Romney’s ‘middle-income’ math

September 14, 2012, 7:36 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Mitt Romney has a curious definition of “middle income,” based on an interview this morning with ABC News:

MITT ROMNEY: No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is $100,000 middle income?
MITT ROMNEY: No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.

I’m honestly not sure what Romney is trying to say here, except that he doesn’t want to raise federal income taxes.

Is he honestly trying to argue that “middle-income” is $200,000 to $250,000?” According to recent U.S. Census data, just 1.9% of U.S. households fit that definition. I’ve heard people say the American middle class is disappearing, but 1.9% would be extreme.

Romney defenders on Twitter have latched on to the “and less” part of his statement, but how does that really help matters? Does Romney mean everything under $250,000 is middle income? If so, that would seem to eliminate the “lower income” category entirely — and how do you have a middle without the lower and higher?

I’ve asked the Romney campaign for clarification. Also asked for a specific definition from the Obama campaign, given the President’s tendency to refer to tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000 as “middle class” tax cuts. Not really expecting answers from either.

For the record, median U.S. household income is around $50,000.

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