COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney supports extending the Bush tax cuts to give the winner of the 2012 election time to put policies in place without facing the so-called fiscal cliff in January.
No matter who is elected in November, Romney told CNBC's Larry Kudlow in an interview airing on Monday night, the winner should have "at least six months or a year" to put policies in place without facing the looming spending cuts and tax hikes that would be set to kick in two months later if lawmakers do not act. "Let's extend where we are now, as opposed to looking at a cliff in January that would cause, well, real distress for the economy," Romney said.
"What I'm saying is, don't raise taxes," he said by way of elaboration, adding that he would ultimately propose reforming the tax code by bringing rates down across the board.
Romney also said he would limit deductions and exemptions "so that the highest-income people continue to pay the share that they're paying now.... I'm not looking for tax breaks for high-income folks, but I am looking for more money being kept in small business so we can hire more people and pay better wages," he said.
Romney also defended his continuing attacks over President Obama's statement to business owners that they didn't create their companies entirely on their own. He argued that the context — in which Obama was saying that they were aided by government investment in infrastructure and other programs — is worse than the quote.
"This is an ideology which says, 'Hey, we're all the same here, we ought to take from all and give to one another and that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past,' '' he said. "It's a very strange and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy.
"We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds. The kid that gets the honor roll, the individual worker that gets a promotion, the person that gets a better job. And in fact, the person that builds a business. And by the way, if you have a business and you started it, you did build it. And you deserve credit for that. It was not built for you by government."
Romney also waded into the issue of gun control, a subject of debate after last week's deadly shooting in Aurora, Colo. While Romney discouraged discussing the politics associated with the shooting, he did say that he didn't believe new laws would have made a difference.
"There are — were, of course — very stringent laws which existed in Aurora, Colorado. Our challenge is not the laws, our challenge is people who, obviously, are distracted from reality and do unthinkable, unimaginable, inexplicable things," he said.
Ahead of a foreign trip planned for this week, Romney was highly critical of Obama's handling of the protracted conflict in Syria. "I think from the very beginning we misread the setting in Syria. The secretary of State said that [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad was a reformer. That's a phrase which will obviously go down in history as being poorly timed and entirely inaccurate," he said.
While he called for more assertive leadership — "There's no question but that Assad has to go," he said — he did not provide further details on exactly how he might have handled the conflict differently.