Thursday, August 2, 2012

Harry Reid's birther moment

We think Mitt Romney should release years of his tax returns. We've said so here - and also here. It's far from the most important issue facing Americans this election, but voters deserve more insight into how a man who wants to be president earned his money and participated in the tax process. For better or worse, disclosing those things is part of running for the White House these days, as candidates including Barack Obama have understood.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the call for transparency to an inappropriate place this week. On Tuesday, he told the Huffington Post that Romney may be hiding his tax returns because he didn't pay any taxes for a decade. Reid didn't have evidence of this, of course, but he supposedly has a source - a Bain investor who said he had the inside scoop.

"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," Reid said. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?" ...

On Wednesday, Reid dug in while talking to reporters. "I am not basing this on some figment of my imagination," Reid said. "I have had a number of people tell me that." (Update, 2:40 p.m.: He tripled down by repeating the 10-year claim on the Senate floor Thursday.)

Who might those people be telling Reid about Romney's taxes? Reid declined to say. "I don't think the burden should be on me," he said.

Actually, yes, it should. What Reid is doing goes beyond merely wondering why Romney is stubbornly secretive. It's an accusation of specific behavior. Even if Romney's campaign denies the 10-year claim - which it has - the charge feeds the narrative that the candidate must really have something bad to hide.

Reid, meanwhile, gets to play the messenger, not the accuser. But we recognize this "I'm not saying it's true, but let's find out for sure" ploy. It's the same maneuver Republican candidates use to appease and stoke extremists about President Obama's birth certificate. It's clumsy, shameful politicking.

Peter St. Onge


markeyd said...

I am constantly ashamed that I was a Democrat most of my life and had hopes that they would grow up and be the party of Truman. However they seem to be only spenders and whiners with no hope other than to blame others, exempt themselves and walk in a world where you and I pay for their follies. It is time for two new parties that actually reflect America and not a welfare state.

Mark D.

annnort said...
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Garth Vader said...

In 1995 Harry Reid declared support for auditing the Fed from the floor of the Senate. Now, he won't even allow a vote on the Audit The Fed bill.

In 2005 Harry Reid proudly declared "we've killed the PATRIOT Act" at a news conference. In 2011 Reid accused a fellow Senator who wanted to delay the PATRIOT extension vote of "aiding terrorists".

Reid is certifiably insane.

QED said...

Peter, Maybe if the media did its job, Reid would not need to resort to extraordinary tactics to get Romney to reveal more of his tax history.

Despite your claim, Romney's tax records are significant. Romney's economic stance is essentially trickle-down economics. He believes that if the rich have more to spend, then the rest of us are all better off. He proposes substantial tax cuts for the top 5%, despite clear evidence such cuts do little to invigorate the economy, but add mountains to our debt.

The only tax records Romney has released showed his effective tax rate was less than 14%, though his income put him in the 35% bracket. His percent of income actually going to taxes is equal to the actual tax rate of a family of four earning $50,000 per year. Before we cut taxes for the wealthy any further, maybe we should first learn what they are actually paying. That lesson could start with Mr. Romney.

Fire Coach K said...

If Romney is so upset about it, he can just go right ahead and release 12 years of tax returns like his daddy did. If Reid's comments are so far off base, wouldn't that put him in his place? I'll hold my breath and wait for that to happen.

Not_a_hypocrit said...

Another balanced opinion piece from the Charlotte Observer. Does anybody have a link for a weather website in Hell. It has to be freezing over.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


We've argued that Romney should release years of returns, for several reasons (see the linked editorials.)



No_clue777 said...

Yes Peter....Mr Romney is a wealthy man. And yes, he makes his money in a different manner than most. Which is why his tax rate is different than most. He gets the majority of his money from investments, which is currently taxed at 15%. Instead of bringing up the evil "rich" man argument, why not just have a debate on raising the the capital gains tax? Is it because it is much better for you politically to simply call it the "evil rich" people???

