Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Tuesday night he'd give just the middle class a tax cut on capital gains because he's "not worried about rich people," even as multiple Republicans have accused President Obama of fueling "class warfare" by proposing to tax the rich more heavily than other Americans.
In a Republican debate Tuesday, hosted by the Washington Post and Bloomberg at Dartmouth College, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich asked Romney about one point in the former governor's economic plan -- a proposal to cut capital gains taxes for people making under $200,000. Gingrich pointed out that even Mr. Obama has proposed cutting taxes for higher earners.
"As a businessman, you know that you actually lose economic effectiveness if you limit capital gains tax cuts only to people who don't get capital gains," Gingrich said to Romney. "So, I'm curious, what was the rationale for setting an even lower base marker than Obama had?"
Romney responded that the middle class has been hit hardest by the economic downturn.
"The reason that you're seeing protests, as you indicated, on Wall Street and across the country is, middle income Americans are having a hard time making ends meet," he said. "Not only do we have 25 million people out of work, or stopped looking for work, or part-time jobs needing full-time employ, we just saw this week that median income in America has declined by 10 percent during the Obama years. People are having a hard time making ends meet."
Last week, Romney decried the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protests against economic injustice as "."
Tuesday night, Romney said, "If I'm going to use precious dollars to reduce taxes, I want to focus on where the people are hurting the most, and that's the middle class. I'm not worried about rich people. They are doing just fine. The very poor have a safety net, they're taken care of. But the people in the middle, the hard-working Americans, are the people who need a break, and that is why I focused my tax cut right there."
Later in the debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was asked about income inequality in the United States. Debate moderators pointed out that over the last 30 years, the income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans has grown by more than 300 percent, and yet there are more people living in poverty in this country than at any time in the last 50 years. Perry said Mr. Obama doesn't know how to create wealth.
"The reason we have that many people living in poverty is because we have got a president of the United States who is a job- killer," he said.
At the end of the debate, when given the opportunity to express a personal message to voters, several candidates highlighted their humble beginnings.
Rep. Michele Bachmann said, "We went to below poverty when my parents divorced."
Businessman Herman Cain said, "I can connect with people's pain because I was po' before I was poor."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he grew up in an "Army brat family," while former Sen. Rick Santorum said he grew up in a "steel town," and Perry noted he's the "son of tenant farmers."
More from the debate: