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Mitt Romney’s Tax Returns: Much Ado About Very Little

Early this morning,  Mitt Romney’s campaign released his 2010 income tax return as well as an estimate for 2011 [you can find all the tax information at a webpage set up by the campaign] and they contain about what anyone who’s been paying attention to the Presidential races would have expected them to contain:

Mitt Romney’s campaign released details of his federal tax returns on Tuesday morning, showing that he is likely to pay a total of $6.2 million in taxes on $45 million in income over the two tax years of 2010 and 2011.

The details of the returns, confirmed by a senior campaign official, provide the most detailed view yet of his wealthy family’s finances. The disclosure comes after a barrage of pressure to release his returns — which Mr. Romney has never done, even when he was elected governor of Massachusetts.

The disclosure — reported early Tuesday by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News — showed a vast array of investments, from a recently closed Swiss bank account to holdings in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, all underscoring the breadth and depth of his wealth, which has become a central issue in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Romney said last week that his effective tax rate was “about 15 percent,” a figure lower than that of many affluent Americans. But his returns suggested that he paid an effective tax rate of nearly 14 percent.

In addition to his 2010 taxes, Mr. Romney is set to release estimates for his 2011 taxes, which he will file in April. The campaign will report that he will pay $3.2 million in taxes for 2011, for an effective tax rate of 15.4 percent. That is a slightly higher effective rate than he paid the year before, when he paid about $3 million to the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Romney, a Mormon, has long said that he had promised to give 10 percent of his income to his church. His tax return shows that over two years he and his wife, Ann, gave $7 million in charitable contributions, including $4.1 million to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” Mr. Romney said during Monday night’s debate. “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”

Mr. Romney also said that there were “no surprises” in his tax returns. Referring to the fact that nearly all of his income is taxed as capital gains at a 15 percent rate, rather than as earned income at rates of up to 35 percent, Mr. Romney questioned a proposal by Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, to reduce capital gains taxes to zero.

Not surprisingly, most of Romney’s income for the at least the past two years is investment income derived from the wealth he earned while heading Bain Capital, as well as other investments. According to the returns, the Romney’s have a approximately $250 million in investments that appears to have generated a return of approximately 10% per year for the past two years, which is just slightly higher than the historical annual return from investing in the stock market which averages around 8%. The number that’s grabbing the attention of pundits, of course, is the Romney’s effective tax rate, which comes in at just under 14% and is significantly lower than that reported by other politicians:

Mr. Gingrich, who on Saturday won the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, released his own tax returns last week showing that he and his wife, Callista, had an adjusted gross income of $3,162,424 from their various business ventures in 2010. They paid $994,708 in federal tax, according to the return, for an effective tax rate of 31.7 percent.

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, released their tax returns in April, showing an adjusted gross income of $1,728,096 for 2010 — much of it from sales of his books “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” The Obamas paid $453,770 in federal taxes, for an effective tax rate of 26.3 percent.

Given the fact that the majority of Romney’s income comes from investment returns rather than regular income, this is entirely unsurprising. It’s been the case for decades that the tax rate on this form of income, known as capital gains, is taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. Presently, except for those in the lowest income tax brackets, long-term capital gains are taxed at 15% and short-term capital gains (income on investments held for less than a year) are taxed at 35%. Given the prevalence of investment income in Romney’s sources of income, and the fact that his taxable income gets further reduced by things such as the deductions available for the millions of dollars in charitable contributions the Romney’s have made, it’s no surprise at all that his effective tax rate would be lower than someone whose primary sources of income come from  book deals and business ventures. Anyone who had a similar portfolio to Romney’s regardless of the size, would have had roughly the same tax rate. Finally, there’s no indication that Romney did anything but follow the tax laws here. So, anyone looking for something nefarious here is going to be sadly disappointed. Yes, Mitt Romney is a rich man, but he’s hardly the first rich man who has run for the Presidency, and he’d hardly be the first rich man to sit in the White House if he won.

Rod Dreher looks at the return and raises a legitimate policy question:

The obvious question in all this is why investment income is taxed at a far lower rate than other forms of income — this, given that substantial investment income is far likelier to be something accruing to the very wealthy? Nothing personal against Mitt Romney, but how fair is it that the man made $42 million over two years, and paid taxes at half the rate of me and thee?

That raises the question of what role “fairness,” as opposed to the simple goal of raising revenue in a manner that retards economic growth as little as possible, ought to play in our tax system. Obviously, a tax system that places the majority of the burden on the lowest income groups would be unfair, but it would also be bad policy because it wouldn’t be designed to garner revenue in an efficient manner. A system that tried to ensure that everyone’s burden was equal wouldn’t necessarily be fair either, because it would benefit the highest income earners the most. Under our current system, the vast majority of the tax burden falls upon the highest income earners, a fact that has been true for decades and remained true even after the passage of the Bush Tax Cuts. Is there a possible argument for increasing taxes on that income group? Yes, but it depends on what that additional revenue will be used for and what the economic impact of higher taxes will be.

It’s also worth noting that there are economic arguments in favor low rates on capital gains that have been accepted by Republicans and Democrats for decades:

Republicans have led the way in pressing for low capital gains tax rates, but they have been able to rely on a significant bloc of Democratic allies to prevent an increase and to protect the preferential treatment of money earned through investments over money earned through labor.

President Obama and leading Democrats want to allow the tax cuts passed under Bush to expire. That would raise the capital gains tax rate from 15 percent to 20 percent. But that would still be lower than the rate under President Ronald Reagan — who raised the tax in 1986.

“Capital gains . . . veers onto theology for Republicans, but it has always been a bipartisan issue,” Bloomfield said.