QED said...

Peter, Three things:

1. It's great that you have asked Romney to release his tax records. As the largest newspaper in a battleground state, I would hope that you would actually dedicate staff to directly asking Mr. Romney why he is refusing to participate in a 40 year old tradition that goes back to his father. Considering the importance of Romney's tax policy to his candidacy, I would hope that the CO would engage in some actually investigations if Romney refuses to release these records.

2. Is it not natural to assume that there must be something in those records that Mr. Romney is trying to hide? Harry Reid may be assuming the worst, but certainly it seems like Romney would fully disclose his tax history if he felt there was nothing there.

3. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your comparison of Harry Reid to birthers is fundamentally flawed. Even if Romney has legally not paid any taxes, then he can still be president. The birther movement is orchestrated to create doubt about the very legitimacy of this president. Further, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence of Obama's citizenship, birthers are characterized by their endless skepticism and paranoia.

Romney's taxes, in contrast, are relevant to the pillar of his economic policy. Mr. Reid and all the others calling for greater disclosure could be silenced by simply releasing the records.

Hopefully, next time you will not rush to judge those with whom you disagree. More importantly, hopefully you'll give more thought to the comparisons you draw.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


To answer your points:

1) We agree. That's what we've said in previous editorials.

2) We noted this, too, as a byproduct of Romney refusing to release records.

3) The issue we're raising isn't which is more weighty, birth certificate or tax returns. We're saying that making an accusation without evidence, then playing the "I'm not actually saying he did it" game, is shameful politics. That's true regardless of the topic at hand.



Mpd said...

I want to see the last 10 years of Harry Reid's tax returns. That shouldn't be a problem, unless of course he has something to hide. He is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate so I don't think that it's too much to ask of him. I think that it would be equally, if not more, insightful to see how he has earned his money and participated in the tax process during his time as a powerful public official.

Anonymous said...

I want to know when Harry stopped beating his wife.

No_clue777 said...

Your #2 is ridiculous, and I suspect you you it. Peter.....and editorial board...and QED. You have a pretty good idea that the tax returns will show once again that Mr Romney made his money VIA investments....which means his effective tax rate will be similar the rate for the returns that he has already disclosed. Perhaps lower in some years, but certainly not what YOU feel he should be paying.....and THAT is the issue you want on YOUR side....but you don't have the courage of your convictions to say that.

What a shame

Joat said...

Reid isn't acting like a birther with his unsubstantiated allegation. He sounds more like a previous Senator that was always proclaiming 'I have a list of people who ....'

Can you say Joe McCarthy?

The Observer Editorial Board said...

No-clue777: You make an excellent point, so let me clarify. What we've said in editorials is not that we believe Romney is hiding something, but that his secrecy with the tax returns is leading people to believe so. So our point is that the political cost he's trying to avoid in releasing the returns is being quickly overcome by the cost of not doing so.



Fire Coach K said...

Of course he's hiding something. I'm not saying it's anything nefarious, but obviously it's something that he feels is worse than the criticism he's receiving for not releasing his tax records. Do we seriously have to pretend, for the sake of political correctness, that Romney isn't hiding something -- i.e., that he's witholding those records just for kicks and giggles?

No_clue777 said...

Just curious you think when the records are released...and they will be released....we will be talking about the % he donates to charity, or the % he pays in taxes?

Again...he pays a LOT of actual $$ in taxes...just a lower rate. But the man donates more to charity than most people make in a lifetime. Somehow I highly doubt that will be the headline...

Which is the sexier story for the media??

Fire Coach K said...

You have no idea whether or not he pays LOT of taxes. And you will continue to have no idea unless he pulls another big flip-flop and releases his records.

Congratulations to him for his charitable contributions, if indeed he does contribute to charities that aren't cults.

No_clue777 said...

Well...I know he paid roughly $6 million in taxes from what he has already seems like A LOT to me. But hey...maybe it's not that much to you.

