Popularity problem. GOP leaders face taxing questions.

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UYGUR: The GOP has a problem. Their party is pushing legislation that‘s just not popular. That would be a big, big problem in politics.

Their plan to effectively kill Medicare, well, it‘s a disaster. A newly released “Washington Post”/ABC News poll shows that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare in order to fix the debt. That is on top of many other polls that show the same exact thing. When are they going to realize that is unpopular?

As for the relentless push to keep tax cuts going for the wealthiest Americans, also not popular.

Just listen to Paul Ryan‘s constituents booing his plan at a town hall.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During this time of prosperity, the top one percent was talking about 10 percent of the total annual income, but yet today we are righting to not let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire?

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: We do tax the top.



UYGUR: Look, the guy who asked that question described himself as a lifelong conservative, but he‘s had it. He‘s unequal.

When he said, “We do tax the top,” that‘s a lie. He brings down the taxes from the top from 35 percent to 25 percent. That‘s why they booed him, because they know it‘s not true.

And just look at this poll. Nationwide, 72 percent support raising taxes on those making over $250,000 a year. That proposal has the majority support of Democrats, Independents and Republicans. Look at the number—

54 percent of Republicans saying enough is enough, raise taxes on people making over $250,000.

But despite all this, the 2012 GOP contenders are still denouncing Democrats as depraved tax-hikers. Now, let alone how unpopular that position is, they‘re also not telling the truth about their own record on the issue.

So let‘s take a look at the tax history of the top two Republicans that are likely to enter the presidential race.

First, Mitt Romney.

In this 2007 GOP presidential debate, Romney said that while Democrats wanted to raise taxes while he was Massachusetts governor, he put his foot down.


MITT ROMNEY ®, FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: The Democrats—you probably know that Massachusetts is a bit of a Democratic state. The Democrats wanted to raise taxes. I said no way. And, in fact, we did not raise taxes on our citizens, and we lowered them across our state time and again.


UYGUR: No way. Really? Well, then how do you explain this?

Andrew Romano of “The Daily Beast” reports that Romney raised a grand total of $432 million in fee hikes on things like marriage licenses, drivers license renewals, gun permits—oh my God—community college tuition, and even bottle deposits. And he raised more than $309 million annually by closing corporate tax loopholes.

Now, look, I like that policy, and it might have been necessary. But it was definitely tax increases.

Now, how about Mike Huckabee? During the former Arkansas governor‘s last presidential bid, he insisted that he cut taxes more than he raised them.

Just check out a portion of one of his campaign ads.


MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR (voice-over): A nation is confused when it forgets who it is. And I don‘t think your value as a human being is found in your checking account.


UYGUR: Yes, that‘s an interesting way to spin it, cut taxes over 90 times. Sure, he did. But did you know while governor, his tax increases outweighed the tax cuts by nearly $500 million.

In fact, he had a number of targeted tax increases including a three percent income tax surcharge on individuals and corporations, three separate hikes on the state‘s sales tax, and taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and related permits. In fact, he was so pro-tax, that once while he was governor he actually begged the legislature to pass tax measures so that he could help make up the state‘s budget shortfall.


HUCKABEE: There‘s a lot of support for a tax at the wholesale level for tobacco. And that‘s fine with me.

Now, some have suggested the retail level of tobacco. If that ends up being your preference, I will accept that.

Others have suggested a surcharge on the income tax. That‘s acceptable.

Yet others have suggested a hybrid that would collect some moneys from any one or a combination of those various ideas. And if that‘s the plan that the House and Senate agree on, then you will have nothing but my profound thanks.


UYGUR: Interesting how much he liked all those different taxes. But funny that now he‘s not exactly offering up his profound thanks to President Obama for proposing to raise taxes on the rich. Funny how that works.

Joining me now is reporter for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein.

Ezra, two different things here. We‘ve got the Medicare issue and we‘ve got the tax issue.

First, on the Medicare issue, I think they might be done. This is what I mean by that—are they really going up against this buzz saw again?

Unless the Democrats hand them a huge gift and somehow miraculously agree with them, there‘s no way they are going to be able to pass this. And at some point they have to got to give up, don‘t they? The American people just do not want it.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That was not a good poll for Paul Ryan. So, deeper into the poll, they did a very specific question on Paul Ryan‘s budget.

