Friday, August 17, 2012

No tax returns for you!

First, a confession.  I never watched "Seinfeld."  Always seemed like a bunch of self-involved people of the kind I avoid in real life.  This I need when I kick back to watch TV?  No.  

But even I know about the Soup Nazi.  And I couldn't help but think of him when I saw that poor Ann Romney was having to explain to NBC why her husband will not release more of his tax returns.  She began with, "There's nothing we're hiding."  Which is transparently false.  It may be that there's nothing in the hidden returns that would embarrass the Romneys, but by holding them back, they are hiding the information by not releasing them.  It's a simple matter of grammar.

Then Mrs. Romney waded in deeper.  "Have you seen how we are attacked?" she asked rhetorically.  "[T]he more we release, the more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed."  

To which the only answer is, "Duh, uh."  That is what happens in this messy democracy.  And it's true that some of the inevitable attacks would be distorted and unfair.  But if her husband wants the American people to hire him as our next president, he's going to have to trust in our ability to discount the irrelevant and untrue, and to winnow out what's accurate and important.  That's what the political process is all about.  

It didn't help that Mitt Romney chose to hit back at his critics yesterday by attesting that he paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes in the past ten years.  Then he made it worse by calling the attention to his tax returns "small-minded."  

Can the Romneys really be that out of touch with ordinary Americans?  Do they really believe that their sense of noblesse oblige will get Mitt elected?  I guess they do.  

For all of Barack Obama's mistakes, for all of the unfulfilled hopes, it is astounding to think that Romney is within 10 points in the polls.  That a man so insensitive to the lives of his fellow citizens, so obviously willing to say anything, so totally lacking in convictions could be a serious candidate for high office, to say nothing of the White House.  

Given my almost boundless faith in the ultimate wisdom of the American people, I can only conclude that once those who are not political junkies start to focus on the campaign, the gap between the candidates will grow and that, by November 6th, it won't be a close race.  

 (The New York Times' story on Romney's 13-percent declaration went on to say that that is "a higher effective rate than most people pay."  Which--not for the first time--demonstrates sloppy journalism.  For while it's true that most Americans don't pay 13 percent of income (not clear whether that is gross income, "adjusted gross income" or net income, three very different concepts) in income taxes, most Americans start off by paying flat-rate taxes for Social Security and Medicare that amount to about 9 percent, with income taxes on top of that.  While income taxes are graduated, those so-called payroll taxes are not and, worse, above about $110,000 in income no further Social Security taxes are collected.  So someone like Mitt Romney pays a substantially lower tax rate for Social Security than most of us.  And while it's true that most Americans may not pay 13 percent of their income in income taxes, they probably pay more than that in total federal taxes.  Not to mention that the sting of taxes is a lot greater for those trying to support a family on $30,000, $40,000 or even $50,000 a year than it is for people like the Romneys.)  

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