After asking Mitt Romney twice whether the amount of taxes he paid was "fair," Univision host Jorge Ramos cut to the chase. "Governor, how much money do you have?"
"Well, you tell me and I'll tell you--I'm kidding," Romney replied, with a characteristic Romney chuckle. He said he'd already put that rough figure out in a financial disclosure forms, but Ramos wanted specifics. "Two hundred and fifty million?" he asked. "It's between 150 and 200 some odd million dollars," Romney finally replied. "I didn't inherit that money," he added.
During his appearrance at the candidates forum at Miami-Dade College, Romney deflected questions about his wealth by casting himself as the champion of average American workers. "I know what it takes to make America the most attractive place for jobs again," he said. "I want to do that not because I'm worried about the one percent. The 1 percent's doing fine. I want to help the 99 percent. I want to help middle-Americans get jobs that pay good wages."
As for the fairness of his tax rate, Romney said that "when you add together all the taxes and the charity, particularly in the last year, I think it reaches almost forty percent that I gave back to the community." Romney also explained why the capital gains tax is lower than the tax on wages, and why he wants to eliminate the capital gains tax for middle income Americans.
"One of the reasons we have a lower tax rate on capital gains is because capital gains are also being taxed at the corporate level. So as businesses earn profits--that's taxed at 35 percent. Then as they distribute those profits in dividends, that's taxed at 15 percent more. So all total the tax rate is really closer to 45 or 50 percent," he said. "People who are in middle income also pay a 15 percent tax rate on their savings--capital gains, interest in dividends. But I have a proposal for those in middle income, anyone earning under $200,000 a year, I would propose pay no tax whatsoever on their savings. I think the people who have been most hurt in the Obama economy should be able to save money tax free."
To suggest perhaps Gingrich really had a point, Ramos brought up a young woman who had confronted Romney over his opposition to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. "She was brought here when she was only 10 from Peru, and she wants to go to college. But if you become president, she won't be able to go to college. Why are you punishing her? What has she done wrong?"
"Well, actually I'm not punishing her," Romney replied. "I think--"
"Well you would because she cannot go to college," Ramos said, interrupting Romney.
"There's no requirement that she goes to a college that provides an in-state tuition break," Romney said.
"She can't pay for that," Ramos insisted.
"There are some colleges in this country that are relatively inexpensive," Romney continued. "And one can go to a college that's not as expensive as others. And shop to those that have a better deal. I'm not sure what the prices here are in Miami-Dade. But my guess is it's not terribly exorbitant. And so people can choose a college. But the idea that we have to provide an in-state tuition break to people to be able to allow them to come to college, I reject that."
Later, Ramos asked Romney if he'd call himself the first Mexican-American president. "Your father was born in Mexico. So the question is, are you Mexican-American?" It wasn't clear if Ramos was joking, serious, or baiting Romney into saying something stupid. But Romney handled it pretty well.
“I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary," he replied. "But I think that might be disingenuous on my part."
"So you wouldn't call yourself Mexican-American--even though he's Mexican by definition?" Ramos continued.
"I don’t think people would think I’m being honest if I said I was Mexican-American. But I would appreciate it if you could get that word out.”