Sunday, February 14 , 2016, 3:29 pm | Fair 74º

Joe Conason: Will Romney’s Tax Day Make April Fools of Republicans?

GOP presidential front-runner keeping up a charade regarding tax returns

By Joe Conason |

Mitt Romney’s latest flip-flop is almost complete. Having vowed a month ago not to release his federal income tax returns, the Republican presidential front-runner conceded during Saturday night’s debate that he would “probably” release his returns, and then on Tuesday afternoon finally said he will do so — in April, long after he is likely to have secured his party’s nomination.

With characteristic arrogance, he excused the delay by suggesting that April 15 is the traditional date when public officials supply this information, which is certainly true if you’re already president.

Even more galling was Romney’s suggestion that he will reveal only his 2011 return, which would allow him to control the narrative, of course, by paying a higher rate this year than in years past — having admitted that he pays as little as 15 percent, or around the same effective rate as a family earning $60,000 a year.

Who does Romney think he is fooling with this charade? Republicans are rightly concerned that his sense of entitlement, symbolized by the tax question, will damage their party’s chances next fall. Determined though he is now to withhold his tax history, Romney is likely to be forced to surrender all of the financial information that President Barack Obama disclosed long ago.

Perhaps someone ought to remind him now that when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he and his wife released all of their tax returns dating back to 1980. (And when Hillary Rodham Clinton resisted releasing their returns during the 2008 presidential primaries, the Wall Street Journal editorial page excoriated her, demanding immediate full disclosure.)

As recently as Dec. 21, Romney seemed to believe that he could evade the release of his personal tax information. Asked by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd whether he will release his returns, the former Massachusetts governor replied: “I don’t intend to release the tax returns. I don’t.” Luckily for him, Todd didn’t air that portion of the interview on The Daily Rundown, his widely followed political broadcast.

Romney’s remarks were picked up from the transcript in a New York Times blog post, but the issue didn’t blow up until after New Hampshire. Under increasing pressure from his opponents and the media — and swiftly turning into a parody of buccaneering late capitalism — Romney is now trying to quell the problem without solving it.

When Romney said that his effective tax rate is “probably” around 15 percent, he could have been gaming media expectations. Playing the expectations game would also be served by restricting disclosure to his 2011 return next April, since that document can easily be manipulated over the next few months to let him pay a higher rate. What he may well fear, if politics eventually requires him to give up his tax returns from the past decade or so, is the public’s discovery that he used offshore investments, trusts and other accounting tricks to pay even less (like the 7,000 millionaires who paid zero income tax last year). The more he resists disclosure, the more voters will suspect him of such elite chicanery.

Joe Conason writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

» on 01.20.12 @ 10:38 AM

All the more reason for a flat tax.

» on 01.20.12 @ 01:57 PM

A litle jealous, maybe?  Who cares?  If it is all legal?  Class envy is a cancer and the left keeps pushing it.  Maybe they should start working their way up and into a field and actually try and gain wealth.  What a horrible concept.  i wonder how much he gave to charitable organizations and his church compared to most Democrats.  How much are Clinton’s speaking fees?  The hypocrasy continues!

» on 01.20.12 @ 04:47 PM

Oh for crying out loud. The only reason this is an issue is because Romney is playing to the buffoons on the left. His “deer in the headlights” look over this typifies why this man should not be the nominee.

Romney claimed bragging rights over his competitors in the race because he was a “business man”, when in fact the only business he has ever been involved in is services. Sorry but in my book any man who accumulates the kind of wealth Mitt has producing absolutely nothing of any net value cannot claim he is the “economy master”. There are two sides to any economy, whether privately owned and run or publically. You have the producer side, that which generates more value than it consumes and the accumulator side which serves the other side and operates at a net loss to the economy as a whole.

Romney’s financial services business operated at a net loss to the economy as a whole. He can claim he added over a 100k jobs but that is meaningless if the cost of those jobs was a net loss to the economy. Further even if the jobs were in manufacturing, resource extraction or agriculture, where real wealth is created, his business was a drain. If those companies could have done the job without the service Mitt provided they would have been better off.

This is the most important distinction we can make as a sovereign economy and it is not only ignored by the right but not understood by the nation as a whole. We have been seduced for so long by parasitic industries, like the financial sector, law and entertainment, as well as the lure of easy money gamblers and speculators, that we have all come to believe that just transferring money from one party to another, whether through taxation or services, some how makes more wealth. It doesn’t and our balance sheet (we owe the world 3 times our worth) proves it.

Coastal, we on the right need to distance ourselves from the self serving accumulators on Wall Street and remember how the Street was created in the first place, by wealth generating industrialists. The Street did not make our railroads, steel industry, agricultural empire or energy empire. Those industrial sectors made the wealth that Wall Street came to manage. The Street is a service and operates at a net loss to the economy as a whole, not the other way around. Romney, may be an honest man and may have accumulated his wealth morally and lawfully but it does not change the fact that it was wealth transferred not created. He is therefore the wrong man for the job. He cannot see that our glorification of wealth transfer, speculation and gambling is an addiction leading us to our demise and is no different than the left’s daffy infatuation with wealth transfer by confiscatory taxation. Nether case makes new wealth and by wealth I mean the added value to our economy not what you put in your pocket.

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