Another Win For Show-Me-Your-Papers Politics: Romney Paid 13% Taxes

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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen in a tele prompter reflection waiting to speak to supporters at the Chillicothe Victory rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, Aug. 14, 2012.

Have you heard the news? Mitt Romney revealed today, after weeks of avoiding the issue, that he has paid at least 13% in taxes in each of the last 10 years. The response from the Obama campaign: “Prove it.”

Just another day of Show-Me-Your-Papers politics. Dana Milbank makes a good point Thursday in the Washington Post: The underhandedness of the current presidential campaign has a lot to do with one side changing its approach. “What’s different this time is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success,” Milbank writes.

For years, Barack Obama has been hounded by absurd accusations founded on nothing but weak, often imagined, speculation. Such as: he is not an American. If he were, he would show us his birth certificate. He is not a good student. If he were, he would release his college transcripts. It’s a go-to move for Donald Trump.

It is rooted in a logical fallacy, once reserved for conspiracy theorists, that feels right for many in a partisan age: A claim can be considered valid as long as there is not sufficient proof that it is invalid. Make up anything and it is debatable, unless disproved with documents. I heard Joe Biden spends thousands of dollars a month talking to a pay-per-minute telephone psychic. Absurd, you think? Then why doesn’t he release his phone records? There is a rumor that Paul Ryan has photos of sad cats wearing boots in the top right drawer of his Congressional office desk. A slander? Then why doesn’t Ryan unlock the drawer and let everyone see what he keeps there? (For the record: The psychic and the cat boots are fiction.)

You probably have already heard the latest example of this. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a soft-spoken political brawler of the first order, said a few weeks back that someone connected with Bain Capital told him once that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes in some recent years. Reid had no proof, and would not reveal his source, or why the source somehow gained access to Romney’s private tax returns. But the rumor was enough.

(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)

The unfounded accusation in Washington soon become conventional wisdom in some corners of the country. On Monday, at a rally in Boone, Iowa, I found myself talking on the rope line with a delightfully friendly Obama supporter, who volunteered the fact that he was certain that Romney had not paid any taxes, and that was the reason he was not releasing his tax returns. I could not bring myself to write down his name, or his direct quotes, which in retrospect was probably a mistake.

The baseless charge about Romney’s taxes soon made it into questions from reporters, and the Romney campaign initially tried to dismiss it. On Thursday, at the end of a press conference in which Romney had focused on Medicare, he got a question about the Reid charge and said this:

I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces – 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty – the fascination with taxes I’ve paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face. But I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that. So I paid taxes every single year. Harry Reid’s charge is totally false. I’m sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was that told him what he says they told him. I don’t believe it for a minute, by the way. But every year I’ve paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent.

This is a huge victory for the Obama campaign, and for all those who believe in smarmy politics. A baseless allegation will now cause another round of rumination on Romney’s taxes, which is exactly what the Obama campaign wants. There is no evidence that Romney ever broke the law in his taxes, but there is a lot in Mitt Romney’s taxes that shows how different the tax code works for the very wealthy, which is a message that Obama wants to drive home. Romney’s taxes are also embarrassing for him politically, as they show off-shore holdings, Swiss bank accounts and other investments that do not perfectly match with his policy approach. They have become shorthand for Romney’s financial otherness. The ones that have not been released are now a liberal MacGuffin, in much the way that Obama’s birth certificate and college transcripts are conservative MacGuffins. They are the objects that keep the narrative going.

However unfair and misleading, MacGuffins work in our current national politics. So expect more in the future. Sadly, for all of us.

83 comments
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beaverorduck
beaverorduck

To all that continue to call on Romney to release his tax returns - get an Ipod.  I'm tired of hearing the broken record.  I hope he doesn't release any more returns just to continue to goad the left into continuing their hissy fit.  His supporters just don't care.

