Appearing on two Sunday shows, Bill Clinton addressed the controversy surrounding Mitt Romney’s newly unearthed remarks that the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes are essentially freeloaders.
“You know, I know a lot of higher income people, a lot of whom help me do my work and they’re supporting Governor Romney. And a lot of people say things like that,” Clinton said on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” before taking on the premise.
“First, they do pay taxes — they pay Social Security taxes, they pay Medicare taxes, they pay state and local taxes,” he said. “Second, they are out of the income tax pool for two reasons: one is the economic crash, which lowered a lot of peoples’ incomes. … Now the second reason is interesting, it’s a bipartisan reason in the past: it’s because of the combined impacts of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.”
The former president, who lit up the Democratic convention this month, added on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” that the comment “puts a heavier burden on [Romney] in the debates to talk about what he meant.”
Romney’s comments exposed a rift on the right: while the conservative base rallied around their nominee’s claim, conservative policy minds shared Clinton’s analysis. They pointed out that it was Republican-driven tax relief measures, like the EITC, that helped swell the ranks of those who don’t pay federal income taxes, and argued that raising the tax burden on the poor is not a laudable goal. Experts say taxing the 47 percent could put millions into poverty.
Clinton also offered his analysis of the presidential race — and his prediction.
“I think that the president’s winning, and winning in the swing states,” Clinton said on “Face The Nation,” although he warned that the Romney campaign and its outside allies will outspend him in the final stretch. But he predicted, “I think the president will win.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.