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Hempstead, New York
MS. CROWLEY: I’ve got to move you along. And the next question is for you.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: No, he got the first -- he actually got the first question, so I get the last question -- last answer on that one.
MS. CROWLEY: Actually in the follow-up it doesn’t quite work like that. But I’m going to give you a chance here. I promise you, I’m going to. And the next question is for you, so if you want to continue on. But I don’t want to leave all these guys sitting here.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Candy, I don’t have a policy of stopping wind jobs in Iowa. And they’re not phantom jobs, they’re real jobs. I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country. I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas.
MS. CROWLEY: Okay, thank you --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’m going to make sure that taking advantage of our energy resources will bring back manufacturing to America. We’re going to get through a very aggressive energy policy -- 3.5 million more jobs in this country. It’s critical to our future.
THE PRESIDENT: Candy, it’s okay, I’m used to being interrupted.
MS. CROWLEY: We’re going to move you along to taxes. All right, we’re going to move you both along to taxes over here and all these folks that have been waiting. Governor, this question is for you. It comes from Mary Polano (ph).
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Hi, Mary.
Q Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected President you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets, and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning these various deductions -- the mortgage deduction, the charitable deductions, the Child Tax Credit, and also the -- oh, what’s that other credit? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You’re doing great.
Q Oh, I remember -- the education credits, which are important to me because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you very much. And let me tell you, you’re absolutely right about part of that, which is I want to bring the rates down. I want to simplify the tax code, and I want to get middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes. And the reason I want middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes is because middle-income taxpayers have been buried over the past four years.
You’ve seen as middle-income people in this country -- incomes go down $4,300 a family, even as gasoline prices have gone up $2,000. Health insurance premiums up $2,500. Food prices up. Utility prices up. The middle-income families in America have been crushed over the last four years, so I want to get some relief to middle-income families. That's part one.
Now, how about deductions? Because 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, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they're paying now.
The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that will stay the same.
Middle-income people are going to get a tax break. And so in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be to say everybody gets -- I’ll pick a number -- $25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit and so forth, you can use those as part of fill in that bucket, if you will, of deductions. But your rate comes down, and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason, and that is every middle-income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains; no tax on your savings.
That makes life a lot easier. If you’re getting interest from a bank, if you’re getting a statement from a mutual fund, or any other kind of investments you have, you don't have to worry about filing taxes on that because there will be no taxes for anybody making $200,000 a year and less on your interest, dividends and capital gains.
Why am I lowering taxes on the middle class? Because under the last four years, they’ve been buried, and I want to help people in the middle class. And I will not -- I will not under any circumstances reduce the share that's being paid by the highest income taxpayers. And I will not under any circumstances 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, not just at the high end. A recent study has shown that people in the middle class will see $4,000 a year higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration. I will not let that happen. I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget, and I’m going to reduce the tax burden on middle-income families. And what’s that going to do? It’s going to help those families, and it’s going to create incentives to start growing jobs again in this country.
MS. CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor.
THE PRESIDENT: My philosophy on taxes has been simple, and that is I want to give middle-class families and folks who are striving to get into the middle class some relief -- because they have been hit hard, over the last decade, over the last 15, over the last 20 years.
So four years ago, I stood on a stage just like this one -- actually, it was a town hall -- and I said, I would cut taxes for middle-class families, and that's what I've done -- by $3,600. I said I would cut taxes for small businesses -- who are the drivers and engines of growth -- and we've cut them 18 times. And I want to continue those tax cuts for middle-class families and for small businesses.
But what I've also said is if we're serious about reducing the deficit, if this is genuinely a moral obligation to the next generation, then in addition to some tough spending cuts, we've also got to make sure that the wealthy do a little bit more.
So what I've said is your first $250,000 worth of income, no change. And that means 98 percent of American families, 97 percent of small businesses, they will not see a tax increase. I'm ready to sign that bill right now. The only reason it's not happening is because Governor Romney's allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage, because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent.
But what I've also said is for above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was President. We created 23 million new jobs. That's part of what took us from deficits to surplus. It will be good for our economy and it will be good for job creation.
Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on "60 Minutes" just two weeks ago and he was asked, is it fair for somebody like you making $20 million a year to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or bus driver, somebody making $50,000 a year. And he said, yes, I think that's fair. Not only that, he said, I think that's what grows the economy.
Well, I fundamentally disagree with that. I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.
