As the fallout from Mitt Romney’s comments at a closed-door fundraiser continues today, the candidates for the Congressional District 2 seat weighed in with their reaction to the Republican presidential nominee’s comments about the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes.
Republican Martha McSally, who hopes to unseat newly elected Congressman Ron Barber, was critical of Romney’s comments.
“I’m focused on my race right now, so I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the presidential debate, but obviously, what he said was inappropriate,” McSally said.
Barber said that anyone who suggests that 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes is “really detached from the reality of who that 47 percent is.”
“This is another example of people running for office who are really hostile to middle-class Americans and people who are out of work,” Barber said. “He seems to have no real sense of what’s really going on.”
Barber said that the 47 percent of people who don’t pay federal income taxes still pay a lot of other taxes: 28 percent of them are employed, so they pay payroll taxes (i.e., Social Security and Medicare taxes), as well as local sales taxes and other taxes.
Another 10 percent are elderly people who have retired and don't earn enough to pay taxes.
“My uncle, for example, gets $900 bucks a month from Social Security,” Barber says. “He doesn’t have to pay taxes on that. He barely gets by on that. So we’re talking about people who are really struggling, and who in many cases do pay taxes. Certainly, they’re not people who are expecting government to do everything for them. Many of them are trying to get back to work.”
While some Republicans have been critical of Romney’s statements, other conservative pundits have praised Romney for speaking bluntly about the fact that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes.
When it comes to the question of whether its appropriate for so many Americans to not pay federal income taxes, McSally said the nation needs to have a conversation about those policies.
She said she supports “real tax reform that brings the complexity down, makes it simpler, keeps taxes as low as possible and as inclusive as possible. So whatever that right number is, (so that) people are paying, symbolically, some level of tax—whether its appropriate or not is certainly worth having a discussion in a bipartisan way.”
McSally said she opposed raising taxes on anyone right now and supports extending the Bush cuts.
“I am not for raising taxes on anyone in the economic situation that we’re in,” McSally said. “I don’t think it’s smart to be doing that.”
McSally said she’d prefer to focus on cutting government spending and expanding economic activity.
Barber recently voted in favor a budget plan that would keep the Bush tax cuts in place for Americans who earn less than $250,000 but would return incomes higher than that to Clinton-era tax rates.
“I supported the tax cuts continuing for middle-class Americans and I felt that people at the top of the income bracket—people making $250,000 or more—could pay a little bit more into the system to help us to right the fiscal situation that we’ve got.”