policies would result in middle class families paying an extra US$2,000 a year, while the wealthiest Americans would get a big tax cut.
However, the Romney campaign said that after the release of new figures showing a rise in the unemployment rates in 44 states, it was not surprising the president was launching another attack.
“The fact is President Obama wants to raise taxes on private investment and job creators, which will lead to higher unemployment and fewer jobs,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said. “The Romney-Ryan plan eliminates taxes for the middle class on interest, dividends and capital gains and implements pro-growth policies to deliver more jobs and more take-home pay for middle-class families.”