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The specifics on Romney’s plan—and record—on middle class taxes

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have made a big economic promise: Offer $5 trillion in tax cuts weighted towards the wealthiest Americans without adding a penny to the deficit. But when it comes to actually explaining how they’d accomplish this without hurting the middle class, Romney and Ryan are short on specifics. In fact, when Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Ryan to explain how they’d accomplish this, Ryan said, “I don’t have the time. It would take me too long to go through all the math.”

Here’s the math: Assuming Romney and Ryan stick to their promise to pay for their plan, taxes on middle-class Americans would have to go up on families with kids by an average of $2,000. Numerous economic experts have determined that Romney’s tax plan would only work if he raised taxes on middle-class families by slashing tax deductions and exclusions they rely on. Just which deductions and exclusions Romney and Ryan would cut are the specific details that the Romney campaign has determined would be “suicidal” to reveal to the public.

In an attempt to convince Americans that he isn’t going to raise taxes on anyone but is in fact a champion of tax cuts for the middle class, Romney is pointing to his record in Massachusetts, where he claims he cut taxes 19 times. But the reality is that those tax cuts were “minor breaks like a sales tax holiday” or tax breaks designed to help Hollywood, big major corporations, and the rich:

  • An exemption for Bay Staters from paying taxes on a state capital gains tax increase. The state was required to refund up to $275 million to those who paid the higher rate, with $78 million of the refund going to just 278 wealthy individuals.

  • A tax credit luring Bristol-Myers Squibb to build a $660 million facility in Massachusetts by letting the company claim a refund for 5% of its investment in the facility—costing the state millions.

  • Tax breaks for Hollywood to “attract major films” to Massachusetts—a package that “provides up to $7 million in tax credits for a single production.”

Many of the middle class tax cuts Romney is counting were merely extensions of previous tax breaks created by previous administrations. One was more than 30 years old. In fact, Romney later vetoed one of the tax credits he created—the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit—because he “[said] ... he considered it wasteful spending.” But Romney still includes this tax credit as one of his 19 tax cuts. He also took credit for an automatic rise in the personal exemption that saved taxpayers money.

Romney’s tax record is not characterized by 19 tax cuts, but the more than 1,000 taxes and fees that he raised or created in Massachusetts during his one term as governor. And now, rather than ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share, he plans to hike taxes on the middle class so that the wealthy can pay less. Those are the specifics that Romney and Ryan just can’t hide.