When Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters on Tuesday that Mitt Romney’s foreign investment accounts don’t trouble him because “it’s really American to avoid paying taxes,” he must not have realized that he was calling his party’s nominee-to-be a liar.
“As long as it was legal, I’m OK with it,” said the South Carolina Republican. “I don’t blame anybody for using the tax code to their advantage…It’s a game we play. Every American tries to find the way to get the most deductions they can. I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.”
Graham assumes – no doubt correctly – that Romney sent his money offshore to avoid taxes. But the Republican candidate and his flacks have repeatedly insisted that the Romneys’ admittedly minimal tax bill was not reduced at all by their remarkable maze of holdings in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and Bermuda. It is “the very same” as if he had kept those millions of dollars in the United States, or so they claim.
But Graham clearly doesn’t buy that alibi. In fact, nobody does. And eventually Romney may be forced to realize complete information about his investments that may yet indicate the extent to which he and his family have escaped taxation. .
Meanwhile, what Graham unwittingly evoked with his clumsy endorsement of tax avoidance is the specter of Greece — a nation whose fiscal drama incites endless Republican prattle about the need for austerity. Warnings that as a nation we are on “the road to Greece” have become a favorite Republican cliché, regurgitated by every politician who wants to be considered for vice president as well as by the presidential candidate himself.
“You call that forward?” Romney said mockingly of an Obama campaign slogan last month. “That’s forward over a cliff, that’s forward on the way to Greece.”