Why Mitt’s Tax Summary Doesn’t Cut the Mustard

The Obama campaign views Mitt’s 2011 tax return, and the summary of returns from 1990-2009–released late this afternoon–quite skeptically. That’s no surprise, of course.  But, by providing only a summary for the bulk of years included, with a total average about what tax rate he paid over those 20 years–the Romney camp claims 20.20%–we can’t  determine how the number was arrived at. As Greg Sargent points on the Plum Line,

“The way [the Romney Camp did it] obscures the fact that [his] income may have fluctuated quite markedly from year to year. If Romney paid his lowest rates in a number of the higher income years, the overall 20 percent figure would overstate the rate he actually paid over the whole period. [Roberton] Williams, [a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center], provided the following purely hypothetical example:

‘Let’s say you have 10 years in which you paid 13 percent in taxes, and 10 years in which you paid 27 percent. . . . If you average those rates, you’ll get an overall rate of 20 percent. But if the 13 percent years were high income years, and the 27 percent years were low income years, then his total taxes paid as a share of total income over the 20 years would be less, perhaps significantly less, than 20 percent.’ 

Yet in that scenario, the Romney campaign would be claiming, by its chosen metric, to have paid 20 percent. How realistic is it that Romney could have had far higher income some years than others?

‘You can be a person like Romney and have a highly fluctuating income year to year,’ Williams said. ‘Some years Romney’s income could be much lower than in other years. When you average just the rates, you can distort the rate you’ve paid relative to your income over the whole period.’

Williams concluded: ‘The only way we can know for sure what rate he actually paid is to see what his tax payment and his income was for each of the 20 years.’”

With that truth for context, I suggest the Obama campaign’s statement packs a potent punch, one that DEMs and the media ought to ask on the Romney tax issue (italics added are mine):

“Today’s release of Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns confirms what we already knew – that people like Mitt Romney pay a lower tax rate than many middle class families because of a set of complex loopholes and tax shelters only available to those at the top. Yet, Mitt Romney still wants to give multi-millionaires an additional $250,000 tax cut at the expense of middle class taxpayers who will see their taxes go up. While the tax return for the one year released today continues to mask Romney’s true wealth and income from Bain Capital, leaving the American people in the dark about critical details about his finances, it does confirm that he continues to profit from millions of dollars invested overseas. These types of investments, the use of tax loopholes, and the resort to foreign blocker corporations enabling him to reduce his U.S. tax obligations, all raise basic and still unanswered question – why does Mitt Romney not just release the full returns, instead of the bare summary he has provided of the last 20 years, so voters can make their own judgments about Mitt Romney’s finances? As Mitt Romney’s father said, candidates should release several years of returns, because one year could be a fluke. President Obama, Vice President Biden and nearly every other candidate in recent memory has met that test, but Mitt Romney continues to fail it.”

Talking w/Voters about What Mitt Romney Thinks of Them

The Obama campaign went out on the streets of a major city today and asked voters how they feel about Mitt Romney’s candid and disparaging remarks indicating what he really thinks of Obama voters. The video the Obama campaign has made is titled “47 per cent”.

Open Letter to Ann Romney from the MOMocrats

Wow, a woman named Karoli has written and posted a terrific letter to Ann Romney slamming her attitude and refusal to release the couple’s tax returns. I urge you to read the whole letter via this link or in the screenshot I’ve placed in this post and share it with your friends and contacts, and anyone you know in the media. Here’s how it begins:

Dear Ann Romney,
I don’t like your attitude very much. It seems very entitled and imperious. You say you have done everything legally required, and there will be no more tax returns. Not only do you say it, you say it with a snarl, as if those you’re asking to vote for your husband are simply too stupid to understand what a tax return filed by a Very Wealthy Couple looks like. As if you’re saying “we’ve given all you people need to know.”
Oh wait. You actually said that.

The MOMocrats also have a cool website, where this letter was first posted. Karoli’s letter deserves to go viral, big-time.

Romney & Ryan Stoking Racial Resentment

Republicans should be careful, though they probably won’t be.

Stoking racial distrust and animus–as they’re gleefully doing over Joe Biden’s ‘chains’ remark this week, which I covered in a post titled Why Mitt’s Trying to Beat up on Joe Biden–may yield blowback. Their latest move is giving Artur Davis a key speaking role at the convention–he’s the African-American pol who lost his gubernatorial race in Alabama and then left the Democratic party. He’s this election season’s Zell Miller–a Southern DEM who’s claims to have been spurned by his party, only for the right-wing there’s the added benefit of him being black, so they can try and bash the president with added zest.

I recommend Jamelle Bouie’s Plum Line column yesterday that charted Davis’s political evolution.

In this over-heated political climate, with rampaging shooters targeting people every week, I fear the consequences of Republicans zealously making low information voters angrier than they are already, especially among those who believe that President Obama is ‘foreign,’ as Romney repeatedly intones to campaign crowds.


Why Mitt’s Trying to Beat up on Joe Biden

Just posted at the Plum Line: this really excellent political opinion column by Jamell Bouie. He gives an answer as to why Mitt has over the past 24 hours tried to blow up Joe Biden’s ‘chains’ remark into such a big deal: it’s cause he’s trailing in the election, by all reliable measures. “Losing” is Boulee’s word.

Borrowing an outlook from sports, I believe that if the campaign gets into the third quarter of the race (after Labor Day, after the autumn solstice) with current trends still favoring the president continuing, the professional political operatives on board the Romney team are going to need a series of Hail Mary passes to somehow get their candidate back in to the contest. With Mitt often being his own campaign manager, I’d say it’s him driving the over the top push-back against Biden, and continuing to air ads like the one falsely asserting Pres. Obama’s ruined the welfare law. Mitt himself may have written the fervid speech he game late last night, the one raising dungeon about Pres. Obama’s character, the one the Obama campaign this morning called “unhinged.” Bouie points out that one of the underpinnings within the Romney camp has been their presumed advantage with senior voters, but the Ryan pick is threatening to erode that big time. If so, pop goes one of the legs on their 3-legged stool.