Outside of people like Newt Gingrich who want to reduce the tax rate on capital gains to zero, a proposal which Romney pointed out last night would mean that he wouldn’t have paid any taxes at all for the past two years, there aren’t any serious proposals out there for making capital gains taxable at the same rate as ordinary income, and the reasons for that are pretty simple. For one thing, the assets from which capital gains are generated have already been taxes at least once as ordinary income, making additional taxes on the gains from those investments a form of double taxation. Second, it’s been generally accepted on both sides of the aisle that taxing dividends at a lower rate is economically beneficial because it encourages investments that generates income, which in and of itself generates economic growth and activity. If investment income were taxed at the same rate as ordinary income, it’s likely that people in Romney’s position would switch their assets to forms of investment that generate lower levels of income, or into sunk assets like real estate that don’t generate economic activity. There’s an argument to be had about whether the rate on capital gains should be raised, but nobody is seriously suggesting that they not be given the preferential treatment that they have received for decades.

Of course, that’s not going to stop Romney’s returns, his wealth, or the fact that he paid exactly the amount of taxes the law requires from becoming a political issue. Even before the returns were released, the White House was already on the task of trying to tie Romney’s tax returns into what will apparently be one of the themes of President Obama’s State Of The Union Address:

Economic inequality is emerging as a central theme in the battle for the White House, with Obama trying to harness populist anger at Wall Street and corporations against a backdrop of chronically high unemployment. He plans to call for higher taxes on millionaires in his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night, embracing an idea advanced by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Occupy Wall Street protesters.

“The president believes that it is not fair — inherently not fair — that those who are millionaires and billionaires pay at a lower rate than average Americans who are struggling to get by,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday. “This theme about economic insecurity for the middle class . . . is what got this president into politics. So this is a foundational belief for him, and he’s happy to have that debate.”

And Obama’s supporters in the blogosphere seem to be absolutely giddy over the news:

Either way, all this comes as Obama is set to deliver a speech focused on extreme disparities of wealth, and on precisely the element of the tax code that enables his likely rival to pay a far lower rate than many middle class taxpayers — at a time of rising public preoccupation with inequality. As Chuck Todd put it this morning: “If Team Obama could have picked any day to have Romney release his tax return, today might have been the day they’d pick.”

Romney doesn’t just disagree with Obama on these fundamental issues; he personally symbolizes virtually the entire 2012 Democratic message. He is the walking embodiment of everything Dems allege is wrong with our system and the ways it’s rigged in favor of the wealthy and against the middle class. Yet this is the standard bearer the GOP seems set to pick.

One could have said the same things about the standard bearer that the Democrats choose in 2004, or about the man they worshiped as the Lion Of The Senate, but all of that is (political) water under the bridge I suppose. And it’s worth noting that, even under the President’s own tax proposals, Mitt Romney would still end up paying a lower effective tax rate than many Americans:

Not only is this cheap class-warfare nonsense, it’s also flat-out false — unless Obama has proposed at some point treating capital gains differently than income.  He has talked at times of raising the cap-gains rate from 15% to 20%, but that will still put cap-gains at “a lower rate than average Americans who are struggling to get by.”  Obama’s so-called “millionaire’s tax” surcharge wouldn’t have applied to Romney either, because that was a surcharge on income, not capital gains.  If Obama wanted to have that debate with Romney, he’d shortly be exposed as either a hypocrite or an idiot.

Or, just a political demagogue, which is exactly what all of this concentration on income inequality seems like it’s all about. It’s no coincidence that this is all coming up in an election year. This is the same kind of “soak the rich” mentality we’ve seen from Democrats before and, even when there are legitimate issues to talk about it seems like that party still can’t help but drink from the same well over and over again. Raising taxes might be necessary to deal with our fiscal problems in Washington, that’s a point I’ve conceded on more than one occasion over the past year. However, it’s simply false to say that raising taxes on the rich will do anything at all about the so-called problem of “income inequality.”  However, that hasn’t stopped politicians from latching on to the same old tired “tax the rich” arguments as a way to win elections. Demonizing wealth and success is as old as American politics, and it looks like its going to be central to the Presidential campaign in the name of “fairness” That’s pretty sad.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hello World! says:

    I’ve benefitted pretty well from the rules but I am called out the double tax argument as bogus. Profit is profit so it should be taxed as income.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Again with the mindless meme:

    “…demonizing wealth and success…”

    You really should be embarrased. As an Attorney you probably are immune.
    Public policy ought to be aimed at producing large gains for everyone. But the argument from the so-called right is that we cannot afford “stuff”…”stuff” like a social safety net, infrastructure, education. But why? Are we a poorer nation than we were 30 years ago? No. But the lion’s share of the gains we’ve made over those 30 years relatively small number of Romney’s. If the gains had been equitable then the burden of paying for “stuff” would have to be equitable. But the gains have been inequitable. So the amount of taxes collected to pay for stuff has to be inequitable. It’s not about demonizing wealth and success…it’s about basic f’ing math. Perhaps you need a remedial course at your local community college? If it hasn’t closed it’s doors due to lack of funding.
    In addition…it’s amazing you can write an entire post about Romney’s taxes without mentioning the “Carried Interest” loophole. It only saved him about $2.6M…or about 50 times the average income…so maybe you just didn’t think it was pertinent to the discussion.
    It’s like when you write the job numbers post on the last Friday of every month and almost always fail to mention Public Sector job losses.
    If I ever ran into you in the courtroom I would be sure to look at your Discovery with an extremely cynical eye. You clearly have a good grasp of the facts to omit in order to make your argument seem plausible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. MBunge says:

    “However, it’s simply false to say that raising taxes on the rich will do anything at all about the so-called problem of “income inequality.””

    So, when taxes on the rich were higher and the problem of income inequality was lower in the past and as tax rates on the rich have declined at the same time income inequality has expanded…that’s all just coincidence?

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m a bit baffled at why anybody’s ire is incited by this. If he’s operating by the rules, isn’t the proper target the Congress? (who made the rules) Did he exploit his wealth to lobby for lower taxes for himself and people in his situation? I’d be interested in knowing the answer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  5. Modulo Myself says:

    $13 million in those two years was carried interest–wages rather than profits made from actual investments, but taxed as capital gains. Perfectly legal, but a loophole bought and paid for by the financial services industry.

