Romney Tax Return Provides a Window to His Soul



by Walter Brasch


When a craven of buffoons and bigots disguised in the bodies of Birthers figured that anyone with dark skin and a foreign name had to be born outside the U.S., Barack Obama provided a birth certificate. Not just the usual “short form,” but a state-certified copy of the “long form” that detailed he was born in Hawaii, which some birthers apparently think is a foreign territory, to a mother who was a natural-born U.S. citizen.  

That, of course, was not enough for the whackadoodles who claimed, among other things, that the President’s birth certificate was altered or forged. All of their claims have been debunked by scientific evidence. Of course, they produced their own poorly-forged birth certificate that they said “proved” President Obama was born in Kenya.

In February, billionaire Donald (Look-at-How-Wonderful I-Am) Trump, an unabashed Birther, stood next to multi-millionaire Mitt Romney in a Las Vegas casino and endorsed him for the Republican nomination. A few months earlier, Trump had gotten significant face-time in the media while flirting with the idea of running for the presidency while whining about Romney. “He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs,” Trump crowed. But now, with Romney running well ahead in the primary contests, Trump was trying to be relevant and stay in the political spotlight. Romney, for his part, smiled and said nothing to suggest that Trump could be wrong about pursuing the birther argument. Trying to have everyone like him, one of the most unlikable presidential candidates refused to repudiate Trump’s birther views.

Unlike Barack Obama, Mitt Romney does have a secret. This one is buried within what he either did or did not report to the IRS.

It’s traditional, but not required, that presidential nominees release copies of their tax returns. Most people have no idea how to read a tax return, especially one with dozens of amendments, filings, and schedules. But, the posting of the returns is a form of trust.

Barack Obama has released his returns. Romney’s father, George, former governor of Michigan and presidential candidate in 1968, released 12 years, thus setting a standard for future presidential candidates.

At first the flip-flopping Romney said he didn’t plan to release the returns. Then he said, “Maybe.” Then he declared he’d release only the previous two years’ returns. Then he said that because of the complexity of the return, he filed for an extension from the IRS so he could file after the April 15 deadline for the 2011 return. Then this past week before a fundraiser he said he “never paid less than 13 percent. . . . So I paid taxes every single year.” He expected us just to believe him. He never defined whether that was just income taxes, or included all taxes paid, including social security, local, and state taxes, thus making the federal income tax even lower.

Let’s pretend he meant income taxes. Even at 13 percent, it’s one of the lowest tax rates. In 2011, Romney had a gross income of about $21 million, according to a partial return Romney finally allowed to be posted. The effective tax rate for persons with incomes over $1 million, according to the Tax Foundation, averages about 25 percent.

But, most of Ann and Mitt Romney’s reported income in 2011 was based on capital gains. In 2003, the Bush–Cheney administration had lowered capital gains taxes to only 15 percent, primarily benefitting the wealthy. If the Romneys did not take most of their money from investment capital, their tax bracket would be 35 percent.
There are a number of questions that need to be answered.

The first questions are about that extension for the 2011 taxes. With a fleet of lawyers and accountants, why did the Romneys need at least a five month extension to file a return? Was it to massage the data for public consumption? Equally important, if he needed this extension to file a personal income tax return, what does that say about his ability to govern a nation with a $2.3 trillion budget?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints tithe to the church. The Romneys acknowledge donating $2.5 million in cash to the church in 2011. Were they overly generous? Or, does that contribution reflect that the Romneys’ income may have been about $25 million. If that is the case, where did the rest go? Ann Romney told NBC News, “We also give 10% of our income to charity.” According to a partial return in 2011, the Romneys claim they donated about $4 million to charity. If Ann Romney is a accurate, that would be a $40 million income, twice what is claimed.

