Romney's 15 percent tax rate and economic unfairness

Jan. 18, 2012 at 4:00 AM
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FLORENCE, S.C., Jan. 18 (UPI) -- As multimillionaire GOP hopeful Mitt Romney guessed his income tax rate was about 15 percent, a poll found most Americans think the economy favors the rich.

Romney, under growing pressure from rival Republicans to release his tax returns, said his effective tax rate was "probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything," a lower tax rate than millions of struggling Americans. He told reporters at a campaign stop in South Carolina Tuesday most of his income in the past decade came from investments rather than from earned income like a salary.

He also characterized as "not very much" the $374,327 he reported earning in speaking fees last year.

Romney, whose fortune is estimated at $190 million to $250 million, has benefited, like many of the top 1 percent of U.S. earners, from federal tax policy changes that pushed federal tax rates on investment income well below the top 35 percent rate for wages and salaries.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Romney's 15 percent tax-rate acknowledgment underscored a tax code unfairness President Barack Obama wanted to fix.

"This only illuminates what he believes is an issue, which is that everybody who's working hard ought to pay their fair share," Carney said. "And that includes millionaires who might be paying an effective tax rate of 15 percent when folks making $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 a year are paying much more."

During 2010 and the first nine months of 2011, the Romney family had at least $9.6 million in income, an August 2011 financial disclosure indicated.

Obama's 2010 tax return showed he and first lady Michelle Obama earned $1,728,096, mostly from the sale of his books, including "The Audacity of Hope." The couple, who filed jointly, paid $453,770 in federal taxes and got a refund of $12,334.

Obama reported paying an effective federal tax rate of 26 percent on his 2010 family income.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday found most Americans see the economic system as unfairly favoring the wealthy, and see this as a more serious problem than government regulation of the free market.

Fifty-five percent said economic-system unfairness favoring the wealthy was a bigger problem, while 35 percent said free market regulation that interferes with growth and prosperity as bigger.

Those who saw economic unfairness as a bigger problem said Obama was better equipped than the ultimate GOP presidential candidate to deal with it. Those who saw market regulation as the bigger problem saw the Republican candidate as better equipped.

Political independents saw economic unfairness as a bigger problem, 52-38.

The phone poll of 1,000 adults, conducted Jan. 12-15, has a 3.5 percent margin of error.

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