Of course Mitt Romney's rivals for the Republican nomination want to take advantage of Romney's tendency to remind voters of things they hate about rich people -- like his confession that he pays 15 percent of his income in taxes -- but the platforms they're running on call for even lower taxes for people like Romney. Newt Gingrich, for example, has a tax plan that calls for people like Romney to pay zero income taxes. Last fall, when the Not Romney candidates were chasing Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 tax plan -- which included a flat 9 percent tax on income -- Gingrich released a tax plan that called for a flat 15 percent income tax. Referring to it in South Carolina Tuesday, Gingrich said, "We ought to rename our flat tax… We have a 15 percent flat tax. So this would be the Mitt Romney Flat Tax," The Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon and Sara Murray report. "[A]ll Americans could then pay the rate Romney paid. I think that's terrific." But Gingrich's plan also calls for a zero percent tax on investment income -- which happens to be how Romney makes his money. And who attacked that plan from the left? Romney, of course. "Warren Buffett, Bill Gates would probably pay no taxes at all… I just don't think that's the right course," Romney told voters, The Journal reports. Just to be clear, those paying almost no taxes would be guys like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates… and Mitt Romney. Populism is harder than it looks when you've spent the last year or 20 saying the best way to save the economy is to lower rich people's taxes.
Rick Santorum, who doesn't seem like a meta kind of guy, is trying to attack Romney's wealth in a more meta way. Last week, Santorum said Romney's quip that he likes firing people made him a bad candidate not because he's a heartless robber baron, but because looking like a heartless robber baron would make him less electable against Obama. "I understand what he meant, we all say things a little left-handily," Santorum said, according to ABC News. "But obviously the way you say things left-handily can provide some insights on how you actually see things and we’ll let the American public figure that out.” On Wednesday, Santorum told Fox News that it's not that Romney pays a low tax rate -- or that he made $362,000 a year through speaking fees -- but that he thinks $362,000 is "not very much." Romney's tax rate "is a problem… not of Governor Romney’s doing," Santorum said, as National Journal's Catherine Hollander points out. But! "To make a statement that I made a couple of extra bucks giving speeches when that couple of extra bucks was over $300,000 -- I mean, that to me says a little bit more about Governor Romney and his connection with the American people than his tax rate."
New York's Jonathan Chait writes that the primary has been disastrous for Romney because he "has come to be defined, through a recurring series of off-the-cuff gaffes, as a callous, out-of-touch rich man." Not true! This weekend, ABC News reports, a South Carolina woman named Ruth Williams recounted how she managed to make ends meet. She says she prayed to God to tell her how to pay her utility bills, and He directed her to follow Romney's campaign bus. The candidate gave her about $50.