As noted earlier, Mitt Romney had a lively exchange today with a liberal activist in which the former Massachusetts governor defended his opposition to raising taxes on corporations:
ROMNEY: We have to make sure that the promises we make — and Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare — are promises we can keep. And there are various ways of doing that. One is, we could raise taxes on people.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Corporations!
ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, they’re not!
ROMNEY: Of course they are. Everything corporations earn also goes to people.
ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It goes into their pockets!
ROMNEY: Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets! Human beings, my friend. So number one, you can raise taxes. That’s not the approach that I would take.
When I heard Romney's exchange, it called to mind an exchange Paul Ryan had with a voter on this same point at a town hall this past April. Ryan made the same point as Romney--that taxes on corporations are paid by people--while striking a much more populist tone.
"Corporations are not persons," Ryan said at the town hall event in Lake Geneva in April. "When it comes to our tax system...they're basically tax collectors. The taxes they pay, studies show, are either borne by taking it out of the wages of the worker for the corporation or in the prices for the consumer who buys their good or their service."
"Our tax code is really messed up," Ryan argued. "You've got a company like General Electric making millions of dollars in net income not paying any taxes. And then you've got some business struggling to get along, making some money, that pay a lot of taxes."
Ryan explained how Republicans want to clear out tax breaks in order to lower tax rates so that all companies pay some taxes. "It's a fairer, flatter, simpler tax system," he said.
You can watch the video here:
Again, Ryan and Romney are making the same point as a matter of policy. But as a matter of retail politics, isn't Ryan's message much more effective? Does Romney, a former Bain Capital executive, want to give Democrats the opportunity to make it sound like he's on the side of GE executives, when he's trying to argue he's really on the side of taxpayers?