Sep 22, 2012

No Return for the Tax Return

There has been mounting pressure for Mitt Romney, the republican nominee for US President, to release his income tax returns prior to the November election this year.  While I understand the argument for releasing them, I also fully understand why he insists on not doing so.  Let's face it, he's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't (not to mention, it's personal).  The reality is that countless pundits and experts have weighed in and estimated his taxes paid, his effective tax rate, that even that he has off-shore bank accounts ... most of which is accurate and indeed has been verbally verified by Romney's campaign.  My question is then ... so what then?  If he doesn't deny the details of his returns, what difference will his tax returns make?  

It all stinks of hypocrisy.
Yes, I am referring to the birthers, or the ridiculous fringe movement who believe that Barack Obama is not an US citizen.  For years, Obama refused to release his birth certificate to quell the naysayers, and I agreed with his stance.  It was and continues to be absurd to believe that Obama could elevate himself to the highest and most powerful office in the land without a small, minor detail like being a foreign national, coming to light until now.  It just isn't going to happen.  At this point, the burden should not be to prove that he was born in the US but for opponents to prove that he was not.

An asinine claim, take a firm position.

Of course, Obama finally relented, and let me down, by releasing his birth certificate in April 2011.  And that shut everyone up real quick.  Right?  Not quite ... and indeed, not even close.

Go get 'em, Sherriff Arpaio!  

All it did was elevate the argument and, unfortunately, hammer home an unsettling and sobering fact ... these useless debates are a waste of time and energy and ultimately end up with a zero net outcome.

Unsettling and sobering fact #2 ... people still believe Obama isn't a US Citizen?

With all of this said, I recently saw a post on Facebook that revisited Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech  in 1952 as a basis for the argument that tax returns should be made public.  The post quoted Nixon: 
"I would suggest that under the circumstances (they) should come before the American people, as I have, and make a complete financial statement of their financial history, and if they don't it will be an admission that they have something to hide. ... And I think you will agree with me, because folks, remember, a man that's to be President of the United States... must have the confidence of all the people."
This is all fine in theory, but let me make one thing perrrrrrfectly clear ... you can NEVER please all the people all the time, so why even insinuate that you can?  That's what makes this quote so unappealing to me.  As well, it's easy, and dangerous, to simply say that if someone doesn't do something, they are hiding something.  

Think about it.

Let's also consider the fact that if a nominee ever disclosed everything about himself or herself, we'd never make it through the primaries.  Although I would relate to a candidate that listens to The Black Keys, indulges in a frosty cold micro brew or two or eight, and occasionally gives a second non-fleeting glance to a Victoria Secret Catalog (i.e. - is human), what is more important to me is his/her vision and goals for the country and the roadmap, and ability to get there.  Let's get past the tax returns and hammer home the important questions, like ... hey Romney/Ryan, what are the deets to your plan to cut the deficit?

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not subscribe to Victoria Secret.  My wife does.

Now, the problem is that Romney openly promoted comments on his own blog by his Trustee Brad Malt, giving highly specific information about his taxes over the past ten years.  This shows me that Romney is missing the point.  Why not just say:
... yeah, I paid an effective rate of 14%, which is the maximum amount of taxes required by law for what I do, which is invest in companies, and this earns a capital gains tax rate, but I also contribute 30% of my income to charities, giving me a "Give Back to Society Rate" of 44%, because I believe the charities I support can have a bigger impact in my community than the current tax spending policies of my government, which is why I am running for president.  
and
... yeah, I have off-shore bank accounts, because the business tax structure in the US is terrible and it is eroding the ability of our businesses to compete with an increasingly sophisticated global business environment, so I take every measure legally possible to save on taxes and reinvest in companies and America, and sue me if that approach makes me a lot of money, it's a smart thing to do.
and
... yeah,  I use off-shore accounts because they are not illegal and I fully disclose them, and honestly, do you really believe that, with the scrutiny I receive from the IRS, that I could hide anything in my taxes?  If I want to hide something, my tax returns sure as hell aren't going to show it!
Think about it.

But, instead, he doesn't, and instead adds fuel to the fire by simply releasing numbers.  Seriously, at this point, why not just release the tax returns?  

I'll end by saying this.  Romney is successful and filthy rich.  He has enough automobiles to warrant a car elevator.  No secrets there.  He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, BUT you don't rise to CEO of one of the most successful private equity firms, to Chief Executive of the preeminent sporting event in the world, and to conservative Governor of a liberal state, without some mad skills.  Dislike him for this if you must, but the man deserves respect.  

Me, on the other hand, I actually enjoy being miffed by his inability to conduct himself as our potential head of state ...