Political Animal


September 21, 2012 4:58 PM Romney, Taxes, and Running Out the Clock

By Ed Kilgore

Much of the reaction to today’s release of 2011 tax returns and a “summary” of ten prior years of Romney taxes by his accountants revolves around (a) the relatively low effective tax rate he paid (14.1%); (b) his decision against taking the full charitable deduction to which he was eligible in order to keep the effective tax rate about the 13% figure he’s decided on as the minimum he’s paid in the past; and (c) the timing of the release, on the traditional “dump bad news” day of Friday.

None of that particularly fascinates me. I’m more interested in some other questions: (a) why release this stuff on the very week Mitt made unfortunate headlines on taxes? (b) why release a “summary” of earlier tax returns which only increases interest in seeing the details? and (c) what are the exemptions or deductions taken in previous years that the campaign seems so determined to hide?

If, as seems the case, this is all part of some planned “run out the clock” strategy for dealing with questions about Mitt’s wealth (or as he would have it, “success”), finances, and taxes, it appears to be based on the dubious assumption that the public sympathizes with Romney here and will give him the benefit of the doubt unless someone comes up with something illegal, unpatriotic, or at least highly unseemly. Methinks it’s Romney, not his critics or opponents, who has the “calendar” problem right now.

It reminds me of a University of Georgia basketball game I once attended near the end of Coach John Guthrie’s tenure, when the Dawgs seem to be stalling late in a game when they trailed by a bucket. “Hey Guthrie!” shouted a leather-lunged student near me. “Look at the scoreboard! We’re behind!”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on September 21, 2012 5:09 PM:

    it appears to be based on the dubious assumption that the public sympathizes with Romney here

    More likely he thinks 47% of them are too stupid to add properly or to actually understand what they're looking at, and discounts the remaining 53% as either too disinterested or already bought off by his opponent.

    Then again, maybe he's deluded enough to think people really do sympathize with him. Who can tell what this clown thinks anymore?

  • c u n d gulag on September 21, 2012 5:14 PM:

    Thanks, Mitt!

    Jayzoos H. Keerist with a good CPA - I'm sure even Al Capone knew enough to "fix" his latest tax returns!

    Where are the last feckin' 10 years, Mitt?

    Prove to us that you're not one of the feckless deadbeat 47% that you bitch about - there are thousands of millionaires that don't pay any taxes.
    Is you, or is you, ain't one of 'em?

    Show how patriotic you are!

    Let us see YOUR taxes.
    Prove YOU'RE not one of the deadbeats!!!!!!!

  • James E. Powell on September 21, 2012 5:22 PM:

    If he doesn't release his returns, it means he is still hiding something. And because he insists on hiding against public pressure to release it, we have to infer that Romney believes it will be bad for his campaign.

    So, will people, and I mean ordinary, average people, be satisfied with Romney continuing to hide information about who he is and how he lives?

    Don't ask me. I never thought Americans would accept a court order that said "We are not going to count the votes. In fact, we are not even going to try."

  • Booing Ryan on September 21, 2012 5:27 PM:

    And why change the already sore subject as part of a Friday night "news dump" to the lingeringly sore subject of Mitt's taxes....so long in coming, and
    ....coming on the heels of Mitt insulting our elders on limited income, our disabled veterans, those now (unlike Mitt or his sons) fighting in overseas wars, young and older citizens newly needing assistance following the Wall Street crash resulting from Republican polices....coming on the heels of insulting working families, the working poor, the so-called 47% of which Mitt, the man who wants to be king, demeaned.

    And really, my friends in Blogistan, doesn't the idea of Mitt's tax returns really make the pronouncement *even louder* that Mitt feels it is ok if rich guys like him get assistance from the government with mucho subsidies, loopholes, tax shelters, tax breaks--all those "entitlements" for the wealthiest in the country (who don't need it.)

    And, he and Ryan talk about yet *more* breaks for the rich in terms of tax reductions they propose for their Republican takeover---as they scream about the federal deficit.
    And, more government assistance to the rich would clearly decrease revenues to our federal government--and we know that subsequent revenues would come from the poor, working poor, and middle class.


  • Memekiller on September 21, 2012 5:37 PM:

    "If, as seems the case, this is all part of some planned “run out the clock” strategy for dealing with questions about Mitt’s wealth (or as he would have it, “success”), finances, and taxes, it appears to be based on the dubious assumption that the public sympathizes with Romney here "

    As Romney's 47 percent comments illustrate, the campaign's failing are the failings of the 1 percent. They probably do seem themselves as the makers and the victims, and have gotten a party representing nearly half the country put their needs and feelings above everyone else.

