Millionaire Senate candidate in Ohio wants to raise taxes on working families

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Like Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), millionaire Mike Gibbons thinks taxes are too low for working families.

Millionaire Ohio Republican Senate hopeful Mike Gibbons recently argued that the federal government should eliminate all corporate taxes completely. But in September, he suggested that lower-income and middle-class Americans are not paying enough in taxes — the same view outlined by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott in his new agenda for a GOP majority.

Gibbons, an investment banker with at least $83 million in assets, told the Ohio Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 24 that taxes are too high — for corporations:

Again, tax is the problem, and we need to have the lowest taxes in the world. You know, everybody was offended by people not paying their fair share. You could make a theoretical case that the tax rate for corporations should be zero because they've already paid taxes on the wages that they pay out and the dividends that are paid to investors. The lower the taxes, the more people will be focused on creating employment in this country. The lower we get taxes, the more successful and the better our economy will be off.

He made a similar argument in November, telling the British American Chamber of Commerce in Ohio's "Transatlantic Insights" podcast, "If I had my way, I'd have our corporate taxes the lowest in the world. ... Frankly, a zero tax rate for corporations would be right up my alley."

But on Sept. 24, 2021, Gibbons told Crain's Cleveland Business' "The Landscape" podcast that, while he didn't "have a problem with a progressive tax structure," it was a huge problem that about half of the country pays no federal income tax.

The top 20% of earners in the United States pay 82% percent of federal income tax. And if you do the math and 45% to 50% don't pay any income tax, you can see the middle class is not really paying any kind of a fair share, depending on how you want to define it. Now the problem is, is you need the middle class to win an election. So, the narrative is the middle class is getting screwed and the wealthy, the elite are getting, are cheating everybody and getting by unfairly. How much of the total tax bill can a very small percentage of the nation pay and still be a democracy? You can't have 10% or 20% of the population carrying the whole bill. It just, it doesn't work, long run. You know, it's a very dangerous situation. So, everybody should share, at least to some degree, in the tax bill.

Gibbons' claim is misleading. While the richest Americans do pay a large chunk of the federal income taxes, other federal taxes like payroll taxes are far less progressive and make up a huge portion of what working families pay.

His comments are similar to those made by another multimillionaire. Sen. Scott (R-FL), the person in charge of winning back a GOP majority in the 2022 midterms in his role as chair of the NRSC, released an 11-point "Rescue America" plan last Tuesday for what his party would do if he is successful in that goal.

Near the bottom of his "economy/growth" section, he openly endorsed the idea of a tax increase for the people who can afford it the least.

"All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax," he wrote.

That group includes about 102 million Americans — mostly lower-income and retired people. The majority of those who do not make the $28,000 minimum for paying federal income taxes do pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.

Many of them also have "skin in the game" in other ways, such as helping to fund the federal government through gasoline, alcohol, and tobacco taxes and paying state and local property and sales taxes.

Scott initially denied that his plan would raise taxes at all. Two days later, a spokesperson admitted to FactCheck.org that he did want to force low-income people to pay more, but said, "That obviously would not include retirees who have paid plenty in taxes or working Americans who are paying into the system through either income tax or payroll tax."

Democrats across the country have panned the GOP tax hike plan. "While Senate Democrats are fighting to lower costs and cut taxes," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director David Bergstein observed, "Senate GOP candidates have found their midterm bumper sticker: raising taxes on Americans, seniors and working families."

When the American Independent Foundation reached out to every Senate Republican incumbent and 40 GOP 2022 Senate candidates last week, asking each if they supported the promised tax increases on most Americans, not a single one responded.

A Gibbons spokesperson emailed the American Independent Thursday afternoon with a statement contradicting his comments in the "Landscape" podcast: "Mike Gibbons does not support tax increases on any American, and never has. He is a small government conservative, meaning he is absolutely against raising taxes of any kind for working Americans. Mike is a businessman and he knows how to create jobs — which is through lowering taxes. For decades liberal politicians have raised taxes on businesses, crippling their ability to pay their workers a living wage and forcing them to move overseas." 

According to Politico, at least one of Scott's colleagues — Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) — has said he is "on board" with Scott's plan.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell distanced himself from Scott's package, telling reporters, "We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years." The Rescue America plan would automatically end every federal law five years after enactment — even vital safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

A poll by The Hill/Emerson College released on Monday found Gibbons is currently leading in a crowded primary for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R).

This piece was updated with a response from Mike Gibbons' campaign.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.