The biggest political story of the last couple weeks is Mitt Romney's continued unwillingness to release his tax returns in the face of mounting public pressure and displeasure. It's really a no-brainer. Every presidential candidate does it and I'm sure he knew the rules before starting his quest. During the Republican debates, Romney looked like the only one there who actually had half a clue and I figured he would be the one Republican who could give President Obama a run for the money. But now, he seems willing to throw away his big chance in order to keep something hidden in his past. Republicans have the best political strategists billionaires can buy, but apparently nobody asked Romney if he had any skeletons requiring happy-face make-up. It's like the Republicans' 2008 Sarah Palin mistake, without lipstick.
The U.S. Presidency is not just another job to pad your resume. It is the most powerful position on earth and should be filled by a person of utmost trust and honor. Only by thoroughly vetting the candidates, can we voters hope to understand a man's true measure. President Obama has given us 7 years of his tax returns and Mitt's own father, George Romney, gave voters 12 years of returns when he was running for President in 1968 because, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show." By continuing to hide his tax returns and thereby putting his campaign at risk, we voters are left to presume that Mitt Romney is concealing something truly coyote ugly. In virtually every news outlet, the guessing game has begun with articles on the top three, five, or even ten reasons Romney is hiding his tax returns. Was his $100 million I.R.A. illegally funded? Does he have even more money hidden in foreign bank accounts? Has he improperly funded his bulging family trusts? Or maybe he cooked the books with his prior years' income tax returns and he's now worried the bright light of public scrutiny could expose that. Romney, attempting to elevate himself above his destructive, poll-dropping problem, said this public controversy is "kind of amusing."
The one tax return Mitt Romney provided the American public was for 2010, well after he decided to run for president and "perhaps done for show." But even that tax return has launched a heated discussion. Romney paid only a 13.9% federal income tax on an income of $21,700,000. To put that into perspective, according to census data, median family income in the United States is about $52,000, and that lands deep inside the 25% federal tax bracket, nearly double Mitt's federal tax rate.
On a positive note, Romney spokesperson, Ed Gillespie, assured us that Mitt did not outsource any American jobs. He told us that Mitt resigned as head of Bain Capital "retroactively," cutting out his last three years, to the point just before they started shipping our American jobs overseas. It reminds me of George Washington's cherry tree chopping parable, only Mitt answers by handing his father a previously prepared legal document stating that he had not chopped-down any cherry trees in the past three years. If that works, why not just retroactively prepare and sign a new set of tax returns for the last 7 years?
Mike Kirchubel is the author of Vile Acts of Evil, a history of banking in America and writes a Progressive economic/political column every week in the Fairfield, CA Daily Republic.