So we just have a different theory. And when Governor Romney stands here, after a year of campaigning when during a Republican primary, he stood on stage and said, I'm going to give tax cuts -- he didn't say tax rate cuts, he said tax cuts -- to everybody including the top 1 percent, you should believe him, because that's been his history. And that's exactly the kind of top-down economics that is not going to work if we want a strong middle class and an economy that's thriving for everybody.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor Romney, I'm sure you've got a reply there. (Laughter.)
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You're absolutely right. You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.
And why do I want to bring rates down and at the same time lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people. And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America's economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.
For me, I look at what's happened in the last four years and say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this. We don't have to settle for how many months -- 43 months with unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job right now. There are 3.5 million more women living in poverty today than when the President took office. We don’t have to live like this.
We can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it. Energy independence for North America in five years; opening up more trade, particularly in Latin America; cracking down on China when they cheat; getting us to a balanced budget; fixing our training programs for our workers; and, finally, championing small business.
I want to help 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.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, let me ask the President something about what you just said. The Governor says that he is not going to allow the top 5 percent -- I believe is what he said -- to have a tax cut, that it will all even out, that what he wants to do is give that tax cut to the middle class. Settled?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it's not settled. Look, the cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board 20 percent, along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along with what he wants to do in terms of corporate changes in the tax code, it costs about $5 trillion.
Governor Romney then also wants to spend $2 trillion on additional military programs, even though the military is not asking for them. That's $7 trillion. He also wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That's another trillion dollars. That's $8 trillion.
Now, what he 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. The fact that he only has to pay 14 percent on his taxes when a lot of you are paying much higher, he's already taken that off the board. Capital gains are going to continue to be at a low rate, so we're not going to get money that way.
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.
Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal.
And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up. And what’s at stake here is one of two things. Either, Candy, this blows up the deficit -- because keep in mind, this is just to pay for the additional spending that he’s talking about -- $7-$8 trillion -- that’s before we even get to the deficit we already have.
Or, alternatively, it’s got to be paid for not only by closing deductions for wealthy individuals -- that will pay for about 4 percent reduction in tax rates -- you’re going to be paying for it. You’ll lose some deductions. And you can’t buy this sales pitch. Nobody who’s looked at it that’s serious actually believes it adds up.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me get the Governor in on this. And, Governor, let’s, before we get into a vast array of who says -- what study says what, if it shouldn’t add up, if somehow when you get in there, there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in, if somehow the numbers don’t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent --
MR. ROMNEY: Well, of course they add up. I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the state of a Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years.
When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years -- $5 trillion? That’s math that doesn’t add up. We have a President talking about someone’s plan in a way that’s completely foreign to what my real plan is.
And then we have his own record, which is we have four consecutive years where he said, when he was running for office, he would cut the deficit in half. Instead, he’s doubled it. We’ve gone from $10 trillion of national debt to $16 trillion of national debt. If the President were reelected, we’d go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece.
I know what it takes to balance budgets. I’ve done it my entire life. So for instance, when he says, yours is a $5 trillion cut -- well, no, it’s not, because I’m offsetting some of the reductions, withholding down some of the deductions and I --
THE PRESIDENT: Candy --
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, I’ve got to --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’m sorry --
MS. CROWLEY: Actually, I need to have you both hang -- I understand the stakes here. I understand both of you, but I will get run out of town if I don’t allow --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And I just described to you, Mr. President, I just described to you precisely how I’d do it --
MS. CROWLEY: You will get --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: -- which is with a single number that people can put -- and they can put their deductions and credits into that bucket.
THE PRESIDENT: Are we keeping track of --
MS. CROWLEY: Let me -- Mr. President, we’re keeping track, I promise you. And, Mr. President, the next question is for you --
THE PRESIDENT: Great, looking forward to it.
MS. CROWLEY: -- so stay standing. And it’s Catherine Fenton who has a question for you.
Q In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Catherine, this is a great question. And I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed.
My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president at a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career. She didn't complain. That's not what you did in that generation.
And this is one of the reasons why one of the first -- the first bill I signed was something called the Lilly Ledbetter bill, and it was named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn’t bring suit because she should have found out about it earlier, where she had no way of finding out about it. So we fixed that.
And that's an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue; this is a middle-class issue. And that's why we’ve got to fight for it.
And that's an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue; this is a middle-class issue. And that's why we’ve got to fight for it.
