What is Mitt Romney hiding by concealing his tax returns?
Ironically, it was his father George Romney, also a successful capitalist and American politician, who set the standard for financial openness for presidential campaigns. In 1967, before the presidential election of 1968, he released 12 years of tax returns to the broader public.
In contrast, Mitt Romney has only released tax returns for 2010 and estimates for 2011. President Barack Obama has run spectacularly effective attack ads, which chide Romney for his evasiveness and raise suspicions about his Republican opponent. His reticence has cost him politically, which raises the question: Why won’t Romney release further years of tax returns?
I already know the rebuttal from the Republican opposition: Romney will show you his tax returns when Obama shows us his birth certificate.
It would be really witty if both claims were equally ridiculous, but they’re not. To believe the president is not a U.S. citizen you have to believe in a conspiracy theory that involves the state Health Department of Hawaii. To believe that Romney’s tax returns could possibly detail tax avoidance, all you have to do is read about his other financial exploits.
In “Where the Money Lives,” a report published by Vanity Fair, Nicholas Shaxson delves into “the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws,” and Romney’s personal fortune.
“While the Romneys’ spokespeople insist that the couple has paid
all the taxes required by law,” reads the report, “investments in tax havens such as Bermuda raise many questions, because they are in ‘jurisdictions where there is virtually no tax and virtually no compliance…’”
“A $3 million Swiss bank account appeared in the 2010 returns, then winked out of existence in 2011 after the trustee closed it,” continues the report, “as if to remind us of George Romney’s warning that one or two tax returns can provide a misleading picture.”
Romney’s net worth is estimated at $250 million, but the matter isn’t that he is rich. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was a presidential candidate in 2004, is very rich; his net worth was estimated at $193.07 million in 2011. He released 20 years worth of tax returns for his presidential run.
The trouble is the secrecy with which Romney has kept his personal finances, such as the secret accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Moreover, Romney has touted his business record and yet has not provided any clue as to how he made his fortune.
His economic plans are equally devoid of detail – an untenable circumstance for a presidential candidate, who espouses policies like a cut to income taxes which will further enrich him and his most powerful allies.
Bob Scheiffer of CBS News interviewed both Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan shortly after the two were paired for the presidential election. On the issue of Romney’s tax returns, Ryan remained loyal and said that he would only release a limited number of tax returns.
However, the most curious answer he provided pertained to the U.S. tax code and its bias towards the richest of America.
“What we’re saying is take away the tax shelters that are uniquely enjoyed by people in the top tax brackets, so they can’t shelter as much money from taxation, so you can lower tax rates for everybody and make America more competitive,” Ryan said.
I wonder if this irony escaped them as well.
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