Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mitt's tax returns: Why they've mattered

So now we know how much Mitt Romney makes. It' s $42.6 million over the past two years, according to the fluttering of tax returns and estimates he released early this morning. A few clicks of the calculator tell us that's a little more than $80,000 each workday, or $10,000 an hour. Those kind of numbers would make some of the 1 percent envious.

But if you haven't previously had a problem with Romney's business successes - and we don't - then the returns won't introduce anything newly troubling. If you're uncomfortable with the size of his portfolio, then today's numbers will affirm that uneasiness.

There's nothing in the release, however, that hasn't already been explored in this campaign.

The returns show he tithes faithfully to his church, but we're past his Mormonism being a factor in the campaign, if it ever was.

The returns show he makes money from a continued affiliation with Bain Capital, the company he co-founded. But Americans have settled for now that Bain's brand of wealth building is a sometimes ugly but acceptable form of capitalism.

The returns also show that his effective tax rate is just under 14 percent, lower than many middle-class Americans. He confronted that discrepancy, finally, in Monday's debate in Tampa, saying that he'd like to overhaul the tax code so that more Americans are able to pay the rates he does.

All of which means the tax returns should do Romney little damage today - but that's mostly because he already allowed the discussions they prompt to get away from him. Instead of initially framing his time at Bain as free enterprise at work, he let it first be a debate over the jobs the company lost and gained. Instead of using his tax rate and returns to show how unwieldy and incomprehensible the tax code has become, he stammered at debates over what he'd reveal.

With each misstep, it's become more difficult to convince voters not to be uncomfortable with his wealth, because he clearly seems to be. Perhaps that stems from Romney's uneasiness with making personal details public, as his campaign has suggested. Perhaps it's more a product of the country's new bout of self-examination over income inequality.

Many Republicans will dismiss the latter as a liberal phenomenon, but the South Carolina primary showed again that might not be true. In Newt Gingrich, South Carolinians chose someone every bit as inconsistent as Romney on policy, but with far more personal and ethical baggage. It was a replay of sorts of most every primary Romney has entered. Republicans simply haven't connected to him - for lots of reasons, maybe, but one of them is this: While most Americans embrace capitalism, we can be a little uneasy with someone who's very, very good at it. And Mitt Romney, at least publicly, seems to be blushing, too.

Peter St. Onge

8 comments:

Europeanexpat said...

I am glad he gave more to charity than paid in taxes (same as Buffett). How does it compare with Biden's average of $369 in the last decade?

kantstanzya said...

Mitt is only blushing because of the oppressive atmosphere and microscopic scrutiny of class warfare fostered by Barack Obama. He seems to be a shy and modest man of considerable capabilities. Unfortunately he does not know how to express the views of dynamic free market capitalism like Newt Gingrich can. But then a desperate Newt Gingrich has also chosen to attack Romney's success.

Mitt Romney's crimes? He paid $3 million in federal taxes on money earned from investing in companies and jobs. This $3 million supports how many hundreds of people on various government entitlements and how much other worthless and wasteful government nonsence? This is equivalent to probably 800-1000 middle class taxpayers.

And in addition he gave another $3 million in charitable donations. Yes he got a tax deduction for a percentage of them. But these still amounted to substantial out of pocket gifts even excluding the tax write off. How many thousands of middle class taxpayer charitable gifts does it take to equal $3 million?

Of course the tax laws should be changed to do away with the charitable deduction. Everyone knows goverenment can provide everything to everyone so much more effectively and efficiently can't it?

Instead of making Romney think he has done something wrong by being successful, paying the taxes he owes by law and doing more than his fair share for this country...maybe someone should say "thank you!"

This country will never recover if we get four more years of the mentality and divisiveness being fostered by radical left wing of the Democratic Party under Barack Obama.

BiBr said...

I have a feeling we'd be shocked at what our "class warfare" president makes a year. This article seems more like a desparate attempt to make Romney look bad becuase legitimate attempts have failed...

J said...

I would like to use the release of Romney's tax returns, and some of the details, as an argument against the President's coming State of the Union address on "fairness" and the Democrat Party's "rich aren't paying their fair share" stance.