    Politics ain’t beanbag, and demagoguery isn’t pointing out the country’s actual state of affairs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. Ben says:

    The “double taxation” argument is total crap. The base investment amount has already been taxed, yes, but the gains most certainly have not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. Wayne says:

    What will happen when it gets out that the majority of Romney money came from those big dollar CEO deals that gave him hundreds of millions of dollars. I have nothing against that but those deals have become very unpopular to many in the last few years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Cycloptichorn says:

    “For one thing, the assets from which capital gains are generated have already been taxes at least once as ordinary income, making additional taxes on the gains from those investments a form of double taxation. ”

    Um, no. You are incredibly naive if you think this is true.

    This is a better description:

    1. Bain invests in a portfolio company. More specifically, Bain organizes an investment vehicle called a “fund” that does the investing. There’s one for domestic investors and a side-by-side one for foreign investors. (Aside — what’s Mitt doing in the side-by-side funds?)

    2. Mitt is compensated for his day-to-day work at Bain by being given a piece of the investment in the portfolio company. This is called the “carried interest” or, as they call it, “the carry.”

    3. The portfolio company is pumped up and sold for a profit.

    4. The profit flows through several pass-through entities that pay no tax to Mitt, who is taxed at long term capital gains rates.

    The craziest part of the entire thing? Mitt hasn’t worked for Bain for a decade, but is still paid handsomely every year, as part of his ‘retirement package.’ He does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to earn his money; he doesn’t work and he risks zero dollars of his own capital. And yet, the 15% tax rate is what he pays.

    The ‘soak the rich!’ argument you are pushing is completely false. The ‘rich’ are drier than they have been in ANY of our lifetimes. They pay less in taxes than they ever have. At some point it is worth discussing whether or not this is linked to our rapidly rising inequality, questions of fairness in our society, and the failure of concentration of wealth at the top of our society to generate lasting growth and income for all Americans.

    This isn’t ‘class warfare.’ That’s just a simplistic term applied by people who seek to perpetuate the current scheme to the greatest extent possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. mantis says:

    However, that hasn’t stopped politicians from latching on to the same old tired “tax the rich” arguments as a way to win elections. Demonizing wealth and success is as old as American politics, and it looks like its going to be central to the Presidential campaign in the name of “fairness” That’s pretty sad.

    What’s sad is the state of the middle and working classes in this country, as the wealthiest have run away with bigger and bigger percentages of the country’s wealth over the past few decades and the rest of us have faced stagnant wages, rising costs of living, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and then had to watch as the banks destroyed our economy and shriveled our retirement savings for their own benefit with the government bailing them out for doing so.

    But you’re right, talking about it is way more offensive. We should just take it up the ass and like it, obedient proles that we are.

    By the way, it’s not “demonizing wealth and success” to say that billionaires should pay more taxes. We want them to be successful and wealthy, so they can pay more taxes! Republicans, on the other hand, don’t want them to contribute to the country without which they would not have been able to reach such great heights (or inherit them). For them, robber barons are heroes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  10. mantis says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I’m a bit baffled at why anybody’s ire is incited by this.

    Who are you talking about? The point is that Romney is emblematic of the problem of income inequality in this country, not that he broke the rules.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Rob in CT says:

    @Ben:

    I know. I tried having this conversation with my parents (who were going on about “double taxation”).

    Your earn money. You get taxed on it. You take $100 of it and invest it. It grows to $125. You get taxed on the $25 in profit – the original $100 isn’t touched. This argument bounced right off them. I was astounded.

    @Dave Schuler:

    The ire is properly directed at current policy, and anyone defending that policy or proposing to make it even more tilted (that would be every one of the GOP candidates).

    My ideal solution is to take your capital gains, adjust for inflation, and just add it to your AGI and do your taxes as normal. This could be paired up with a reduction (or even elimination) of the corporate income tax, which is apparently a mess anyway. If we’re going for comprehensive reform, various deductions should be on the table, as should the expiration of the Bush/Obama rate cuts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    Sure the info is more or less where everyone thought it was. Romney, as Warren Buffett has been pointing out for years, is paying a lower rate of tax than a nurse in Milwaukee. I see Doug you’ve decided to use the standard dismissals I’ve heard all morning
    a) It legal
    b) The Democrats are practising class warfare
    c) Obama’s own proposal would only increas his tax bill on capital gains to 20%
    d) Raising taxes won’t do anything about inequality etc.

    Leaving aside that your claim in d) doesn’t bear too close examination do you really think this rationalisation is remotely saleable to Americans at large. Sure Romney didn’t do anything illegal, he did the same as I do (and I have a fair amount of investment income) but get real. Most average people are just not going to see it this way particularly as it’s well known middle class incomes have been stagnant for thirty years. And Romney is going be conducting a campaign on the basis of further tax cuts of which the wealthiest by definition will be the main beneficiaries and cutting or scrapping programs of which the bottom 95% of the country are the main recipients. Have at it if you think this can be sold but it strikes me as rather unlikely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Sure it’s well known the wealthiest segment of the country have no input on tax policy. Lol

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Dave Schuler says:

    @mantis:

    So, you’re upset that he’s rich?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  15. David M says:

    @Modulo Myself: Not to mention the carried interest in his case is more akin to a pension than anything else, as he’s no longer “working” at the company. (Not that he ever really worked, based on his lack of actual wages.) Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean Romney has anything unethical in his tax returns, although his 401k is a different story.

    I just don’t see the point to arbitrarily lowering the tax rate for people that have a pile of money to invest. Is Romney going to make this problem better or worse? He’d make the tax structure even more tilted in favor of the wealthy and the deficit worse at the same time. Hard to see an upside for the country in that scenario.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The ire is properly directed at current policy, and anyone defending that policy or proposing to make it even more tilted (that would be every one of the GOP candidates).