D_Bob
D_Bob

Truer words were never spoken: "His supporters just don't care." That's it in a nutshell, and we're not just talking about tax returns here.

tdinct
tdinct

Isn't it legitimate to ask why, after revealing that he paid at least 13% for the last several years, Romney won't release his tax returns.  (If the only issue were the rate he paid, the returns add nothing to what he just revealed.) Isn't is reasonable to consider the likelihood that he failed to disclose his overseas accounts in violation of the law.  Accounts which I believe were never disclosed in the documents he released as Gov.  Then, in 2009, after he had given McCain ten years of returns, he discloses the accounts inorder to take advantage of an amnesty program offered by the IRS.  If he discloses the last five years, which includes 2009, it would then show that he evaded taxes on those accounts until that point in time, and that's why he won't release them.  It may well have nothing to do with the rate he paid but with potentially more serious issues.  Why isn't that a fair area of inquiry?

dpnewsome
dpnewsome

I find it interesting the term "income" has been dropped from the term "taxes" when Romney speaks on the issue.   The Romney campaign has decided the contents of his tax records would jeopardize his campaign more than the current controversy of not releasing them....   and that says something.

Why does the headline state the 13% as fact without the clarification that it is what Romney states and is unverified?

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

With all due respect, this article by Scherer  is a load of Nonsense. 

Echoing that showing tax returns is a political issue alone does not make it so. This basic premise of this article and the levity with which this important matter has been discussed here, is outrageous.  

It is a serious matter that Romney has given the country the finger

about his returns. Yet the press continues to regurgitate this asinine

line, that it is some political nonsense. Ploy by the Democrats or not,

what about the duty owed to the

electorate?? 

This article makes it seem that elections are between the parties alone,

and information shared is for their own benefit.  That is also

nonsense. The tax returns are for the electorate... and Romney should

have reasonably expected that he would have to share his taxes if he

became the flag bearer of the Republican party. This is not MA, where he

and Kennedy refused to show their taxes, and we later found out that

Romney had misrepresented his residence, as shown in his Tax returns, to

us. He was a Utah resident but assured us repeatedly that he had filed

taxes as a full time residence of our Commonwealth.

The Tax issue transcends a political fight between two parties. It is normal in presidential politics to seek to show you are a better option than your opponent. However, THE ELECTORATE is owed a moral duty any aspirant to the highest political office in the world to show tangible evidence of his or her own PERSONAL FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP. 

Should Romney not have reasonably anticipated that the Democrats would try to do opposition research on his returns. Romney has been running for president for at least 7-years.

 Could he not have been expected to be reasonably prepeared by now to provide well doctored taxes that his opponents would not be able to use in any meaningful way to attack him. He has ignored his duty to the electorate and by this refusal gives a window into his governance at a national level.

That duty, though a moral one, is to show the electorate that in his PERSONAL financial dealings, he (she) is, at least on the face of it, beyond reproach. This article is sensationalizing an important issue and minimizing it to some conspiracy garbage, while over looking the real problems that Romney is setting by establishing this arrogant and unsupportable precedent!  

There are certain mores that have been set as checks and balances for anyone aspiring to be the President of this country. Releasing many years of tax returns is one such more, and a justified one too. 

Even though it is not a legal obligation, it is a moral one that a candidate for President should make every effort to, at least appear on the face of it, to be beyond reproach in his financial dealings.

Romney would not have selected a Veep without seeing very many years of taxes. The reason for this is not just to avoid providing political fodder for the other side-- but also to  gauge the PERSONAL financial stewardship of the potential VP. 

I am sure that if Ryan was bankrupt, he would not have been selected for the VP spot by Romney. Yet Romney REFUSES to share HIS taxes while running to be our Commander in Chief, calls it a distraction, and Scherer and Halperin echo it.  And help to make it appear that the motives of the Democratic party is the most relevant issue in this matter. It is not! Respecting the electorate by sharing evidence of personal stewardship IS NOT, and SHOULD NOT be a POLITICAL ISSUE.      

This unfortunate precedent being set on a National level is a bad one. And the press should stop minimizing an issue of this importance.

dpnewsome
dpnewsome

It is interesting to note that the term "income" is missing from the term "taxes"... and your headline seems to suggest that you now take peoples word for fact without verifying.

TJtruthandjustice
TJtruthandjustice

When all is said and done, Mitt Romney's primary contribution to the United

States of America will be that he provided a perfect example to regular, middle-class citizens of how ridiculously, absurdly unfair the American tax code is.

oldprofessor
oldprofessor

The quirk in  Romney's latest explanation of his taxes is that after taking the time to look at them, he could not remember that  his tax rate in 2010 was 13.9%...he quoted it as 13.6%.   The actual figure is beside the point....if the issue was worth taking the time to check it out, it should have been worth presenting accurate information.

