Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
Mitt Romney suggested in an interview Tuesday that he would retain popular income tax deductions for home mortgages and charitable deductions, but refused to say specifically how he would balance out a cut in overall tax rates.
Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Romney insisted that President Obama is “completely wrong” to say that the Republican nominee wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion. He declined to put a dollar figure on the cuts, however, and said only that they would be balanced out by limiting deductions, simplifying the tax code and stimulating growth in the economy.
“I want to make it simpler, fairer. I want to encourage the economy to grow again,” he said. Pressed on whether he would eliminate the deductions for home mortgages and charitable contributions, he said, “There will, of course, continue to be preferences for those kinds of expenses.”
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Tax experts have questioned how Romney can find enough deductions to make up the money that would be lost through a 20% cut in the overall tax rate -- the figure the GOP candidate has used in the past. And some have suggested that if he is able to find enough ways to limit deductions, the result would be to raise taxes on the middle class while lowering them for the wealthy. Repeating the argument he made in his recent debate with Obama, Romney insisted that would not be the case.
He refused, however, to mention specifics.
“I'm not going to lay out a piece of legislation here, because I intend to work together with Republicans and Democrats in Congress, but there are a number of ways one could approach this," he said. "One would be to have a total cap number [for deductions]. It could be $25,000 or $50,000, and people could put whatever deduction in that total cap they'd like, or instead, you could take the posture that Bowles-Simpson did, which is going after specific deductions and limiting them in specific ways.”
Romney was referring to the federal commission chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles that sought ways to cut the federal debt and deficit.
Continuing, he said, “There are a number of ways we can accomplish the principles which I have: lowering rates for middle-income people, making sure high-income people don't pay a smaller share, and simplifying the code and then encouraging growth.... What I do know is, we're going to have to reduce the deductions pretty substantially for people at the high end, because I don't want to make the code less progressive. I want high-income people to continue to pay the same share they pay today.”
Coming off a debate performance against Obama that was widely seen as a big success, Romney nevertheless attempted to damp expectations for his running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who faces Vice President Joe Biden in a nationally televised debate on Thursday. In doing so, he significantly undersold Ryan's experience.
“You know, I don't know how Paul will deal with this debate,” Romney said. “Obviously, the vice president has done, I don't know, 15 or 20 debates during his lifetime -- experienced debater. This is, I think, Paul's first debate. I may be wrong. He may have done something in high school, I don't know.”
Romney was, in fact, wrong: Ryan, who is serving his seventh term in Congress, has debated all his Democratic congressional opponents, most more than once. In 2008, he debated challenger Marge Krupp three times.
Despite understating Ryan's experience, Romney said, “I'm sure he'll do fine, and frankly Paul has the facts on his side, he has policy on his side, and we also have results on our side.”