    I agree with that. Who voted to extend the Bush tax cuts?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    “And Obama’s supporters in the blogosphere seem to be absolutely giddy over the news:”

    As a final comment Doug, I can only say is it surprising they are giddy?…Particularly since partisans like yourself are dismissing this whole issue as much ado about nothing! Honestly Doug can you be serious and I say with malice toward none.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Nightrider says:

    People whining about how little Romney paid in taxes might not be noticing that the guy did fork over $3 million dollars. Not an insignificant contribution. He didn’t pay less taxes than his maid; the fact that his “rate” might be lower doesn’t change that.

    But if one accepts that rates should be progressive, then the gap between the “work tax” and the “capital gains” tax probably ought to be narrowed. Of course we want a lower rate for cap gains so as to not lower incentives to invest. But the same can be said if lower taxes on work so as to not lower incentives to work. Lower capital gains and dividend taxes means higher taxes on work (and/or bigger deficits), assuming the the lower taxes on cap gains and dividends does not actually create more revenue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  19. Hey Norm says:

    @ D. Schuler…

    “…isn’t the proper target the Congress?”

    You mean the Congress that does nothing but pass resolutions supporting the National Motto?
    Look…the discourse today, thanks to the OWS movement which Doug thinks accomplished nothing, is about equality.
    Romney is the poster child of inequality. His campaign is based on making it easier for other Romney’s to utilize loopholes available only to the Romney level earners.
    Buffet says it’s total friggin’ nonsense that his secretary pays a lower percentage than he does. That’s why Buffet’s secretary will be sitting with Michelle Obama tonight at the SOTU.
    A decision will be made in November as to which is the best course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. Rob in CT says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Ah, I see. You think I’m going to play your silly game.

    I will not. I remember quite well how that all went down. I also remember back past that to when the cuts were first proposed and passed. And past that when other changes were made in the 90s (or at least I can refresh my memory with this fancy google thingy). And past that…

    And again, the problem is not Mitt Romney. The problem is that our system is wacky and needs reform. Mitt just happens to be one example of it. An example who is running for POTUS and is proposing changes that would make things worse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Don’t I seem to remember there was a little bit of hostage taking involved somewhere? Of course my memory could be faulty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Nightrider:

    “He didn’t pay less taxes than his maid; the fact that his “rate” might be lower doesn’t change that.”

    So how many times the income of his maid’s was Romney’s income? Honestly this is a totally fatuous argument although Republicans seem to be hanging their hat on it. It positively invites ridicule.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. PD Shaw says:

    I unfortunately took my course in income taxation when there was no differential between ordinary income and capital gains rates, a fact which caused the professor to preempt the inevitable question: “Why do we have to learn the difference between income and capital gains?” A: “Basically nobody agrees that the rates should be the same, so you can expect it to change some day, but right nobody agrees what the difference should be.”

    It may also be worth noting that it is income, not capital gains, that is subject to the myriad deductions and exemptions, such as charitable gifts. The suggestion that Romney paid a lower effective rate last year (<15%) probably has more to do with the vagaries of comple rules governing taxation of income, not capital gains.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Hey Norm says:

    @ Nightrider…

    “…the fact that his “rate” might be lower doesn’t change that…”

    Of course it does. Who’s wallet is impacted more…the Maid that pays 14.0% of 50,000 or the Hedge Fund Manager that pays 14% of 50,000,000? That’s one of the reasons why these things are discussed in terms of percentages to begin with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Console says:

    Yeah, the double taxation thing has always been illogical nonsense. If the money is in your pocket and not the government coffers… then the money was never taxed. Ain’t nobody lobbying congress over the fact that your ordinary income gets taxed, then if you go buy a bottle of johnny walker, you pay another tax with that income… but throw rich people’s interests in the mix (capital gains, large estates) and out flies the double taxation nonsense.

    And then the economic arguments that have no empirical evidence but that are accepted a priori… We pretend the arguments have merit because both sides accept these policies rather than realizing the power rich people have to shape policy.

    Mataconis, you are more a member of the pundit class (in thought at least) than you realize. When are you going to start having cocktails with David Brooks?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Very doubtful. It’s because most of his income was capital gains or carried interest which is taxed at the same rate as capital gains.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Dean says:

    How does taxing the wealthy at a higher rate reduce income inequality? Unless we are asking for income redistribution?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  28. Franklin says:

    @Dave Schuler: My only complaint about Romney’s behavior is the apparent usage of tax havens (Swiss banks, Bermuda, Cayman Islands). Legal? I guess. Moral? A bit murkier.

    (In other words, he’s of course not obligated to pay more than this country’s tax laws dictate, but when he circumvents our country’s tax laws entirely, while enjoying the benefits of being a citizen, I guess I have a problem with that.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. PD Shaw says:

    @Cycloptichorn: You could be right about no double taxation, but I do not believe we have enough information to say that there is no double taxation here at all.

    Romney is getting paid from a retirement deal with the company he helped found, which he sold:

    But since Mr. Romney’s payouts from Bain have come partly from the firm’s share of profits on its customers’ investments, that income probably qualifies for the 15 percent tax rate reserved for capital gains, rather than the 35 percent that wealthy taxpayers pay on ordinary income. The Internal Revenue Service allows investment managers to pay the lower rate on the share of profits, known in the industry as “carried interest,” that they receive for running funds for investors.

    Unless his retirement plan is released, I would assume some of money is “carried interest” and some of its classic sale of a business after taxation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. WR says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Meant to say this when I say your post yesterday — welcome back! It’s nice to see you here again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Ben says:

    @Dean: All taxation is income distribution if you get right down to it. We’re just haggling over the rates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. mantis says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    So, you’re upset that he’s rich?

    No. Who said I was upset at Romney at all?