As for the Obama camp’s response to the convenient outrage over Biden’s use of a loaded word, and their response to things like the welfare ad, I think they’re doing it right. Basically, they’ve made it clear they’re not having any crap, and they won’t be instructed by an opponent whose policies would damage the middle class–the big banks, the new shacklers that Biden was talking about–and which has been making stuff up about the president since their first TV ad.

The Plum Line, where Greg Sargent and Jonathan Bernstein also post, is one of my steady political reads on the Web

Ann on the Romneys’ Taxes–“There’s Nothing We’re Hiding”

“Ann Romney stroked the nose of Magic, a Welsh pony. ‘You’re so pretty, Magic,’ said Mrs. Romney. . . . When pressed. . . Mrs. Romney stood her ground. ‘We have been very transparent to what’s legally required of us,’ she said. ‘There’s going to be no more tax releases given.’ Mrs. Romney said if they release any more information, ‘it will only give them more ammunition.’ In regards to their finances, she said ‘there’s nothing we’re hiding.’ **

There’s a lot to unpack in this brief segment from the interview Ann Romney has recently done with NBC.

1) Notwithstanding the implication she would prefer to be taken away from her claim, the Romney campaign hasn’t yet released even one full year of tax information. Though most taxpayer’s 2011 returns have long since been filed, they haven’t yet released the most recent year. I don’t know what they’re waiting for. Moreover, for 2010–the one year they claim to have released–it was incomplete, as it lacked key filings the Romneys would have been obligated to make about their foreign bank accounts. The media should be making the point that claims aside, far from releasing two years, they haven’t even done one yet.

I noticed that Paul Ryan tried doing the same thing in his 60 Minutes interview Sunday night–speaking about Mitt’s two years of tax info in the past tense, as though they had already been released. Most of the attention for that part of the interview was paid to Ryan’s admission he’d provided “several years” of returns for vetting by the Romney campaign; equally significant was the sleight-of-hand he tried on Mitt’s taxes.

The media should be making the point that false claims aside, far from releasing two years, the Romneys haven’t even released one yet.

2) Her claims of transparency are belied by the facts. Mitt has been opaque about everything from his years as governor of Massachusetts–at the end of which, he instructed staff to purchase and destroy the hard drives on their office computers–to the sealing of Salt Lake City Olympics records to their personal finances.

3) As a matter of logic, how can the voting public reliably ascertain that she and Mitt aren’t “hiding” anything if they refuse to release more info? The Romney campaign has cited the supposed example of John McCain who as a presidential candidate released just two years of tax returns, but as a member of the Senate for many years, McCain had been filing detailed personal financial disclosures for a long time, and so an adequate paper trail already was available about him.

4) By stating that the release of more than two years of tax returns “will only give” the Obama campaign “more ammunition,” Ann Romney makes it sound as if she and her husband are helpless weaklings unable to protect themselves from the schoolyard bullies in the Obama camp. Come on, Ann, that’s what you’ve got your own bulwark of a campaign for! Buck up and deal with it. This is similar to Mitt’s appeals to the refs (i.e., the moderators) during the Republican primary debates–when he felt stung by an opponent’s criticism he’d ask the moderator– Wolf Blitzer in one instance–to intervene, claiming someone had violated debate rules. Observing this cowardly conduct, I thought at the time, “What a wuss!”

The Romneys are clearly hoping for credulous media to give them a pass on all their bait & switch tactics. One of the reasons I write this blog is to remind readers of mine who are also members of the media that they should not permit auto-pilot reporting to disguise this naked spin. Ann Romney puts up a gauzy front, shedding tears over the lovely Welsh pony Magic, but it’s just an act in service of her husband’s mendacious dissembling.

**If the subject of the Romneys’ horses interests you, please see my earlier post on the topic, All the Romneys’ Horses.
Note: The credit for the photo accompanying this post belongs to the publication Chronicle of the Horse.

Mitt’s Friday the 13th TV Adventure–Weak Talk & Condescension

In the round of network interviews Mitt Romney sat for yesterday, which he and his campaign doubtless hoped would quell the growing demands that he reveal more about his Bain years and his opaque finances, he uttered some really weak stuff that remind me of the moment in the primaries when he suggested people should talk only in “quiet rooms” about his business dealings. This is what he said to Wolf Blitzer yesterday.

“I know there will always be calls for more. People always want to get more,” Mr. Romney said on CNN. “And, you know, we’re putting out what is required plus more that is not required. And those are the two years that people are going to have. And that’s–that’s all that’s necessary for people to understand something about my finances.”

“People always want to get more.” Such blazing condescension! “Understand something about my finances” Is that all the media and the people are entitled to learn, something?

Do Mitt and his advisors really believe this weak talk is going to quiet the demands for more information? They may wish it were so, but it ain’t gonna happen. Surely, over the next four months, other issues will take center stage but I predict that between now and Election Day this is going to be a continuing feature of the campaign. It will hover over Mitt’s campaign like a dark cloud continually threatening a downpour, and the people underneath it will never know when they’re going to get drenched.

Best TV Ad of the Campaign Season

The most damaging thing a candidate can to his political opponent is make him seem ridiculous, teasing him in such a way as to reduce his gravitas. We’ve seen that Mitt Romney always tries to maintain his gravitas, and this new ad by the Obama campaign utterly punctures that veneer of seriousness, using Mitt’s singing voice, not to mention making a fair point about Mitt’s business dealings.