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Obama and Romney open presidential debate with duel over taxes

October 03, 2012|By Michael Finnegan

President Obama and Mitt Romney opened their first debate with a spirited back-and-forth over taxes, with the Democratic incumbent going on the attack in his opening statement.

“Gov. Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and roll back regulations, that we'll be better off,” Obama said. “I've got a different view.”

Romney quickly denied that he planned to cut taxes for the rich, saying he would “take a different path -- not the one we've been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That's not what I'm going to do.”

Obama pressed forward with his argument that Romney’s tax cuts would total as much as $5 trillion, swelling the deficit when combined with his Republican challenger’s proposed $2 trillion in new military spending.

PHOTOS: Memorable presidential debate moments

“If the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support,” Romney responded, “I'd say absolutely not. I'm not looking for a $5-trillion tax cut. What I've said is I won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit.”

“I will lower taxes on middle-income families,” he added.

Romney continued: “I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know it's a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it's just not the case. Look, I got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it. But that is not the case, all right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.”

Obama shot back by borrowing one of President Clinton’s lines from his speech at the Democratic National Convention, saying it was impossible to find enough tax loopholes affecting the rich to avoid burdening the middle class or increasing the deficit.

“It's math,” Obama said. “It's arithmetic.”

PHOTOS: Scenes from the first presidential debate

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

Twitter: @finneganlatimes

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