    The point is not that anyone is “upset,” but that the Republicans seem on their way to nominating a man who is the quintessential example of how the rich get richer while the poor struggle more in this country because the system is rigged. Why would someone like that want to do anything about a system rigged in his favor? Why would you vote for someone like that if you want something done about it?

    In case you didn’t notice, we’re having an election in this country. We aren’t discussing who is mad at whom for what (ok, you are, but you miss the point), but who might be best to lead the country as president.

    I’ll let you get back to your serial deflections now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  33. Rob in CT says:

    @Dean:

    It doesn’t directly.

    For some time now, revenues have been short of outlays. At some point, that hole has to be closed. The argument is over how to do it. One side says: combo of tax increases on the wealthy and spending cuts. The other side says: spending cuts only, and oh by the way we want more tax cuts (particularly for the wealthy).

    The inequality thing is mainly about placing all of this in context.

    And of course we have a measure of redistribution, in the form of safety net programs, public support of education, etc. Funded by taxation (well, taxation + borrowing, which means future taxation).

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  34. Nightrider says:

    @ B Joe and Hey Norm. I think you missed my point. At the end I argue that the capital gains and dividend tax rate should go up, and that is the reason why Mitt’s rate is lower than his maid’s. My initial point is that it is arbitrary to assume that the “rate” is the only thing that matters in the analysis. Yes, yes, decades of tax policy focus on rate progressivity as a foundational point, and I’m not necessarily arguing against it, but it has become such a shorthand article of faith that it does seem useful to point out, every once in awhile, that the man did pay way more in taxes than I did, even though I pay at twice the rate.

    FWIW, for political purposes, this does seem like gold for the Democrats.

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  35. This looks good for Romeny. His 10% ROI is actually pretty stellar for presumably prudent investment in 2011. Remember, the SP500 returned nothing that year. The “factoid” of historical returns has no bearing.

    But, back to Romney. Good but not extreme earnings, high charitable giving. Not much not to like.

    Of course the shoe left to drop would be if that 10% was somehow related to closeness to government, rather than simple shrewdness. People will try that, to show that it was the crony part, and not the capitalism part.

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  36. (I think maybe that Dave fell for Doug’s framing on this. Because Mitt made “historically” reasonable returns, any criticism of his tax rate is jealousy. Whereas I think, critics can actually distinguish between Mitt and beneficiaries in his class.)

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  37. Curtis says:

    I think it is instructive in that it puts the effects of the tax plans of the candidates on full display. Speaker Gingrich’s tax plan would be a tax cut of roughly $1,200 for me – upper middle class professional – but a tax cut of roughly $3 million for Romney. The fact that Romney is campaigning on a tax cut that would save him and the few like him millions of dollars while slashing social services to pay for them is informative.

    The fact that they wanted to keep all of this out of the public’s eye makes me want to study it all the more.

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  38. Dean says:

    One issue with claim of double taxation is not that Romney paid twice, but that the corporation/entities paying the dividends paid taxes on those dollars already. Not saying I agree or disagree as to whether that’s right or wrong, just raising an interesting point made in today’s WSJ.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203718504577178831519223426.html

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  39. Hey Norm says:

    @ John…

    “…I think maybe that Dave fell for Doug’s framing…”

    OK. What’s Doug’s excuse? [snark]

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  40. Rob in CT says:

    @Dean:

    Right, it’s a potentially fair point. I’ve already seen a counter-point to that from Krugman: when objecting to corporate taxation in the past, various RW pundits have alleged that corp. taxes fall primarily on workers. Now, apparently, the claim is that no, the taxes really fall on investors. Hmm, which is it? [I see this as similar to arguments over the employer side of the FICA tax]

    I, for one, would be fine with a reform deal that killed corporate taxation in exchange for raising other taxes.

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  41. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Dean:

    All progressive tax systems are by definition re-distributive. Our current system is re-distributive. What’s at debate is the positioning of the goalposts.

    As a general comment one would have to say Doug (and all the other spinners) are demonstrating exactly the same the same tin ear that Romney has done occasionally on the campaign trail. Hair splitting, casuistry, suspect claims are simply not going to fly. Strictly legal it may be but philosophically it’s completely indefensible and I say this as someone with (much smaller) investment income who would have employed all the same tax avoidance strategies as Romney….but I’m not running for president.

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  42. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Nightrider:

    “but it has become such a shorthand article of faith that it does seem useful to point out, every once in awhile, that the man did pay way more in taxes than I did, even though I pay at twice the rate.”

    It’s not an article of faith, it arises because he corralled a vastly larger amount of income than you did. I’ll tell you what…would you rather have Romney’s income and your tax rate or your income and his tax rate?

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  43. An Interested Party says:

    The irony is so rich, if you will pardon the pun…for years, Republicans have demagogued on issues of national security, particularly in regard to 9/11…now, it appears that the shoe might be on the other foot for Democrats when it comes to the wealthy and fairness…what a shame, what a real shame…of course, Republicans who think this is terribly unfair might be heard if it wasn’t for the twin facts that the economy is so bad and there is such a high level of income disparity in this country…a crying shame…

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  44. Dazedandconfused says:

    If he stashed a lot of cash overseas, it’s going to be inconvenient when making and argument that cutting taxes for people like him will create jobs, or are mostly interested in creating jobs.

    This may be embarrassing for somebody who must argue those positions while running for POTUS, but not a scandal, except for a certain segment of our current form of capitalism.

    A discussion that I think Obama will welcome. Mitt looks a douche for saying he was “unemployed” in some Youtubes.

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  45. @Hey Norm:

    OK. What’s Doug’s excuse? [snark]

    It is funny. His audience is obviously beyond the idea that any criticism of taxation is an attack on the rich, but Doug keeps trying it. Playing to the back of the room, I guess.

    But as much as Doug wants to retry that, or to make the same old redistribution ploy, others can (and have above) made it a teaching moment (yet again) that more rational taxes don’t have to be about hating on the rich, or “curing” inequality.

