Josh Marshall at TPM is definitely on to something here–Mitt Romney and his campaign are willing to put up with reporters asking embarrassing questions about his refusal to release his tax returns, probably because what’s in them is even more embarrassing, and potentially damaging, than all the pesky questioning they’re getting and will continue to get for the foreseeable future. Invoking the “Buffet Rule” Josh points out that Mitt’s tax rate has likely been at the effective capital gains rate of 15% for years and not the rate about twice that paid by ordinary wage-earners.
Speaking of wage-earning, Mitt possesses the arrogant nerve to have told a crowd earlier this year that he, supposedly like many of them, is among the “unemployed.” This care-free admission of the fact he doesn’t draw a weekly salary may explain his indifference to extending the payroll tax cut in the recent struggle between President Obama and House Republicans. Many monied interests simply see investment income as meriting a lower tax rate. Think of hedge fund multi-millionaires who’ve successfully resisted efforts to subject them to higher rates.
As I wrote in an earlier post, “How Long Can Mitt Romney Refuse to Release His Tax Returns,” it’s going to be interesting to see how long his campaign maintains the stonewalling. Taking a feather out of Mayor Bloomberg’s rich man’s bag of tricks, maybe they’ll do something like offer reporters a 2 1/2-hour look at some personal financial papers and then try to spin that as “transparency.” After all, he and his campaign are unembarrassed by moves likes Romney’s purchase and destruction of all the computer hard drives from his years as governor of Massachusetts; they seem to be taking non- and partial-disclosure as a matter of policy.
I hope the campaign press does a proper job covering this opaque stance from the Republican frontrunner. The press always hates being told they can’t have something, so they ought to be on this with gusto. It’s early days, but I already detect a whiff of something that smells like “what are they hiding?” I find Romney’s approach positively Nixonian.