Pay no attention to that House Budget Committee plan behind the curtain.
That's what the Mitt Romney campaign, conjuring up its best Wizard of Oz voice, is telling us. But we don't need a Toto to pull back the drapes. The financial ideas of Romney's newly named running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are already well-known. They're also equally hated and adored depending on your political position as to the appropriate role of the federal government.
There are a couple of reasons why Romney is trying to distance himself from the Ryan plan, known as the not-so-modestly named "A Roadmap for America's Future."
First, Romney wants to make sure everyone knows he, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, is in charge, not this so-called Republican Party Young Gun. It's all well and good to add some pizazz to a campaign that seemed to be faltering, at least in the polls, but it's another to have the guy who would occupy the Oval Office to be outshone by the potential vice president. Just look at what happened to Sen. John McCain when Sarah Palin joined his ticket.
But more problematic than ending up in Ryan's star power shadow is the very real possibility that congressman's budget and tax road map will detour us from Romney's own fiscal proposals.
Romney vs. Ryan on taxes
Romney isn't suggesting big changes to the current tax code. He'd keep the current six individual income tax rates but reduce each by 20 percent. He'd also make the investment taxes less, well, taxing but they would remain on the books.
Ryan, however, wants to reduce our tax rates to just two, 10 percent and 25 percent. He'd also do away with a lot of tax preference items, those deductions and credits and income exclusions now used to lower tax bills, and replace them with a larger standard deduction and personal exemption amounts.
Ryan's individual tax plan also proposes changes to the way investments are taxed.
Right now, certain dividends and capital gains are taxed at a maximum 15 percent rate. Ordinary interest earned on things such as certificates of deposit and similar savings vehicles is taxed at the account owner's ordinary income tax rate, which could be as high as 35 percent.
Ryan would make all investment earnings tax-free regardless of the taxpayer's income. His, and possibly America's boss, would keep the capital gains and qualified dividends rate at 15 percent for folks making more than $200,000.
Why is Ryan's investment tax-elimination idea a problem for Romney? Because based on the two tax returns that Romney has released, all of his income has come from capital gains. And if he backs Ryan's proposals, Romney would owe no taxes.
Regardless of how much folks say the rich deserve their money, the idea that a really rich occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be paying nothing to the Internal Revenue Service, while the vast majority of us would be paying at least something, doesn't seem right.
So Romney is insisting that we ignore the previously published Ryan fiscal agenda. The veep will be following the presidential candidate's fiscal lead.
Yeah, like we believe that's going to happen!
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