To take it a step further, he has essentially said...after looking at his returns...that he may have paid only 13% in at least one of those years..  It is nitpicking...but it seems he is not taking the matter very seriously. 

He did not!

ChowT
ChowT

Unfair and misleading, But despite all the accusation wont show!

Whats wrong with Mitt Romney tax returns?

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Fifteen seconds after I posted a similar comment, I saw this  ; )

Sam Sewell
Sam Sewell

DIY

Obama Ballot Challenges About to Expand to Four States

http://thesteadydrip.blogspot....

·      Evidence Obama

Ineligibility Movement is Winning

http://thesteadydrip.blogspot....

 

I have a question for my readers.  If the ineligibility movement was not scoring

significant victories why would the Democratic Party and Obama’s supporters be

trying so hard to silence the issue?  Why

not encourage the legal establishment to rule on the evidence and the law,

rather than avoiding the facts?  Why not

encourage the Supreme Court to rule, rather than evade?  Why not encourage a public open discussion of

the ineligibility issue?  Why not have public

debates on national television?  Why not

release the many documents that reveal Obama’s history?  Why not give millions of citizens the

information they want?  Or, why not simply ignore it?  Why indeed? 

I know why.  The “birthers” are

winning and Obama can’t afford to give them any more ammunition!+

Please see:

 

Strategy Update for Florida Ballot

Challenge

By Sam Sewell, Project Director

Choose Your Weapon

http://thesteadydrip.blogspot....

·      Evidence Obama

Ineligibility Movement is Winning

http://thesteadydrip.blogspot....

 

I have a question for my readers.  If the ineligibility movement was not scoring

significant victories why would the Democratic Party and Obama’s supporters be

trying so hard to silence the issue?  Why

not encourage the legal establishment to rule on the evidence and the law,

rather than avoiding the facts?  Why not

encourage the Supreme Court to rule, rather than evade?  Why not encourage a public open discussion of

the ineligibility issue?  Why not have public

debates on national television?  Why not

release the many documents that reveal Obama’s history?  Why not give millions of citizens the

information they want?  Or, why not simply ignore it?  Why indeed? 

I know why.  The “birthers” are

winning and Obama can’t afford to give them any more ammunition!+

Please see:

 

Strategy Update for Florida Ballot

Challenge

By Sam Sewell, Project Director

Choose Your Weapon

http://thesteadydrip.blogspot....

MACV
MACV

What in the world are you talking about ?  And who are you anyway ? And why should anyone pay attention to your nonsense ?

sacredh
sacredh

Prizes. The first one to decipher his post gets a free dutch rub.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

but there is a lot in Mitt Romney’s taxes that shows how different the tax code works for the very wealthy, which is a message that Obama wants to drive home. 

Micheal is actually able to articulate the problem but still obstinately refuses to recognize it. Romney's taxes matter because they are a perfect example of what's gone wrong with our tax system. It's a nice convenience that the poster boy for accounting manipulation just happens to be running for President but there it is. 

By the way, I'm confident that Romney paid a nominal amount of income tax but there's absolutely no doubt, that he's used seriously shaky accounting to balloon the value of his IRA. Allowing the cost basis to be "whatever" is dishonest to the core and that's what he's doing his best to hide.

daddydelight
daddydelight

NOTICE HOW HE PUT IT , I WENT BACK AND LOOKED AT MY TAXES AS LIKE HE NEVER SAW THEM , THE NEXT EXCUSE WHEN AND IF HE RELEASES TAXES WAS MY ACCOUNTANTS AND ANN'S BEDROOM MANEUVERS BLINDSIDED ME , AND BY THE WAY THOSE ARE ANN'S SWISS / OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS. I AM JUST A SWEET MORON OOP'S I MENT SWEET MORMON

MrObvious
MrObvious

MY EYES!

sacredh
sacredh

If thine eyes offend thee, pluck thine eyebrows. Or something like that. I should have paid more attention in Sunday School. Actually, maybe I should have went.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

Please take a high school english course before commenting here again. Thank you.

MACV
MACV

There was an interview, on television, with the lawyer that questioned Mitt under Oath when he was making a case that he always filed as a Mass resident so he could run for governor.

