By JIM DAVENPORT, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- White House hopeful Michele Bachmann said Monday that people who can afford to pay more in taxes should as part of a national tax overhaul that she hopes will set her apart from rivals like Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.
The Minnesota congresswoman and tax lawyer wants to do away with the earned income tax credit -- a Reagan-era incentive for people to work. Bachmann proposes that even those low-wage earners who get all of their income taxes refunded plus the credit pay at least $10 a year in income taxes.
Bachmann is trying to regain ground lost as Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race and Cain surged, as she launches a swing through early voting South Carolina. She said her everyone-pays-something plan is part of the needed reconfiguration of the tax code.
"That's part of the rethinking that we need to have in the United States: that everyone needs to sacrifice from the top end to the bottom end, and everybody needs to be part of the solution," she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Her plan includes elements that are close to billionaire Warren Buffett's call for tax fairness -- a turnaround for Bachmann. In August, she dismissed the idea in front of tea party-packed crowds in South Carolina.
"We do believe, unlike Warren Buffett, that taxes are high enough already," Bachmann said at the time. "I have a suggestion: Mr. Buffett, write a big check today."
Bachmann now says Buffett had it right, though she disagrees on the details.
"I think that people who can afford to pay more need to pay more, and they at least can't pay less than people at the lower and middle income levels," Bachmann said.
Bachmann adviser Brett O'Donnell said that's a jab at General Electric Co. for paying a lower overall tax rate like other big companies, such as Marathon Oil Corp. and not an effort to get people with incomes above $250,000 to pay higher rates, which Democrats have sought.
Her plan calls for three tax brackets -- down from six -- but she hasn't detailed where they would fall. O'Donnell said the lowest would be set so low enough that its there's a trade-off for people now eligible for the earned income tax credit.
The tax expert is countering the other proposals, including businessman Cain's catchy 9-9-9 tax plan, Perry's 20 percent tax on post card, Romney's no income taxes on dividends, interest or capital gains for people with adjusted gross income below $200,000 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul's call for eliminating the income tax altogether.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)