Unlike the birthers who falsely accuse the President of fraud — or Michele Bachmann, who blindly accuses public servants of treason — Harry Reid has never accused Mitt Romney of a crime. In fact, by Mitt’s own definition, Reid is paying him a compliment.
Remember what Romney said on this topic: “I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”
All Harry Reid is saying is that Mitt found a way — based on existing tax codes — to pay no taxes. He is arguing that Mitt legally avoided any tax responsibility to the U.S. government and that’s why he won’t reveal his returns. But why not, Mitt? A zero in the “Amount owed” box would be the ultimate proof that you’re qualified to be president, according to your own odd standard.
Is it likely that Mitt Romney legally paid no taxes in the past ten years, as Harry Reid reports he was told? Not likely, experts say. But is it out of the question? Hell no.
According to the IRS, 1500 millionaires paid zero taxes in 2009. That’s correct. No taxes. How did they do it? They “were probably donating to charity, investing in local and state government bonds and making most of their money overseas.” Hmmm. At least two of these tactics are Romney specialties, as we know from his limited disclosures that he is a fan of overseas investments and tithes a tenth of his income to his Church (in addition to supporting other charities.)
Let’s stop pretending that Mitt Romney wouldn’t be proud if he avoided paying any taxes for ten years. If he weren’t awkwardly forced to pretend he lives in the same world as most Americans, he’d be bragging about the lengths he goes to avoid paying taxes at home and abroad. And he isn’t alone. Viewed in a clear light, the entire Republican Party can be seen as a tax avoidance scheme.
The extremely rich, according to a recent report, are keeping at least $21 trillion in overseas tax havens. But the fact is they usually don’t even have to hide their money because the tax code is written to lighten the burden on rich. Why? The rich can afford lobbyists to rewrite the tax code in their favor. Mitt has a lobbyist just for his beach house. Yes, a lobbyist dedicated to just one of his houses. And it saved him plenty.
Romney is also the beneficiary of the worst example of an unnecessary tax break that the rich have had written into the tax code: the carried interest loophole. Through this loophole, all of Mitt’s income from his Bain retirement is taxed at 15 percent, as if it were capital gains. Capital gains is taxed at a lower rate because rich people write the tax code and make more of their money off investment than actual labor. But even their most articulate apologists have a hard time explaining why the money managers and hedge fund managers who make their living with other people’s money deserve to have their own income taxed as investments.
Romney’s tax returns are more than a basic piece of evidence all presidential candidates are expected to provide. They are the Rosetta Stone that explains how the rich are gaming our democracy to make playing with money more profitable than work.
Liberal Kevin Drum thinks we’re buying into a Tea Party-like bandwagon by celebrating what Harry Reid is doing. But I’m with James Carville. Like a boxer, Reid is taunting Romney and forcing him to swing blindly. And he’s doing it with style, by paying Mitt a compliment.