Romney Largely Consistent on Flat Tax Issue
While presidential candidates Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have allied themselves with flat tax proposals, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has walked fine line on the issue, warning against proposals that could hurt middle class taxpayers, but stopping short of an all-out assault on the idea of a flat tax. While Romney's posture has sparked cries of flip-flopping, a close review of his past positions reveals the former governor is actually displaying remarkable consistency on this issue.
Romney placed anti-flat tax advertisements in Iowa, New Hampshire and Massachusetts newspapers in 1996, when Steve Forbes was starting to gain steam in the Republican presidential race. The full-page ad, which bears Romney's signature at the bottom, took issue with the lack of investment taxes in Forbes's flat tax proposal, painting the plan as a tax cut for the wealthy ("Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Forbes") and an increase for "you."
Even as Romney stood against Forbes's proposal, the former governor was careful to say that he was not against all flat tax proposals. Consider what he said at the time to the Boston Globe, one of the newspapers to run the ad: "There are a number of flat tax proposals around that would be better than the tax system we have now. But if all we talk about is the Steve Forbes proposal we'll just cement in people's minds the notion that the Republican Party is the party of the rich."
Compare that with Romney's statements on the campaign trail this year and there's not much difference. The New York Times quotes Romney saying "I love a flat tax" in August, and he told a town hall audience that "the flat tax has positive features" recently. But Romney has consistently tempered that sentiment with a note of caution about the ultimate results of such a move. The next words out of Romney's mouth at the town hall were, "You have to make sure it doesn't raise taxes on middle-income Americans." Romney also warned that getting rid of deductions, like the one on home mortgages, in one massive tax code rewrite would cause "pretty dramatic changes" for the middle class.