Image: President Barack Obama
Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
U.S. President Barack Obama talks during a campaign event at Mansfield Central Park in Mansfield, Ohio, August 1, 2012.
By
NBC News
updated 8/2/2012 8:35:05 AM ET 2012-08-02T12:35:05

President Obama today seized on an independent report as he argued that Mitt Romney'stax plan would lower taxes for the wealthy — but raise them on the middle class.

Speaking here to a crowd of supporters, he cited a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that estimated how many tax breaks would have to be ended or reduced to keep Romney's large tax cut revenue neutral.

Video: Obama: Romney seeks 'big tax cut' for wealthy

“Just today, an independent nonpartisan organization ran all the numbers on Gov. Romney’s plan,” the president said to about 2,100 people in Mansfield’s Central Park. “They found that if Gov. Romney wants to keep his word and pay for this plan then he’d have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on.”

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The scenarios the Tax Policy Center gamed out included an extension of the Bush tax cuts, a reduction of individual income tax rates by 20%, elimination of taxes on investment income for most taxpayers, and the elimination of the estate and alternative minimum taxes.

To compensate for the revenues lost by these reductions, the policy center concluded the necessity of “a shift in the tax burden of at least $86 billion [a year] … onto lower-and-middle income taxpayers” through the elimination of tax credits like those for college education and children, as well as deductions for mortgage interest.

Obama said the elimination of those credits would affect middle-class families the most.

“The average middle-class family with children, according to this study, would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2.000,” he said as the crowd booed.

Obama also seemed to make a distinction between good tax increases and bad ones, saying that these tax increases would not serve a meaningful purpose like deficit reduction or infrastructure spending.

“Here’s the thing: He’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit. He’s not asking you to pay more to invest in our children’s education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work. He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut!” Obama continued to protracted boos.

The Romney camp responded with this statement: “President Obama continues to tout liberal studies calling for more tax hikes and more government spending. We've been down that road before — and it's led us to 41 straight months of unemployment above 8%. It's clear that the only plan President Obama has is more of the same. Mitt Romney believes that lower tax rates and less government will jump-start the economy and create jobs.”

Video: Todd: August is ‘essential’ for the candidates

Obama's tone was lighter at the beginning of his speech, as he congratulated swimmer and all-time medal record-holder Michael Phelps, as well as the gold medal-winning women’s gymnastics team.

“I just think it makes sense for us to give it up for all our outstanding American athletes who are competing in London right now,” he said.

He noted that he called the five champion gymnasts aboard Air Force One while flying from Washington to Ohio.

“These gymnastics folks, I don’t understand how they do what they do. So I told these young ladies as I was congratulating them: How do you not bust your head every time you’re on that balance beam? I could not walk across that balance beam!” he joked.

While the president was well received by the assembled crowd, there were at least 20 Romney supporters and anti-Obama protestors outside the event.

Richland County, where Mansfield is located, voted heavily for Republican John McCain in 2008, giving him a 56%-42% edge over Obama.

But Richland is part of the Columbus media market — one of the hottest in the country for ad spending — so the president’s speech will get heavy local news coverage in parts of Ohio critical to his re-election.

Obama continued his local media blitz later Wednesday, doing three interviews with Ohio radio and TV stations from Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.

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