    Can you read a graph, Doug? How do you pay for government when you’ve got EVERY tax category running at historic lows? Cut again, close your eyes, and snap your fingers?

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  46. BTW, this doesn’t actually make sense:

    If investment income were taxed at the same rate as ordinary income, it’s likely that people in Romney’s position would switch their assets to forms of investment that generate lower levels of income, or into sunk assets like real estate that don’t generate economic activity.

    I think there is some bad economics here. For one, you need to specifically invest in barren and unimproved land to have no economic activity for yourself, but beyond that, someone just sold. They just paid capital gains tax.

    These just-so stories on why particular taxes need to be exempted don’t really hold up. I’m down with small government, as small as it can be with proper services, but after that we don’t have to fear an even and economically efficient system to collect revenue.

    For minimum distortion to the environment, and a free market, you don’t play favorites, Doug.

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  47. grumpy realist says:

    Actually. most tax experts would prefer that we taxed capital gains at the same rate as income, This would make it a “tax neutral” policy.

    And all that howling about having to pay taxes at both the corporate and individual level just strikes me as so much pigwash. If a corporation is an entity, then there’s no reason not to pay taxes at that level just as well as when the stuff reaches my hands. Either do that or get make ALL corporations tax-pass-through corporations, which means you’ll have to mark to market every year with all your stock, gee, won’t you have fun.

    Americans continue to disregard the fact that taxes are mandatory if you want a civilization. I’m also very much in favor of steeply progressive tax rates–if you want to squawk about it, think of it as insurance you pay against getting hanged from lamp posts and revolutions.

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  48. Nightrider says:

    @Brummagem Joe: well, obviously I’d rather have Romney’s income, especially since he didn’t even have to work for it. But that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with my basic point. The article of faith I refer to is the notion that a tax is unfair if a wealthy person pays more dollars but a lower rate. Granted, that might not be the best policy — but it isn’t unfair to people paying $0-$100,000 in taxes that Romney “only” has to pay $3 million.

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  49. nice strategy says:

    I think the GOP/FOX talking point writer got dividends and capital gains confused. Of course, since many corporations have found their way around paying much in the way of corporate taxes, only some corporate profits get taxed at the corporation level and then again when received by a shareholder. To me, this is the price of limited liability. If we must make corporations into independent entities with speech rights, then those entities can pay taxes like everyone else.

    Capital gains are not subject to double taxation any more than sales taxes are double taxation (income is taxed, then consumption! the horror!). The money I tipped the waitress might have been spent by her on cat food. The nerve of that dollar, being counted twice!! And if she is honest with her taxes, she’ll have to pay a marginal rate of 10%+ on that dollar AND the sales tax on the cat food. No wonder the middle class is getting screwed.

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  50. nice strategy says:

    Lowering the tax rate on dividends and capital gains made sense, perhaps, when interest rates were generally high and volatile, but by the time we got around to implementing this conventional wisdom of economists all it did was contribute to 2 separate asset bubbles. Raising taxes on short term gains higher than long term gains would be especially helpful in taming speculation.

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  51. Jenos Idanian says:

    Hey Norm said:

    Who’s wallet is impacted more…the Maid that pays 14.0% of 50,000 or the Hedge Fund Manager that pays 14% of 50,000,000? That’s one of the reasons why these things are discussed in terms of percentages to begin with.

    And then Curtis said:

    I think it is instructive in that it puts the effects of the tax plans of the candidates on full display. Speaker Gingrich’s tax plan would be a tax cut of roughly $1,200 for me – upper middle class professional – but a tax cut of roughly $3 million for Romney. The fact that Romney is campaigning on a tax cut that would save him and the few like him millions of dollars while slashing social services to pay for them is informative.

    So… it’s the rates that are important when it’s advantageous to your side, but it’s the dollar amounts that matter when those are the advantageous statistics.

    Get back to us when you get your stories straight.

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  52. Jenos Idanian says:

    Here’s what I took away from the comparison of returns: Romney gave 15% of his income to charity, Obama gave 1% of his. So Obama’s part of the eeeevil “1%” after all.

    Or, in dollar amounts, the Romneys gave away $7 million, while the Obamas handed out just under $11K. And the Obamas had essentially zero expenses in food, housing, and entertainment, just to name a few of the perqs of the presidency, while Romney had real estate taxes on all his homes, bought most of his own meals, etc. etc.

    But then again, it is no great surprise. Obama’s tremendously generous when he’s giving away other people’s money. When it comes to his own pocket, the guy tosses around nickels like they were manhole covers.

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  53. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Nightrider:

    Actually it was entirely to the point if one understands the concept of relativity.

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  54. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    But then again, it is no great surprise. Obama’s tremendously generous when he’s giving away other people’s money. When it comes to his own pocket, the guy tosses around nickels like they were manhole covers.

    Terminal ODS?

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  55. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Simple observation. How would you describe a millionaire who only gives 1% to charity?

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  56. Funny! I said above:

    Of course the shoe left to drop would be if that 10% was somehow related to closeness to government, rather than simple shrewdness. People will try that, to show that it was the crony part, and not the capitalism part.

    Little did I expect that the “people” would be on the Republican side:

    Gingrich said those charges were “outrageously dishonest,” given that Romney’s financial-disclosure report showed investments in both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

    “I don’t own any Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock,” Gingrich said. “He does, so presumably he was getting richer.”

    Seriously? Mitt owned stock in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae while preparing to run for the Republican nomination? What was he thinking?

    Gawd, where is Drew going to find a Freddie/Fannie hater to vote for?

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  57. Jenos Idanian says:

    @john personna:

    Seriously? Mitt owned stock in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae while preparing to run for the Republican nomination? What was he thinking?

    He was probably thinking “I’d better put my investments in the hands of competent managers, since I can’t rely on inside information to make a killing, like all those people in Congress have been. Mainly Democrats.”

