Romney defends saying ‘corporations are people’

KEENE, N.H. – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today defended comments he made in Iowa that “corporations are people too.’’

The comment, made in response to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair who suggested raising taxes on corporations to protect Social Security and Medicare, immediately became fodder for Democratic attacks. Romney raised the issue again today, when asked by a voter at the Keene Recreation Center what he will do to fix the economy.

Romney told the audience of about 200 people that he will make sure taxes on employers are competitive with other nations. “On average, business will try to go to other places where taxes are lower,’’ Romney said. “That’s why some people came to New Hampshire from Massachusetts, I know the drill.’’

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“Corporations, they’re made up of people,’’ Romney continued, echoing his earlier comments. “Just a group of people who come together for work. When you say tax corporations, steel, vinyl, concrete, they don’t pay taxes. Only people do. High taxes on corporations are high taxes on people and they’ll go elsewhere if taxes are too high.’’

Romney continued to deliver his anti-tax message when asked about a recent oped article by billionaire investor Warren Buffet in the New York Times arguing that rich people should have to pay higher taxes.

Romney has said repeatedly that he will not raise taxes on anyone. But he also said he would not seek to lower taxes on the wealthy. “I don’t want to waste time trying to get tax cuts for wealthy people because frankly, wealthy people are doing just fine,’’ Romney said.

Last week, Romney was criticized for flip-flopping after he suggested lowering the number of tax brackets, and then added, “The idea of one bracket alone would be even better in some respects.’’ In 1996 and 2007, Romney went on the record strongly opposing a “flat tax,’’ a tax with a single bracket. He took out ads in the Globe in 1996 criticizing then-presidential candidate Steve Forbes’ proposed flat tax as “a tax cut for fat cats.’’

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Today, Romney said both the flat tax and a national sales tax “have attractive features.’’ But he said the problem with both is that they tend to lower taxes for very wealthy people. “If I’m president I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by wealthy people,’’ Romney said. Romney said he wants to lower tax rates on the middle class.

During a recent debate in Iowa, the Republican candidates were asked whether they would accept a compromise of $1 of tax increases for $10 of budget cuts. None of the candidates would do so, a position Romney described today as a matter of principle. “We’ve all said taxes are off the table, taxes are too big,’’ he said. “The right question is how much should we pull back and where should it be.’’

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