Obama hits Romney for ‘cradle-to-grave tax hikes and fees’

NASHUA, N.H. — Mocking Mitt Romney's vow to bring "big change" to Washington, President Barack Obama charged at a campaign rally here Saturday that his Republican rival was actually offering a "big re-run" of George W. Bush's policies. The embattled incumbent also hit Romney's record as governor of nearby Massachusetts, accusing him of imposing "cradle-to-grave tax hikes and fees."

"He's been running around saying he's got a five-point plan for the economy," Obama told some 8,500 people. "Turns out it's a one-point plan: Folks at the very top get to play by a different set of rules than you do."

"They get to pay lower tax rates, outsource jobs. They want to let Wall Street run wild and make reckless bets with other folks' money," the president said. "That was his philosophy when he was a CEO. That was his philosophy as governor."

"And as President Clinton said, he does have a lot of brass because he's not talking about big change, but all he's offering is a big rerun of the same policies that created so much hardship for so many Americans," Obama said.

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams dismissed such talk as "desperate attacks" and said they were "laughable coming from a president whose only plan for a second term is to recycle the failed policies of the last four years while raising taxes by $2 trillion."

Polls suggest that Romney has the edge among voters on which candidate would better revive the still-sputtering economy, while Obama leads on who would better defend middle-class interests. The president has spent months trying to paint his rival as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire, while Romney has portrayed his huge success as an investor as evidence he is the better candidate to spur growth.

Obama, eager to deny Romney New Hampshire's four electoral college votes, highlighted the Republican's tenure as governor of neighboring Massachusetts.

The president accused Romney of pushing a tax cut that "overwhelmingly benefited" the wealthiest 278 families in the state while raising taxes and fees in a way that disproportionately hurt the middle class.

"Now, when he's asked about this, he says, 'no, these weren't taxes, these were fees,'" Obama said.

"But keep in mind there were higher fees to be a barber, higher fees to become a nurse. There were higher fees for gas. There were higher fees for milk. There were higher fees for blind people who needed to get a certificate that they were blind. He raised fees to get a birth certificate -- which would have been expensive for me."

"He raised fees for marriage certificates and fees for funeral homes -- so there were literally cradle-to-grave tax hikes and fees," said Obama.

"As governor, Mitt Romney worked with Democrats to close a $3 billion deficit, balance four budgets while cutting taxes 19 times, create tens of thousands of new jobs, and lower the Massachusetts unemployment rate to 4.7 percent," said the Romney campaign's Williams.

"As president, Mitt Romney will bring real change to Washington," said Williams, adding that the Republican's policies will "finally deliver a real recovery."