Why Romney won’t release tax returns prior to 2010 may be because secrets are buried in 2009. According to BuzzFlash’s Mark Karlin, citing Lawrence O’Donnell’s pointed queries, “Romney may have taken advantage of a 2009 IRS amnesty period to disclose hidden income in offshore accounts but subject to US taxation. The amnesty offer allowed such persons to escape potential criminal prosecution for tax evasion.” It would be nice to know how much income was diverted to off-shore accounts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland, and into various tax-shelters the average American has no idea even exist.
That leads to an obvious question. How much of the Romneys’ income over the past decade, not just the two years when he was planning to run for president, had deductions that might be questionable to the average person who doesn’t have lawyers and accountants on retainer? Certainly, taking a $77,000 write-off in 2010 for a show horse isn’t something the average American can do. Working with an onerous tax code, loaded with myriad special interest loopholes, the Romneys know how to take everything wealthy Americans are entitled to receive. It may be legal, but is it ethical?

Frankly, it doesn’t make much difference how much Romney earned, how he earned it, what he did with it, or how he and some extremely bright tax advisors took advantage of the system created by lobbyists and Congress. What does matter is that by stonewalling, obfuscating, and refusing to give full disclosure, he appears to have something to hide. And upon that—and that alone—the people and the media need to pursue why Romney is reluctant to release financial data. It’s a matter not of how rich he is, but a matter of trust and a window into his soul.

[Walter Brasch has been covering local, state, and presidential political races for almost four decades. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at the American counter-culture and media of the ’60s as a base to understand today’s social issues.]




My Conversation With Donald Trump

OK, I admit it. I’m not a US citizen. I’ll never be President. I’ll be a permanent member of the no-fly list and my phone will be constantly bugged. Jan Brewer will kick me out of the country because I have no papers proving who I am or where I was born. I’m very disappointed to find I’m some sort of exotic, white “anchor baby“.

Note to self: Avoid Arizona.

Now I know what it’s like to be Barack Hussein Obama – if that is indeed his real name.

Family legend said I was born in Elkins, WV. But sorting through my personal papers I was unable to find a real birth certificate bearing the imprint of Orly Taitz‘s signet ring in wax. In fact, I don’t even have a pitiful “Certificate of Live Birth” like Obama’s. All I have is a scrap of paper looking as though it’s been ripped from a ship’s log. All it says is, “A kid was born just off the coast of Somalia during our last pirate takeover. Don’t know his name. Not sure of the date, but it wasn’t long ago. But this is all the proof he needs to show he was actually born. He’ll probably grow up to be a liberal communist anyway.” It was signed and Ensign Hikaru Hussein Sulu.

My Mom Was a Nigerian Official’s Wife
As I dug deeper, I learned I’d been abandoned to a Norfelia Lumbago, the wife of a Nigerian government official who couldn’t access his money held up in Banco Lagos until he came out of exile. Apparently, I had a very poor childhood. Mom never did get the money.

From Lagos, I went to a madrasa in Pakistan where I learned a useful trade making amateur Betamax videos for worldwide news distribution. It was a very prestigious career. I was even allowed to sleep on the softest rocks in our Tora Bora studio cave. I minored in bomb making.

I tell you all of that to tell you this, I – like every member of the Republican Party – want to run for President in 2012. I figured I’d be a shoo-in with a platform of rolling government back to its state in 1850 and by being the first Presidential candidate running with two part-time Vice Presidential candidates. Michele Bachmann, because she looks so scrumptious in a bikini and always tells the truth as relayed to her by God. And, Sarah Palin because she looks adorable with that naughty school marm vibe she has going on. Plus, she said she could only be Vice President for half a term. She needed to take time off for the salmon fishing and snowmobile racing seasons.

Just as I was ready to launch my pre-campaign to decide whether I was going to kick off my exploratory committee leading to my final decision to announce, at some time in the future, that I thought I might be running, but tell everyone, “I might be running or I might not be running. That’s for me to know and you to find out,” Donald Trump called.

A ‘Fabulous Opportunity’
Of course I met with The Donald™ – that’s what his friends call him. I believe I’m the third or fourth friend he has. I’m so honored. During the meeting he told me he had a fabulous opportunity for me. He said, “I have a fabulous opportunity for you.”

He said, “I’m richer than God and the smartest man in the world too. Of course, that goes without saying. I know I can talk to you like I’ll talk to Cesar Chavez and convince him to give us his oil for free. Nothing to it. It’s an exciting, fabulous, stupendous piece of cake. I’d offer him a casino or a missile up his butt and he’d be all over the deal. Fantastic. Smart man, that Chavez. No nose for business though. Not like me. I’m world-famous. I even have my own university for God’s sake.”