They said, you know, would you approve of Medicare being turned into a voucher program where the government gives you a voucher or a check—so they were pretty careful with their language there—to purchase private insurance? Sixty-five percent said no, that would be a terrible idea.

Then they said to the people who said yes, and what if you know, as the CBO projected, that that plan would mean the private Medicare costs would grow more quickly than traditional Medicare costs? Now 84 percent said no, don‘t do it.

So they are in a bit of trouble. And what compounds the trouble for them is that the Republican Party is more dependent on the senior vote than they ever have been before. The seniors went for them 59 percent in 2010. They were the only age group that voted Republican in 2008.

So they‘re at a bit of cross-purposes here with their core constituency. They want to make very unpopular changes to Medicare, but they rely on the very voters who rely on Medicare most.

UYGUR: And Ezra, I remember during the health care debate, they kept pointing to the polls and saying you have got to do what the American people want. I want Barack Obama. Do want the American people want.

When we look at that poll you quoted, when asked about that specific plan that Ryan has, 84 percent are against it.

Why won‘t the Republicans listen to the American people?

KLEIN: Right. This poll is much, much worse than the Affordable Care Act is. And look, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

We have a representative democracy, and Paul and legislators should be able to propose things and try to persuade the American people that they are correct. That said, though we will need, I think, Medicare controls and cuts and reforms going forward. There are a lot of those in the Affordable Care Act and there are more yet in the president‘s budget.

The problem with Ryan‘s plan is the violence (ph) of them. They end up making Medicare more expensive because private insurance is more pricey than Medicare for the same insurance. And then they shift all these costs on to seniors.

So, it‘s fine to say we need to control costs in Medicare. That‘s really not what they are doing.

To go to people and say we need to privatize and shift costs in Medicare, that‘s not balancing the budget. That‘s pursuing an ideological agenda about the entitlement state under the cover of deficit reduction.

UYGUR: I love to make predictions. So here‘s one. They are going to throw this Ryan guy under a bus.

At some point they‘re going to say, what, us? No. Medicare? No that was Paul Ryan. No, that guy‘s crazy.

OK? That‘s my sense of it. Those numbers are too damaging to ignore.

But let‘s go to the tax issue, right? Huckabee, raising taxes tremendously. Romney, doing likewise.

Here. I‘ll give you another one, Tim Pawlenty. I mean, the number of taxes that he‘s raised is through the roof — $200 million when it comes to cigarette tax increase; $109 million in corporate tax increase when he was governor of Minnesota, of course; $2.7 billion in property tax increase. I‘m getting tired of all these tax increases—marriage license, college tuition, parking tickets, et cetera, et cetera.

How did these guys with a straight face say, oh, we are against raising taxes?

KLEIN: Let‘s name a couple more. Ronald Reagan, a number of tax increases after his 1981 tax cuts. George H. W. Bush, a very large spending cut and tax increase bill to balance the budget.

This is what you do when you‘re in charge. And to their credit, a lot of these state Republican governors who are now thinking about running for president knew that.

The problem is the Republican Party has developed as a sort of rhetorical litmus test a completely unrealistic vision of how you do fiscal policy in this country or in any other. And anybody who has actually had to balance the budget before, all these guys are having to come out and say, well, scratch, scratch, maybe we didn‘t do so good.

And the other point on this is that when you can‘t ever say you raised taxes, what you do is you raise things that are unnoticed taxes. So, you brought up user fees earlier, and a lot of those are really regressive.

Cigarette taxes, liquor taxes, hospital bed taxes, park fees, all the DMV fees, all these things that the rich don‘t notice, so they don‘t become as big a problem in the political system, end up being very, very regressive. But they end up being a way to hide their tax increases and call them a user fee. It‘s not better for the economy and it‘s not better for anyone else, but it‘s become a rhetorical go-to for them.

UYGUR: And I don‘t think it‘s a coincidence. It hits the poor and the middle class more. I mean, that‘s a Republican‘s dream. They love that.

So, I don‘t think it‘s an accident that happened, but what I‘m amazed by is how brazen they are. They know they raised taxes and they come out in political ads and say, “I never raised taxes.”

It‘s unbelievable to me. but I guess I should get used to Washington a little bit more.

All right. Ezra, it‘s been a great conversation, as always.

Ezra Klein from “The Washington Post.”

Thanks for joining me tonight. I really appreciate it.

KLEIN: Thank you.

UYGUR: All right.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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