Sunday, September 9, 2012

Friendly Reminder: Mitt Romney Still Hasn't Released His Tax Returns

By Nathan Rothwell

Just 58 days remain until Election Day, and Mitt Romney still has not released any complete copies of his tax returns for review by the American people. He remains the only presidential nominee not to release several years' worth of tax returns since his father George Romney made the practice an unofficial requirement for running for president back in 1968. For those returns he did release (2010 and 2011), the former was incomplete; the latter only an estimate.

Many have speculated why Romney feels he is exempt from a practice his own father devised to promote transparency in politics. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid believes Romney hasn't paid taxes for a decade; others have speculated that Romney participated in a 2009 IRS tax amnesty program designed to quietly punish wealthy taxpayers who attempted to stash money overseas. Still others have guessed that Romney doesn't want fellow Mormons to know his true income, due to the fact that he failed (at least in 2010) to follow through on his commitment to tithe 10% of his income to the Mormon Church. Whatever the reason might be, we can safely assume (as George Will put it) that the political costs of releasing his tax returns must outweigh the negative press he's received from turning his returns into the figurative skeleton in his closet.

Perhaps Romney assumes the issue will go away, and voters will decide his record as an American taxpayer is no longer relevant; but with each passing day, it seems the questions over his taxes become more and more relevant.

On today's edition of This Week, George Stephanopoulos grilled Romney's running mate Paul Ryan over how Republicans would be able to reduce the deficit while establishing tax cuts even larger than the reckless cuts brought to us by the Bush Administration (which many believe is the single-biggest contributor to the federal deficit). The Romney/Ryan ticket claims the answer lies in closing tax loopholes, but Ryan dodged Stephanapoulos' repeated inquiries about which specific loopholes would be eliminated. What little Ryan offered, however, was interesting:
"Now the question is, not necessarily what loopholes go, but who gets them. High-income earners use most of the loopholes. That means they can shelter their income from taxation. But if you take those loopholes, those tax shelters away from high-income earners, more of their income is subject to taxation. And that allows us to lower tax rates on everybody -- small businesses, families, economic growth."

High-income earners sheltering their income from taxation? For some reason that reminds me of somebody...   It seems reasonable to conclude that the reason Ryan offered no details about which loopholes would get the axe is because Romney himself may have been a major abuser of the loopholes. According to Ryan, however, the answer is something else entirely:

"What we don't want is a secret plan ... we want to have this debate in the public. We want to have this debate with Congress. And we want to do this with the consent of the elected representatives of the people, and figure out what loopholes should stay or go and who should or should not get them."

Hey Paul? You know how you're not having this conversation in front of George's actual face, and you're actually speaking to a camera? Did you catch how even George was perplexed by that response? That's a good sign that you're on TV, and you're addressing the public. How can we possibly have a debate on tax loopholes when you're deliberately concealing the details surrounding your argument?

Nearly 45 years ago, George Romney imposed upon himself a pledge to be transparent with the American people, a promise that (almost) all other presidential candidates since have taken upon themselves to honor. Unfortunately, his son does not seem to think very much of that pledge. And if this "closing loopholes" strategy means anything, then we can't even count on Romney to honor the pledges to which he's actually committed himself. 

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