“Um Mr. Trump, I’m a little confused. Why did you invite me to this fabulous, high-end Waffle House to talk?”

Mr. Trump Loves the Waffles
“Well first, I love the waffles. But I really want to make you a deal, because you know, I know, you know what a fabulous businessman I am.”

“Here’s the deal. A really good deal. Fantastic actually. You show me your birth certificate – because we all know you’re lying about having one – and I’ll release my tax information. I gave the same deal to Obama, but the man is an imbecile. Turned me down. Shows why I’m rich and he’s not.”

“Of course everyone would read it and see just how rich I am. Mega-rich! Uber-rich! Richest man in the world, no matter what Forbes says! They always hated me for being so rich, but I’m going to buy their lying asses out. It’ll be a fabulous deal.”

“So when can we sign the papers? I’ll even let you keep the luxurious gold Bic embossed with the Trump logo if you want.”

That’s how I came to tell this story now. My campaign is in ruins. I told the truth about not being a citizen and Mr. Trump released his taxes. He was right, it caused quite a stir.

Mr. Trump offered me a lot of money, a fabulous amount actually, to go away. That’s how I’ve become a rich man like Mr. Trump. I have millions now and Mr. Trump found me a fabulous new job as Venezuelan oil minister. I get to do super deals and money is no object. I’m smarter now that I’m rich too. Cesar and I go to dinner all the time. We’re great friends because we’re both so rich and I still have that butt-missile Mr. Trump gave me wholesale (because multi-millionaires never pay retail). But I’m terribly sad about one thing … I really miss Sarah and Michele. We could really do some fancy clubbing down here. I even have a penthouse in the Trump Caracas Holiday Inn.

Fabulous! Just super-gargantuous really!

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!


Yucaipa and Big Dog

Friday afternoon the Clinton campaign released Hillary & Bill's 2001-2006 Federal income tax returns. link As one might expect the Ex-President and the Senator made a lot of money writing books and making speeches in the years after Bill's Presidency. Aside from the large numbers there is one issue that jumps out after reviewing the returns, and that is Bill's relationship with Yucaipa Global Holdings (Yucaipa). This Cayman Islands based company paid Bill Clinton $2,500,000 in guaranteed payments in 2006. For tax purposes Yucaipa is considered a partnership. In a partnership, guaranteed payments are made for services rendered or for the use of capital. It appears Yucaipa's major investor is billionaire, Ron Burkle, so it is unlikely that Bill Clinton received guaranteed payments in return for his use of capital. As a result, it seems likely that Clinton performed services for Yucaipa and the guaranteed payments were compensation for these services.

There's more...

Voices Of Reason Amidst The Derangement

To say I'm disconcerted by today's obsession with the release of the Clintons' tax returns is an understatement. Does anyone else think the feeding frenzy is flat out embarrassing or is it my whole WASP uncomfortable talking about money thing? Is it news? Sure. Is it worth poring through? If you like. But the glee with which so-called Democrats at dailykos have launched "an investigation" into the Clintons' tax returns is most disturbing of all.

First there was the "mothership" diary which stated as its goal:

This is the diary to discuss the Clinton tax returns, which are scheduled to drop this morning.

We'll need to create teams to look through these tax returns, so please step up to volunteer to cover each year's tax return so we can find the information we need in those returns. As soon as I have the link to the returns available, I'll put it up here in this diary.

Also, please recommend this diary so it can be on the recommended list as an action item for Kossacks.

Then there was the "Breaking" diary announcing that the Clintons, damn them!, are rolling in it. Here are the diarist's accusations...err...observations:

That's a lot of money by anyone's standards.  Is this the reason why she was holding out for so long- for fear that the fact they are very, very rich would hurt her image? Will it hurt her ability to connect with her poverty stricken constituents?  Or was there something else that was she hiding?  

What's with the timing? Obviously she knew that today was Dr. King's day. They released them 1 hour before the MLK march in Memphis and during the MLK rally. Take from that what you will...

Finally, it now seems much less significant that she loaned her campaign $5 million.  She could've done that many times over!

Again, so much for hope and uplift, eh guys?

