President Obama Goes After Romney's Tax Plan

President Obama campaigned in Ohio on Wednesday. He ripped into the tax proposals of his Republican rival Mitt Romney and said they would tax lower income people to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy. Ari Shapiro talks to Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Obama is campaigning in two Ohio towns today and he's attacking Mitt Romney on taxes. The president is citing a new report that assesses the impact of Romney's tax plan. The report concludes that in order to pay for the cuts Romney wants to put in place, the Republican would have to eliminate tax breaks that favor the middle class.

NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us now. And, Ari, start by telling us more about this report and what it says.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Well, it's by a group called the Tax Policy Center. It's a well-respected organization that's a joint effort of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. They analyze the impact of various tax proposals. William Gail and Adam Looney were the authors of this particular study and they looked at a plan Mitt Romney has put forward. Now, remember Romney wants to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all Americans, in contrast to President Obama who only wants to extend the tax breaks for income under $250,000 per family.

But then, in addition, Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes further for everyone across the board, and says he would do that without adding to the deficit, by making unspecified revisions to the tax code. So this report looks at what kinds of revisions it would take for Romney to make the numbers work. And the report concludes that he would have to eliminate existing tax credits that disproportionately favor the middle class - things like the home mortgage deduction, the health care deduction and so on.

CORNISH: So how did this factor into President Obama's stump speech today?

SHAPIRO: Well, this is part of a theme that President Obama has been emphasizing from the beginning. He argues that he is the candidate of the middle class, while Mitt Romney, he says, is the candidate who supports programs favoring the rich and the privileged. Here's part of what he told a crowd here in Mansfield, Ohio.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In order to afford just one $250,000 tax cut for somebody like Mr. Romney, 125 families like yours would have to pay another $2,000 in taxes each and every year.

CROWD: No.

OBAMA: Does that sound like a good plan for economic growth?

CROWD: No.

OBAMA: Does that sound like a plan you can afford?

CROWD: No.

OBAMA: How many of you want to pay another $2,000 to give Mr. Romney or me another tax break?

CROWD: No.

SHAPIRO: Now, the Romney campaign responded today not by refuting the specifics of the report - they didn't exactly do a line-by-line rebuttal. But they argue that the authors have a liberal bias. And therefore, they say the report should be discounted.

CORNISH: Now, the president is campaigning in some important swing states today and tomorrow. What do the latest polls say about his standing?

SHAPIRO: Right. Well, he is in Ohio today, of course. And then tomorrow, he's in Florida and Virginia. And this morning, we got a new poll by The New York Times, CBS News and Quinnipiac University with good news for President Obama. It shows that he has a lead in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In Ohio and Florida, it's not a huge lead. They show that he's got about six points ahead of Romney. In Pennsylvania, it's wider, about 11 points.

Now, on questions about who would best manage the country's financial situation, both candidates polled fairly evenly. On the question of personal likability, President Obama remains far ahead of Mitt Romney in this poll. And that's all fairly consistent with what we've seen throughout this race; a lead by President Obama that is slight, consistent, sometime within the margin of error, and certainly within striking range of Mitt Romney - given the number of months left in this campaign.

CORNISH: NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro, traveling with the president. Ari, thank you.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Audie.

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