It also means that we’ve got to make sure that young people like yourself are able to afford a college education. Earlier, Governor Romney talked about he wants to make Pell grants and other education accessible for young people. Well, the truth of the matter is, is that that's exactly what we’ve done. We’ve expanded Pell grants for millions of people, including millions of young women all across the country. We did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said let’s just cut out the middle man. Let’s give the money directly to students. And as a consequence, we’ve seen millions of young people be able to afford college, and that's going to make sure that young women are going to be able to compete in that marketplace.
But we’ve got to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing. And we’ve also got to make sure that in every walk of life, we do not tolerate discrimination. 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.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you, an important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I went to my staff and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are all men? They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can’t we find some women that are also qualified? And so 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.
I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognize that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. at night; I need to be able to get home at 5:00 p.m. so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers, they’re going to be anxious to hire women.
In the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That's the net of what's happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 3.5 million women more now in poverty than four years ago.
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce, and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
This is what I’ve done. It’s what I look forward to doing. And I know what it takes to make an economy work. And I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy. An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can’t find a job, or a college-level job -- that's not what we have to have. I’m going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, why don't you get in on this quickly, please?
THE PRESIDENT: Catherine, I just want to point out that when Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said, I’ll get back to you. And that's not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy.
Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace -- for example, their health care. A major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that's a mistake.
In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who’s insured, because this is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket.
Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That's not the kind of advocacy that women need.
When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care; they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That's a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country, and it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.
When we talk about child care and the credits that we’re providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family.
These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues. And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates, and women are getting the same, fair deal as men are. And I’ve got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have. And that's a part of what I’m fighting for as President of the United States.
MS. CROWLEY: I want to move us along here to Susan Katz (ph) who has a question. And, Governor, it’s for you.
Q Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush? And how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you. And I appreciate that question. I just want to make sure that -- I think I was supposed to get that last answer, but I want to point out that I don't believe --
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think so, Candy. I want to make sure your timekeepers are working here.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: The time --
MS. CROWLEY: The timekeepers are all working.
THE PRESIDENT: All right.
MS. CROWLEY: And let me tell you that the last part, it’s for the two of you to talk to one another, and it isn’t quite as ordered as you think. But go ahead and use this two minutes any way you’d like to, the question is on the floor.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’d just note that I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And the President’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.
THE PRESIDENT: Governor, that's not true.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Let me come back and answer your question. President Bush and I are different people, and these are different times. And that's why my five-point plan is so different than what he would have done.
For instance, we can now by virtue of new technology actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time. That's why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America, become energy secure.
Number two, trade: I’ll crack down on China. President Bush didn't. I’m also going to dramatically expand trade in Latin America. It’s been growing about 12 percent per year over a long period of time. I want to add more free trade agreements so we’ll have more trade.
Number three, I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn't. President Obama was right -- he said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right. But then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his four years, and his forecast for the next four years is more deficits almost that large. So that's the next way I’m different than President Bush.
And then let’s take the last one, championing small business. Our party has been focused on big business too long. I came through small business. I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That's why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down on small business. I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it.
And the thing I find most troubling about Obamacare -- well, it’s a long list -- but one of the things I find most troubling is that when you go out and talk to small businesses and ask them what they think about it, they tell you it keeps them from hiring more people.
My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen. And President Bush had a very different path for a very different time. My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people.
MS. CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to tell you that we did come in during some tough times. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I started. But we have been digging our way out of policies that were misplaced and focused on the top doing very well and middle-class folks not doing well. And we’ve seen 30 consecutive -- 31 consecutive months of job growth, 5.2 million new jobs created. And the plans that I talked about will create even more.
But when Governor Romney says that he has a very different economic plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan are tax cuts. That’s what took us from surplus to deficit. When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing in countries -- in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks.
Governor, you’re the last person who is going to get tough on China.
And what we’ve done when it comes to trade is not only sign three trade deals to open up new markets, but we’ve also set up a task force for trade that goes after anybody who is taking advantage of American workers or businesses, and not creating a level playing field. We’ve brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous administration and we’ve won every single one that’s been decided.
When I said that we had to make sure that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires, Governor Romney said I was being protectionist, that it wouldn’t be helpful to American workers. Well, in fact, we saved a thousand jobs. And that’s the kind of tough trade actions that are required.
But the last point I want to make is this: There are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform; he didn’t call for self-deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
So there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy. And I think that’s a mistake. That’s not how we’re going to move our economy forward.
MS. CROWLEY: I want to move you both along to the next question because it’s in the same wheelhouse so you will be able to respond. But the President does get this question. I want to call on Michael Jones.
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