In what amounted to a do-over on the subject of wealth and fairness,President Barack Obama took aim on Tuesday night at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s personal finances,his tax plan and his once-private comment about the 47 per cent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes.
Obama’s aggressive approach on those issues contrasted sharply with his restraint in their first matchup in Denver on October 3,when he avoided entirely the now-famous 47 per cent comment,taped at a fundraiser in May.
Obama zeroed in on Romney’s 14 per cent tax rate,the roughly $20 million he earned in a recent year and his investments in China. He cheekily joked during their second debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead,New York,that Romney’s pension was likely fatter than his.
When he said behind closed doors that 47 per cent of the country considered themselves victims,who refuse personal responsibility,think about who he was talking about,Obama said Tuesday,noting many in that group who are the elderly,veterans and students.
And once again,he went after Romney’s tax plans which the president said favored the rich.
Romney,a former Massachusetts governor and co-founder of investment firm Bain Capital,defended his proposal to slash all Americans’ tax rates by 20 per cent.
Romney’s own – albeit indirect – reference to the 47 per cent remarks came as he responded to a question about misconceptions held about him. He said he cared about 100 per cent of the American people. I want 100 per cent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future.
Romney also pledged that the top 5 per cent wealthiest Americans would continue to pay 60 per cent of all federal income taxes.
That is roughly the amount of federal income taxes that the richest 5 per cent pay,according to the Tax Policy Center.
The 47 per cent figure also comes from that research group,although it has been widely noted that many of those individuals are either senior citizens or the working poor using popular tax credits.
Sticking to his previous tax policy statements,Romney pledged to cut taxes for the middle class but keep the wealthy paying the same share of taxes.
One undecided voter,among those selected to question the candidates Tuesday night,asked Romney how he would fund the cut,reflecting a frequent criticism of his proposal.
I’m going to bring rates down across the board for everybody,but I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits,particularly for people at the high end,Romney said.
During a squabble about whether Romney had investments in Chinese companies,Romney said his investments were managed by a blind trust.
Romney asked Obama if he knew what was in his retirement plan.
It’s not as big as yours,Obama said,in a dig at Romney’s wealth.
Factbox: Quotes from second US presidential debate
On jobs and unemployment
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney:
I want to make small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they’re going now because of the policies of this administration.
The president has tried,but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a speaker and at describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful,except we have a record to look at and that record shows that he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit,to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them,to get us the rising incomes we need.
I care about 100 per cent of the American people and I want 100 per cent of the American people to have a bright prosperous future.
We don’t have to settle for gasoline at $4,we don’t have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level,we don’t have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps.
We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office… We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work.
President Barack Obama:
I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity that the world’s ever known,I believe in self-reliance… But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot.
I believe Governor Romney is a good man,loves his family,cares about his faith. But I also believe that what he said behind closed doors,that 47 per cent of the country considered themselves victims,who refuse personal responsibility? … I want to fight for them.
Governor Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan,he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector,that’s been his philosophy as a governor and that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.
(When I took office,) the economy was on the verge of collapse because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression,as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney now promotes. So it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down the gas prices,because with his policies we might be back in that same mess.
On Libya attack
There was no demonstration involved,it was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading,or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened,you have to ask yourself…
The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind. And this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.
The day after the attack,Governor,I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we were going to find out exactly what happened,that this was an act of terror and I also said that we were going to hunt down those who committed this crime.
I’m the president and I’m always responsible.
Not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made,but when it comes to our national security I mean what I say… When I say that we’re going to find out exactly what happened,everybody will be held accountable and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there,because these are my folks and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home – you know I mean what I say.
While we were still dealing with our diplomats still being threatened,Governor Romney put out a press release,trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander-in-chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue,certainly not right when it’s happening.
I want to make sure we use our oil,our coal,our gas,our nuclear,our renewables… But what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil,coal and gas. This has not been Mr Oil,or Mr Gas,or Mr Coal.
When I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy,I mean,keep in mind,Governor,when you were governor of Massachusetts,you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said,’This plant kills,’ and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly,you’re a big champion of coal.
He’s got the oil and gas part,but he doesn’t have the clean energy part. And if we’re only thinking about tomorrow and the next day and not thinking about ten years from now,we’re not going to control our economic future. Because China,Germany,they’re making these investments,and I’m not going to cede those jobs in the future to those counties.
On lower pay for women than men
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy,so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees are bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
As I was serving as governor of my state … I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men… we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said,Can you help us find folks,and they brought us whole binders full of women.
These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues… That’s been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I’m going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years.
I will not under any circumstances reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest-income paying taxpayers and I will not under any circumstance increase taxes on the middle class. The president’s spending,the president’s borrowing will cause this nation to have to raise taxes on the American people,and not just at the high end.
What (Romney) says is he’s going to make sure that this doesn’t add to the deficit and he’s going to cut middle-class taxes. But when he’s asked,’how are you going to do it,which deductions,which loopholes are you going to close?’ he can’t tell you… We haven’t heard from the Governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that.
On comparison with President George W. Bush
President Bush and I are different people and these are different times. And that’s why my five-point plan is so different from what he would have done.
On why Americans should vote for Obama again
The commitments I’ve made,I’ve kept. And those that I haven’t been able to keep,it’s not for a lack of trying and we’re going to get it done in the second term.
On Romney’s promise to crack down on China
When he talks about getting tough on China,keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China… Governor,you’re the last person to get tough on China.