" I have always filed as a Mass resident when in Utah running the Olympics, Take my word for it". When he was shown a copy of his tax returns that listed Utah as his residence of record, Mitt said that must have been a mistake, and that he didn't read his tax returns, he just signed them. This was testified to under oath, when pushed further about his statement about always filling as a Mass resident he relented that the firm that does his taxes made a mistake and he would correct it by filling an amended tax return. Mitt was also questioned as to why he was given a tax benefit on his Utah resident by filing as his residence of record. Mitts response was the clerk must have made a mistake and just given him a tax break because he was helping so much with the Olympics; the lawyer said ... "kinda like a reward?"  Well yes, Mitt responded.    

AND THIS MAN WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT?  You would have to be "brain-dead" to vote for this miscreant .... or a racist that would rather burn his own house down, than let a black man ... "fix-it-up".  

Romney will either produce those tax records for public viewing or the Democrats (and myself) ... WILL-HAVE-OUR-WAY-WITH-HIM!  There's a reason why the Republicans (and many Mormons) don't like Willard "Mittens" Romney and we have just scratched the surface.

garotadagavea
garotadagavea

Do you guys expect us to feel sorry for this after Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and all the sorry rest of scoundrels? I think NOT.

D_Bob
D_Bob

The claim that Obama is not a natural-born citizen, and therefore not legitimately president of the United States (and is trying to hide it), despite his unquestioned victory in the election, is not the same as the claim that Romney paid an unconscionably low rate of income taxes (whether 0% or whatever) and is openly refusing to document it, even when every other candidate going back at least to his own father, has done so.

False equivalence, Mr. Scherer.

If you don't think so, then please tell me the last president who was forced to produce his birth certificate. And did so. And even then continued to have his legitimacy questioned as if he had never even shown it.

Are the two sides really playing the same game?

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

 My point exactly. The issue transcends a political battle. It is a non partisan expectation that a candidate running for the highest political office in the world, should share his taxes.

I do not care whom Scherer is planning on voting for in this election, I think he and Halperin have made their preference clear. However, I think that it is still his duty to provide a more balanced report on this issue.

The established more that candidates running for the Office of President in our country, is that they show years of tax returns as tangible evidence of their PERSONAL FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP. The duty is owed, not to the parties among themselves, but to the electorate.

We have a right to know. Not a legal right, but a moral right, and that is just as powerful.  

D_Bob
D_Bob

I thoroughly agree, and your comment goes beyond my own, to the deeper moral question at the root of democracy. It's not about 'sides.'

D_Bob
D_Bob

Stop, take a breath, look at the fact that -- taking Romney at his word -- he is still paying likely what is half the percentage of what you pay (do you pay roughly 25%-30% in income taxes? Or even 20%?) 

His intention through his plan is to make HIS percentage even LOWER, while increasing the tax burden on YOU. And he says that will fix everything.

Regardless of whether Romney pays 0% or 13%, how do you feel about that? 

Is it 'soaking the rich' to have the tax rate for them return to what it was in the 90's, or is it simple fairness in a democracy? (Not 'socialism,' mind you, democracy)

Is it 'hatred,' 'jealousy,' or the spirit of shared contribution to society that was the mark of the 'Greatest Generation?'

Will more jobs be 'created' by following Romney's 'plan' of lowering his own taxes even further? Would it if he were still working at Bain? 

If you DO believe that, then PT Barnum was right -- there's one born every minute.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Hmm. Michael and Alex Castellanos seem to be on the same page. Not company I'd want to keep.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2...

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

I am sure many of the writers in TIME magazine, have different political preferences for this election- but it is galling when it is so blatant in their articles.

Pnnto
Pnnto

Again, look at four years ago. MS will echo the republican thought of the day nearly as reliably as Drudge.

Sounds cruel, but watch.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

I know. Sigh. I remember it well.

I think the difference between the articles Alex posted on Romney and MS on Obama was very telling. Alex's article was an objective report of what happened; MS had to get in his digs.

Pnnto
Pnnto

Wait until the coronation, the "reporting" be something else.  

maizey1
maizey1

Romney has already been caught in a lie on his taxes in MA. This reporter also somehow falsely equates  birth certificate with taxes. how idiotic- no nice word for it.

A politician has an oligation to be open and honest with the public. Romney has been neither.

Romney had money in a Swiss account. THe government offered amnesty to those illegal accounts. The tax payers have a right to know if he received one.

and it isnt being small minded.  romney insults AMericans and this reporter ignores it