    The Clintons, the Obamas, Pelosi, Kerry, Feinstein, the late and unlamented John Murtha — all came to public service and made hefty fortunes while holding public office. I think it’d be a nice change of pace to have a president who made his money first.

    This is like the Romney illegal alien story again. In that one, he hired a landscaping company and demanded assurances their workers were legal.They lied, were busted, he gave them a second chance, they lied again, he fired the company. Here, he puts his money in the hands of managers, and they do their jobs while he deals with other matters.

    Still waiting for someone to enlighten me on how wonderful it is that the Obamas only gave 1% to charity. My first thought is that it was simple greed and selfishness and lack of compassion, but obviously that can’t be the case for our First Couple. Someone throw me a bone here.

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  58. john personna says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Are you kidding? Competent managers who know his goals would put his money in the poster boys for crony capitalism?

    What part of “competent” don’t you understand?

    but

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  59. john personna says:

    but … “obama!”

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  60. Rob in CT says:

    Re: charity:

    Two things come to mind.

    First, effective tax rate on the Obamas vs. the Romneys.

    So Mitt pays ~14% taxes, and gives ~15.5% away (admirable, no doubt). Total = 29.5%. Obama pays ___% in taxes, gives away 1% = ___%. I bet it’s lower, but I’d guesstimate in the low to mid 20s. Let’s say it’s 22%. In terms of giving back to society, Romney would come out ahead. Of course, if you care at all about marginal utility, it makes little sense to level criticism of that. The Obamas have significantly less wealth than the Romneys. Perhaps if they already had a quarter of a billion dollars, they’d be contributing ~30% of income back to society.

    Two, of the $7MM the Romneys gave, $4.1MM went to the Mormon Church. I don’t know how much the Church then uses on actual charity, as opposed to overhead, promoting itself, etc. This is a quibble, not a slam. Romney clearly gives a lot to charity and that’s laudable.

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  61. Rob in CT says:

    Wait a minute…

    Today, the President released his 2010 federal income and gift tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax return jointly and reported an adjusted gross income of $1,728,096. The vast majority of the family’s income is the proceeds from the sale of the President’s books. The Obamas paid $453,770 in total federal tax.

    The President and First Lady also reported donating $245,075 – or about 14.2% of their adjusted gross income – to 36 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was a $131,075 contribution to the Fisher House Foundation. The President is donating the after-tax proceeds from his children’s book to a Fisher House scholarship fund for children of fallen and disabled soldiers. The President and First Lady also released their Illinois income tax return and reported paying $51,568 in state income taxes.

    Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/04/18/president-obama-and-vice-president-biden-s-tax-returns-and-tax-receipts

    Where are you getting 1% from? This says 14.2%. And they paid a 26.25% tax rate on their AGI.

    Where are you getting your numbers from, Jenos?

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  62. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Rob in CT: So, Rob, with the actual numbers — $10,000 and change (round it up to $11,000) — and percentage of income — 1% — how do you think of the Obamas?

    And yes, “But… Obama!” Come November, it’s a simple binary equation. It’s not “is Romney/Gingrich/Santorum perfect,” but “will they be better than Obama?” So making it a comparative matter and not a purely objective one is entirely appropriate.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot: one is only allowed to compare others to Obama when it favors Obama. When it might reflect poorly on Obama, it’s diversionary and irrelevant. Sorry.

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  63. Rob in CT says:

    And here is 2009:

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-04-15/news/27061807_1_obama-s-nobel-income-tax-day

    Tax returns released by the White House show Obama’s adjusted gross income was $5,505,409 in 2009 – mostly from best-selling book sales.

    On that, he owed $1,792,414 in federal taxes

    The President offset his tab somewhat by being very generous, giving $329,100 to 40 different charities.

    In addition, the Obamas donated his entire $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize income to charity…

    Because Obama donated the entire Nobel award to charity, it didn’t count as income and he wasn’t able to claim a deduction for those gifts.

    So in 2009 he paid an effective federal tax rate of 32.57% and gave away 5.9% to charity. That’s without the Nobel thing. If you could that as income (which isn’t how the rules work, but for argument’s sake) you get: more like a 25% tax rate (~1.8MM/6.9MM) and 25% charitable (~1.7MM/6.9MM).

    Where are you getting 1%?

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  64. Rob in CT says:

    So I googled Obama 1% to charity.

    I see… this is about what they did from 2000-2004.

    From the fox news story:

    Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle gave $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 through 2004 to charities, or less than 1 percent, according to tax returns for those years released today by his campaign.

    The Obamas increased the amount they gave to charity when their income rose in 2005 and 2006 after the Illinois senator published a bestselling book. The $137,622 they gave over those two years amounted to more than 5 percent of their $2.6 million income.

    So, as they have gotten richer and richer, their charitable contributions have risen.

    The comparison between the Obamas in 2000-2004 and the Romneys in 2010-2011 is strained at best. But hey, when it’s all you got, clutch those straws!

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  65. Rob in CT says:

    Think of it this way:

    My wife and I give to charity, but certainly we don’t give anywhere near 10% of income. Why? Well, though we’re well-off (and pay a higher federal tax rate than Mitt Romney), we are still building wealth in preparation for our daughter’s college education, our retirement, etc. We’re 35 year olds, we have a mortgage, a child, etc.

    Long before 2010, Mitt Romney had accumulated more wealth than could ever possibly be required for such things. Again, the guy’s worth something like $250MM. So it’s quite a bit easier for him to give 15% of yearly income to charity, particularly when he’s paying a ~14% federal tax rate. He did it, and bravo (’cause I’m sure there’s some billionare out there who didn’t), but there really is no comparison between households.

    The Obamas were, IIRC, still up-and-comers in that 2000-2004 timeframe. Richer than me, sure, but hardly in Romney’s stratosphere. They’ve now reached the point, no doubt, where they have built a “nest egg” sufficient to insulate them from basically anything, so now they give lots more. It’s gotten easier. A lot easier. Unlike Romney, they’re paying ~30% federal tax rates on their income.

