Is Romney Making an About-Face on Flat Tax?

Tax reform and the flattening of tax rates may become a bigger campaign issue than they currently are as the primary season heats up and after Congress comes back and the “Super Committee” begins deliberations.

Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney seems to be aware of where the mood of the electorate is heading, as he seemed more than open to endorsing a version of the flat tax on the campaign trail this week in New Hampshire, a state known for its hatred for taxes and love of liberty.

Romney continued on the theme that it isn’t right for only the “top 1%” to receive tax breaks, but he said that his tax proposal in the fall will be about “bringing our tax rates down both at the corporate level and the individual level, simplifying the tax code perhaps with fewer brackets.”

He then went on to say that “one bracket alone would be even better in some respects.”

In addition, Romney also made several comments in Plymoth, New Hampshire that indicate he has a new found approval for a flat tax.

But this is yet another instance when Romney’s past comments may come back to haunt him and give his opponents more ammunition to label him an unprincipled flip-flipper.

In a full page Boston Globe advertisement in 1996, Romney attacked Steve Forbes’ flat tax proposal as being unfair and a “tax cut for fat cats!”

In the ad, he took an entirely populist theme saying among other things that the Forbes flat tax
will drop taxes on the super-rich while stiffing the middle class.

The ad said, “0% Forbes tax on Kennedy’s, Rockefellers, and Forbes down and gone,” and on the other side said, “Forbes tax on you up and up!”

The distaste for flat taxes continued for Romney up until 2008 when he said, in an interview with the Des Moines Register, that “one person’s flat tax is another person’s unfair tax.”

While Romney has made a change in opinion on the flat tax, or at least the flattening of taxes, other current primary candidates have made strong endorsements for it, with one even implementing a flat tax.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann have both claimed to support a flat tax.

And Former Utah Governor John Huntsman was actually able to implement a flat tax in the state of Utah during his time as governor, which placed the income tax rate at 5 percent with some allowance for tax credits that apply to about 90 percent of the population. The tax legislation brought Huntsman high marks from both the libertarian Cato Institute as well the fiscally conservative advocacy group, Club for Growth.

Romney has often had difficulty defending his record and stances as governor of the very liberal state of Massachusetts, and a departure from his earlier denunciations of a flat tax may end up costing him with conservative primary voters.