First off, let's get it out of the way that the tax code is in desparate need of simplification. The article states that Romney's 2010 return was 500 pages long. I don't care how much or little money you make, there is no good reason for anyone to have to devote that much time and paper to file tax forms. I hope both sides can agree on that.

Next up, the "fairness" thing. Not just tonight, but for months the President has been touting "fairness" as a justification for tax increases. There is nothing "fair" about punishing high achievement with progressive tax rates. Take note of Romney's charitable contributions that lowered his effective tax rate. Isn't that exactly what we want people to do? When you do well, remember the less fortunate. Think about what happens here in Charlotte. The first time WFNZ put on the Street Turkeys event, it was because a week before Thanksgiving, Mark Packer bumped into an official from Second Harvest Food Bank, who told him there were at least 1,000 more needy families than they could help. So he asked the listeners to come donate food and/or money a couple days later, and the ordinary citizens donated enough to help close that gap. And speaking of the 1%, how many dozens of times have the Levines donated money when some worthwhile project was short of funding? I am certain that if EVERYONE had to pay less in taxes, there are enough generous, good-hearted people that would give more to charities and churches who could do what the government struggles to do.

Now on to the "pay their fair share" thing. From the article, Romney is among the richest 1% of Americans, he earned a little less than $22 million, and there are 8,274 taxpayers that earned at least $10 million. To keep the math simple, let's say that those 8,274 average $500 million in net worth (that's probably high, but it will make my point). That's a total of $4.137 trillion. Even if you confiscated absolutely everything they own, all of their net worth, that would fund the government for 1 year and knock a few million bucks off the $15 trillion in US debt. Even if you could do that and get away with it, what happens the second year? You can't take away every penny someone makes, and even if you do, it doesn't bring the US any closer to being solvent again.

So, the problem is not lack of tax revenue, the problem is too much government spending. We need real entitlement reform. The SSA just needs to come out and declare, "No one born after 1970 will receive any Social Security upon retirement, but must continue to pay FICA taxes as there is no money to pay current retirees (remember, the "Social Security Trust Fund" money has been spent every year on other government projects, and all the fund is in reality is a cabinet full of IOUs in West Virginia). Welfare, food stamps, ADC, Section 8 and all other such grants must have 5-year term limits for able-bodied people. ObamaCare must be repealed before it destroys our economy. And above all, lower income tax rates in EVERY bracket, including corporate, and end the double-taxation of corporate income permanently (just demand proof of income tax paid from the country the corporation earned the money in). This will free up corporations and small businesses alike to keep more of the money they earn and re-invest in their businesses. Market and social pressures will assure that prices are kept competitive and that the businesses don't just sock away the extra income (the President has been very successful at creating class- and wealth-envy among the citizens, and they will heavily pressure any business that sees its taxes lowered and no corresponding job creation).

Those are my thoughts.

whitewall said...

Good for Mitt! He earned it unlike our president who cronyed it but lives the life of a rich man none the less.

Jim said...

Well, Peter, they don't matter to me. I don't have any water to carry for Romney -- I WILL vote against Obama no matter who the opposing candidate is but Romney is a decent man who has earned his way. He is not a member of the permanent political class (though he may aspire to become one). Contrast this resume with that of the current President whose career has consisted of devising schemes to pic k the public purseand training others to follow suit.

Jo O'Keefe said...

All along I have wondered what Gingrich earns. Surely all of the candidates are savvy enough to invest. They clearly can afford to not work for more than a year now. I have concluded that all candidates' returns should be made public in both parties to level the playing field. Unless that happens, folks might not vote for Romney because "he cannot relate to them," whereas -- in fact -- perhaps none of the candidates can.

Garth Vader said...

Jo,

The reasons some of the candidates don't have jobs is:

* Mitt Romney - lost his most recent general election to a Democrat by 17 points

* Rick Santorum - lost his most recent general election to a Democrat by 17 points

* Newt Gingrich - resigned from Congress under an ethical cloud ($300K fine and ~ 90 allegations) and anger amongst his conservative colleagues

* Ron Paul - oh wait, Ron Paul has WON eleven elections as a Republican and actually still has the job his voters gave him