And now you have graduated to calling his religion a "cult"....this is where I exit what I thought was a cordial discussion.

Karl said...

Romney should release his additional tax returns right after Obama releases all of his school transcripts.

Anonymous said...

It makes you wonder, when the Observer gave NO coverage to the Chick-Fil-A support day and the crowds that jammed their stores;

Where were the CO's reporters?

Hiding, I suspect.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


The Chick-Fil-A support day coverage was on our homepage and front page in print.


CarolinaDrums said...

Peter: Why isn't the CO on a rampage to expose the idiocy of Reid and his minions in the Senate?? As "journalists" you all should be all over this with wanting to know his source, especially in view of the fact that some laws may have been broken. What the heck is wrong with you in the media these days??

jay1937 said...

This is just another very simply ploy by Obama and his bed partners, nothing more, nothing less. I suggest Everyone in Congress release fifteen years of their personal income and tax records. That is just a simple request.

Skippy said...

Ried is just another vile coward.. This is not a birther moment and the founder of the birther movement was Nick Berg, a Hillary operative, funny who you can't even get that fact straight. What Reid did and has doubled down on is potentially a felony and not to mention Reids past including shady land deals as outlined by the LA Times in the 90's need be fully vetted of course never by our bedwetting media.

Calibre said...
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Calibre said...

Tonight on CNN AC360, Anderson Copper opened his 'keeping them honest' segment with Sen. Harry Reid's recent tax allegation about Mitt Romney.

Cooper had CNN Capitol Hill reporter, Dana Bash on to discuss the story, according to Bash, her source can confirm Sen. Reid's allegation. Bash went even further, she said this source also personally knows the Bain source who would have access to Romney's tax record. If this Bain source story is true, then, Mitt Romney is in serious trouble. I'll have more later.

Update @Dana Bash tweets

"When Harry Reid doesn't like someone, he goes for the jugular." - @DanaBashCNN #Romney

JUST IN: @DanaBashCNN receives a new statement from @SenatorReid's office, saying Senator #Reid has a "credible source." #Romney said...

This is really petty for Reid to maek these remarks. He is tied to big money in Nevada - so what !

Mark Caplan said...

Mitt Romney says he paid "taxes, lots of taxes." I believe him. But maybe he got refunds, lots of refunds, too.

I'll be content if the Democrats just pressure Romney to own up to how he twisted a tax deferred retirement account designed to help the middle class into a $100 million tax dodge.

Anonymous said...

I'd be satisfied if the President would just release his college records. If he's spent millions of dollars keeping them sealed, there must be something there.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in late here, but I have an opinion that I have aired before but will repeat again.

The controversy over Romney's tax returns illustrates how insane, incomprehensible, and immoral the current tax code is.

Why do we tax income anyway? The writers of the Constitution specifically worded the document to exclude such a thing. The government does, and should, have the power to tax, to fund the legitimate functions of government - to protect the people's lives, regulate commerce, build roads and such. But the writers knew that taxing income would be disasterous. So what did the country's leaders do? Write a Constitutional amendment creating an income tax. And they used a lie and wealth-envy to get it passed (the lie was that it was only to pay for our coming entrance into World War I, and the wealth-envy was "only the rich" would pay the income tax).

The immoral concept of taxing income needs to be killed. We should be taxing consumption. Passing HR 25 would do the trick.

Whether or not Romney releases any more returns, I hope that people are now realizing that Barack Obama is bent on ending capitalism and placing every facit of human life under government control, and will vote him out. He has already said with his own mouth that it is government spending "that made America great" and we all know about "You didn't build that!" (And if you buy his line that "you didn't build that" was referring to roads and bridges, you are accusing him of being too ignorant to use 4th grade grammar skills correctly.)

Trickle-down economics are only marginally effective, but a much better alternative to "tax the rich" and making the rest of the people dependent on government checks.