But my point here isn't to slam the Hillary haters of dailykos, although reading through the comments of the second diary made me want to take a shower, but rather to point out the voice of reason and sanity that lives in the community over yonder. There was almost a pitchforks and torches feel to some of the comments in the mothership diary, from Obama supporters at that. Here's just a sampling:

I am writing this because this nonsense is now being trumpeted on other blogs, and it is embarrassing me as a frequent poster here and as an Obama supporter.  

This is the type of vulture politics I saw when I stood at a newsstand in DC and watched three young Republicans poring iover the Ken Starr report, giggling.  

It's fucking disconcerting, and I am disconcerted as hell...

I stand against this, as many Obama supporters do and should.

I am not comfortable with this diary...because of the way it presents the valid task of examining a facet of a presidential candidate as a search-and-destroy mission. Nothing wrong with combing through this, it was done with Obama, and will be done with McCain (where are your returns anyway, McC?), but it's not a suitable subject for a live blog. There are other investigations done by this site to model this after that are much more appropriate to the task... this one just makes things look slimy.

So you are declaring them corrupt and they have to prove they are innocent?

With you 100%. I am becoming more and more disenchanted with both Obama's supporters (and I am one) and this site. This is petty gotcha politics at its worst. Count me very much out.

I Agree With This As Well - Please Unrecommend. Reviewing Hillary's returns has to be done as part of the process of vetting our candidates.  But the whole feel of this post and peoples reaction to it comes across as being mean spirited.  If it were McSame I would be all over it, but not to a fellow Democrat.

And there were plenty more just like them. In addition, there was a diary called I'm embarrassed for us in which diarist kubla000 writes "today, dKos jumped the shark.  and i'm embarrased for us" and, of course, this parody diary titled "LIVEBLOG MOTHERSHIP: CLINTON DENTAL RECORDS" that captured the absurdity of the anti-Clinton spectacle. As diarist drational put it:

Is the change we want to become like the GOP?

It's tempting sometimes to paint the dailykos community with a broad anti-Hillary brush, just as many like to paint MyDD as anti-Obama. The truth is much more complex than that as I was reminded by the comments of the diaries above. The blogosphere thrived on a sort of singleminded us against them mentality, whether it was Democrats vs. Republicans, outsiders vs. insiders or gate crashers vs. gate keepers; but now we have trained our sights on each other. So it was a relief to me to see that while some diarists persist in feeding the Obama vs. Clinton flames, as Angry Mouse wrote the other day, there is beginning to be a rebellion against it there, and I hope here as well.

There's more...

Sincere tax question... any sincere responses?

I've been unmoved by the tax return issue for a while. I'm sure there will be plenty in Hillary's 2000-2007 returns to work as fodder for Oppo researchers and the like, but here's what I'd really like to hear from some of Clinton's supporters...

(Sincerly, not a bashing, not trying to rally Obama supporters to bash... this is a question about politics...)

Why drag this out? She's given enough promises to release them that she'll have to at some point. Wouldn't sooner be better then later?

They're certainly readily available -- with the kind of money she and Bill now have, plus their public roles, they must have these papers very well organized by lots of well-paid accountants.

Why let this even become an issue? Since it was used against Lazio, sooner or later she had to realize it would come up. And after loaning her campaign money, it's fair game.

Why turn it into a "Obama's not transparent either" issue? It's a poor comparison, because now that his tax returns are out, it just makes the news into her still NOT releasing their returns.

Why pretend it doesn't matter? The FEC requires campaigns release all their data so that voter know where the influence is. If candidates can use their own money, the source of that matters too. As an Obama supporter, I'm more interested in his returns, because of how it could cause me to question my support.

Why not release it last week, esp. Friday, when it would have been lost in the Wright controversy, or easter, or forgotten in the month+ left until PA votes?

Is there any logic other than "hiding something?" I don't want to assume that, but it truly defies campaign logic as I understand it.

Even though Obama made reference to Wright on occasion, his quiet denials were lost in the volume of those video clips. I imagine if he'd been more pro-active, this could have been lessened.

It was supposed to be a rookie mistake on Obama's part -- but really, the Clintons and their staff truly know better.

I just don't understand. Does anyone here who does want to share?

There's more...


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