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  66. @Jenos Idanian:

    And yes, “But… Obama!” Come November, it’s a simple binary equation. It’s not “is Romney/Gingrich/Santorum perfect,” but “will they be better than Obama?” So making it a comparative matter and not a purely objective one is entirely appropriate.

    I’m happy to talk about this from now until November.

    But basically, you’re holding that thing wrong. Hypocrisy is measured between one’s own proclamations and one’s own actions.

    Obama, who does not own Freddie/Fannie shares, is willing to shut them down. That’s his stated opinion. It is not hypocritical. And, while it may not move as fast as some on the right would like, it is actually an extremely “right” position for a Democratic President to have.

    You’ve got Mitt and Newt running on supposed opposition to Freddie/Fannie while they profit from them. Serious?

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  67. mantis says:

    But hey, when it’s all you got, clutch those straws!

    That is obviously all this Jenos tool has.

    Tries to wave his hands around to deflect attention off of Romney, but has to simply make shit up to do so, and quite obviously. That’s some pathetic hackery right there.

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  68. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rob in CT:

    ” The comparison between the Obamas in 2000-2004 and the Romneys in 2010-2011 is strained at best. But hey, when it’s all you got, clutch those straws! ”

    Alas one of the first symptoms of ODS is a somewhat distant acquaintanceship with factual accuracy.

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  69. Rob in CT says:

    A little recap:

    The Romneys contributed ~30% of his annual income in the past two years to society, split almost evenly between taxes and charitable giving.

    The Obamas, in the same timeframe (despite being significantly less wealthy than the Romneys), contributed about 40% (arguably 45%) of their income.

    Earlier (2000-2004), the Obamas gave 1% to charity, back when they were bringing in ~$300k/yr and, I assume, building up their net worth. As they got richer, the percentage rose (5%). They’re now rich, and are giving like rich people can (14%).

    Make of all that what you will.

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  70. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Rob in CT: The Romneys contributed ~30% of his annual income in the past two years to society, split almost evenly between taxes and charitable giving.

    Here, sir, is where you and I part ways on a major philosophical point. I find it utterly unacceptable to refer to “taxes” as “contributions.” The term “contribution” implies voluntary, and is something to be lauded. Taxes are literally collected under threat of force — don’t pay them, and you will be locked up. Resist that, and you can be legally killed.

    Now, those people who voluntarily choose to overpay their taxes can be considered to “contribute.” That’s what a lot of people said to Warren Buffett and all the rest of the billionaires who called for higher taxes on the wealthiest. Their position was “we should give more money to the government, but we won’t unless you make us and a bunch of other people pay more under penalty of law.”

    I just double-checked Obama’s 2010 tax return, and it seems that I did get Obama’s charitable contributions wrong. They gave roughly a quarter of a million to charities on an income just under two million, or ballpark 14% — which you noted.. That is most laudable, and certainly comparable to Romney’s 15%. However, if we’re going to talk dollar amounts like Curtis insists, Romney utterly dwarfs Obama in giving.

    So Rob, you were correct and I misread the Obama figures. My apologies for the error, and well done in catching my error.

    I would also not count Obama’s donating of his Nobel Prize money. That was absolutely unearned income (biting my tongue to not make any snide remarks), and I suspect there are legal issues about a sitting President accepting that kind of money anyway.

    Romney paid every single penny he was obligated to pay to the government. Those who underpay get punished. (Or, occasionally, appointed Secretary of the Treasury. Or end up the Ranking Democrat on the House committee that writes tax laws. But I digress.) Those who overpay are either stupid or feel some kind of moral obligation to help out the federal government. (There is often a bit of overlap there.)

    Mr. Mataconis’ original conclusion was perfectly accurate: there was pretty much nothing surprising about Romney’s tax returns. He’s very wealthy, due to his previous work in the private sector, where he showed exceptional acumen and secured his family’s financial future. And he’s very generous to charities, mainly his church. Exactly as expected.

    But I will reiterate my opening point: taxes should never be considered “contributions.” It’s a cheapening of the language, a denigration of those people who genuinely choose to give to worthy causes.

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  71. Rob in CT says:

    Romney paid every single penny he was obligated to pay to the government.

    Absolutely true. The issue here is not Romney. It’s the system, and the proposed changes to the system. Romney is a perfect illustration precisely because he doesn’t appear to have done anything illegal. This is how the system, as currently constructed, is supposed to work. Plus, Romney and every one of his GOP rivals is proposing to max the federal tax system even less progressive than it already is. Some of us have a problem with that.

    Those who overpay are either stupid or feel some kind of moral obligation to help out the federal government. (There is often a bit of overlap there.)

    Hah, this right after pulling out the “Buffet can overpay if he likes!” silliness. You’re right – overpaying on your taxes while everyone else snickers is dumb (and Buffet’s not dumb). That’s why if you think higher taxes are appropriate, you advocate for that, so you’re not the 1 dumbass paying more while your peers refuse.

    Mr. Mataconis’ original conclusion was perfectly accurate: there was pretty much nothing surprising about Romney’s tax returns

    Also true. Nobody here is surprised.

    But I will reiterate my opening point: taxes should never be considered “contributions.”

    I agree that there is a difference between charity and paying your taxes. However, I think it’s also fair to say that, having paid a significantly higher tax rate than Romney (~30% vs ~15%), it’s a bit silly to then yell about Obama giving a lower % to charity. I give less too, but like Obama I pay a higher tax rate than Mitt (and, also like Obama but to a greater degree, I’m much less wealthy than Mitt). That was my point. I can see why you might think I was trying to draw 1:1 equivalence between the two – my post reads that way. I could have been clearer (but my post was already long as it was).

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  72. Rob in CT says:

    Ack, “make” not “max”

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