A spokesperson for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign accused the New York Times on Monday of “pretty deceptive reporting” in a story about the Republican candidate’s flat tax stance.
“I love a flat tax,” Romney, a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is quoted as saying by the Times. The paper used the quote to imply Romney is backtracking on his previous criticism of the flat tax, but Andrea Saul, an aide to the former governor, says his full remarks that day make it clear his views of the issue are more nuanced than that.
According to Saul, the quote was “conveniently clipped” by the Times. “I think when you read the actual statement in its entirety, you can see it was pretty deceptive reporting on their part and that Gov. Romney is in favor of a flatter and simpler tax code so long as it doesn’t raise taxes on the middle class,” she told The Daily Caller. (SEE ALSO: Newt brags about being a longtime flat tax proponent)
“You know, I love a flat tax,” Romney said at a town hall meeting in August, the origin of the quote used by the Times. “There’s a lot about a flat tax that works, but it means different things to different people, and this is the key for me — I want to make sure that we don’t … end up giving a break to certain groups of people and not to others.”
Romney goes on to say he doesn’t want to raise taxes on middle income Americans and says “there are some tax proposals that are called a flat tax that I don’t agree with, because they end up being huge breaks for the highest income Americans, of which I happened to have been one — still am.”
“I’m not looking for a tax break for me,” Romney continued. “But I want to make sure we keep taxes as low as possible for middle-income Americans who want to get rich because it is them — it is the entrepreneurial spirit of the great majority of Americans — that allows us to have the vitality, economically, that has propelled us to where we are.”
While not quoting Romney in full, the story does say Romney emphasized “that he would never support any plan that hurts the middle class and helps the wealthy” in his remarks that day. “But by replacing the graduated income tax with one single rate everyone pays,” wrote reporters Richard Oppel, Jr. and Ashley Parker, “that is precisely what flat tax plans generally do, at least those that try to generate anywhere near the same tax revenue. “
“If you’re going to get the same amount of revenue, someone has to pay the price,” Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan think tank, told the paper. According to Williams, implementing a flat tax would mean the “rich pay less, the poor pay nothing, and the middle class bears the burden.”
The paper also notes Romney’s past criticism of the flat tax does trouble some economic conservatives. In 1996, for example, he took out a full-page ad in The Boston Globe calling Steve Forbes’ proposal a “tax cut for fat cats.” The Times story quotes prominent conservative and small-government activists critical of Romney’s flat tax stance over the years and his perceived ideological flexibility.
“His problem is that people don’t have confidence that they know what he believes in, and I think there is a pretty good reason for that,” Club for Growth president and former Republican congressman Chris Chocola told the Times. Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist is similarly critical, telling the paper Romney’s past comments on the flat tax are “a little tough to explain.”
Former congressman Dick Armey, an early proponent of the flat tax, told the paper Romney was doing “the conventional, orthodox, old, traditional Republican thing: You’ve got to give it lip service but ‘I don’t want to do much heavy lifting.’”