As the intense election season heads toward the November finish line, comments made by Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney have caused many candidates to discuss, reflect or attack. And that includes those running for Congress in the Sixth District, which includes Hamilton and Wenham.
A video was leaked by Mother Jones recently of Romney saying that he won't worry about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income tax and that those people are dependent on government and don't take responsibility for their own lives.
"I have always worked hard to represent all of my constituents and the fact that anyone seeking public office would ignore half of the American people - including veterans, seniors on social security, and middle class families - is shocking," said U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem.
His opponent, Republican Richard Tisei of Wakefield, echoed Brown's earlier comments.
"I think that Romney's comments were inappropriate in that there are an awful lot of people right now who need assistance given the fact the economy is in such horrendous shape," Tisei said. "Obviously during a downturn you have more people on public assistance than in a good economy. The best way to make sure people in the United States are doing better and are financially solvent again is to get the economy jump-started."
Romney's comments have caused a stir across the political spectrum, with U.S. Sen. Scott Brown distancing himself from them.
"Governor Romney's comments underscore his support for the extreme Tea Party agenda that will protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and force the middle class to pay more," Tierney said. He then aimed his attacks at Tisei. "This is the same right-wing agenda supported by my opponent, that will make the hard working people of the 6th District pay more in taxes, while the wealthiest Americans get more in tax breaks."
Tisei said that while he disagrees with Romney's comments, he favors revamping the entire federal tax code, lowering tax rates and getting rid of deductions and loopholes.
"The top 1 percent pays 38 percent of all revenue, and the top 47 percent pays 100 percent," he said. "The tax code has been changed over 4,000 times over the last 10 years, and a lot of changes that were made were the result of good lobbying, not good policy."
Tisei refused to sign Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge and said it was because the pledge counts closing loopholes as a tax increase. In effect, even if rates are lowered, people could pay more in taxes if loopholes are closed.
Among those who don't pay federal income taxes are the elderly, soldiers making combat pay, some veterans, those in or near poverty and families with incomes below the minimum tax liability. Those people are still subject to state income taxes, federal payroll taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes and property taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center, 27 percent of those who don't pay federal income taxes are elderly.
The Tax Policy Center also reports that working households make up more than half of the people who aren't paying federal income taxes. Temporary tax breaks also factor into the equation.