Vice President Joe Biden charged Mitt Romney with threatening seniors’ Social Security benefits on Friday, opening up a new line of attack as polls show President Obama gaining ground with older voters.
“If Governor Romney’s plan goes into effect it could mean that every one of you would be paying more taxes on your Social Security,” Biden said at a rally in retiree-heavy Boca Raton, Fla. “The average senior would have to pay $460 a year more in taxes for their Social Security.”
Romney has not released a detailed Social Security plan, but an analysis of his tax proposals by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center suggests that tax exemptions for seniors’ benefits would likely have to be cut to pay for Romney’s proposal for lower tax rates that disproportionately aid the wealthy. While Romney has disputed the study’s assumptions, he has repeatedly refused to release any details as to how his tax cuts would be paid for instead, leaving his vague plan an easy mark for Democratic attacks.
Biden said in his speech that Romney can’t pay for these tax breaks “unless they eviscerate the rest of the budget.”
Democrats clearly are sounding more confident in their “Romney as Scrooge” attacks lately thanks to the leaked tape in which Romney decried the 47 percent of Americans who see themselves as “victims” and “dependent” on government. Biden ended his speech with a loud denunciation of Romney’s remarks and similar comments about “dependency” from his running mate, Paul Ryan.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I mean this sincerely from the bottom of my heart: I do not recognize the country they’re talking about,” he said. “I know where I come from, Americans got knocked down but they’re getting back up. I know where I come from, nobody feels dependency, all they want is an opportunity.”
The Romney campaign shot back that Biden voted for raising taxes on benefits in 1993 as part of President Clinton’s deficit reduction package.
“Vice President Biden is using Social Security to fabricate the Obama campaign’s latest false attacks,” he said. “However, these attacks will backfire when voters learn he has repeatedly supported higher Social Security taxes, and that seniors face a 25% across-the-board benefit cut because of President Obama’s failure to lead on this issue. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan to save and strengthen Social Security that does not raise taxes and ensures that our middle-class seniors receive all of the benefits they’ve earned.”
Romney has been losing ground in recent polls on Medicare, where his running mate Paul Ryan’s privatization plan is still unpopular, and with seniors in general, a must-win demographic for the GOP. By opening up a new front on Social Security, Democrats are hoping to keep Romney on the defensive heading into the final stretch.
(Photo Credit: Brett Marty Photography)
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.