    One thing I am thankful to Romney for is that he has personified and exposed the arrogance and incompetence of the top percent. Claims now that these people are worth all this money because they are so indispensable will only greet mockery.

    The Romney campaign can not overcome the character defects of the elites.

  • Wow on September 21, 2012 5:41 PM:

    There just has to be something toxic in at least one of those returns.

    His campaign has been so awful that I suppose it's possible that there's nothing _too_bad_ in them, but the campaign made the (bad) decision to keep them out of the press's hands anyway.

    But more than likely, even for this campaign, is that there is something terrible in them.

    I know I am stating the obvious. In summary: WOW.

  • bushworstpresidentever on September 21, 2012 5:49 PM:

    This is not a running out the clock strategy. This has been a really bad week for Rmoney. The returns were not due until October 15, just a few weeks before the election. Everyone was going to be expecting them at that point. By releasing them now, at the end of a really bad week, he hopes to bury them not just in a Friday night dump, but in the rest of the bad news this week, hoping that everyone forgets about his taxes for the next 46 days. Except where are the FBAR forms for his 2010 return, and when, if ever, will some "journalist" ask him to his face if he applied for or participated in the IRS 2009 amnesty program for offshore and Swiss accounts?

  • tubino on September 21, 2012 5:54 PM:

    "will some "journalist" ask him to his face if he applied for or participated in the IRS 2009 amnesty program for offshore and Swiss accounts?"


  • DRF on September 21, 2012 5:55 PM:

    From Romney's perspective, this news is relatively good, in that it doesn't disclose any worse information about his taxes than was already out there. The Friday afternoon dump is probably less about trying to avoid attention than it is trying to get his tax information out there as soon as possible in order to try to move the conversation off of his other recent missteps.

    I'm not bothered by his propping up his percentage of tax payments by not taking certain deductions. It's cynical, but that's the least of his problems. (By the way, I bet he files an amended return after the election and claims his additional deductions, thereby getting a tax refund.)

    What's disturbing is, now that he has released a summary of his prior returns, why not release the returns themselves? It's even more obvious that there's something in there that is embarrassing. Making his refusal to disclose a campaign issue seems to me to be perfectly legitimate, and I hope the Democrats push this point.

  • Milt on September 21, 2012 5:57 PM:

    Just when this part of the campaign was quieting down Romney opens up the sore again. In addition, millions of people will be doing just what we did - haul out the old income tax forms to see how we compare. Ya know, the percentage doesn't matter, it's what's left over after paying the taxes. That's what people are going to be talking about all weekend not his campaign points.

  • martin on September 21, 2012 6:24 PM:

    I'm not an accountant, nor make enough money for deductons, but doesn't Romney have 3 years to file an amended return? He can underdeduct now, and file an amended return after the election to get his money back?

  • jjm on September 21, 2012 6:36 PM:

    He may well be hiding felonious tax evasion through Swiss banks for which the IRS granted amnesty to some. Was he a felon? only releasing the year it took place in -- 2004? -- would we know.

  • DGarr on September 21, 2012 6:44 PM:

    Release the tax returns that we *really* want to see, 2005-2009, Mr. Romney.

    If you are looking for a way to reboot your campaign, this would be it.

    Show everyone that, indeed, there is nothing to hide.

    Now THAT would really change the momentum of the campaign to your advantage.

    This is the single issue for which you have never once flip-flopped. Why? It makes voters wonder.

    Mr. Romney, you are running for President of the United States.
    This is a position of Trust.
    Ronald Reagan said, "Trust but Verify."
    Mr. Romney has said, "Trust me," re his tax returns.
    It is not unreasonable for voters to want to "Verify.

    The longer you delay, Mr. Romney, the more suspicious it appears.

    Obama released 8 years of tax returns
    GW Bush 10 years
    Clinton 12 years
    GHW Bush 14 years
    George Romney 12 years.

    What is the problem, Mr. Romney? Release your tax returns.

  • Doug on September 21, 2012 7:28 PM:

    Which is it, tax amnesty or under-tithing? Or better still, both!

  • paul on September 21, 2012 8:03 PM:

    What I don't understand is how this is supposed to be good. Remember that this is percent of adjusted gross income, which already hides a bunch of preferences. So Romney is proud of the fact that, including payroll taxes, he forked over as high a percentage to the government as somebody living in a rented apartment and making $50K a year?

  • Jackson on September 21, 2012 8:21 PM:

    He can't disclose his returns because they will show that he is much better off than 4 years ago--like by $75M or so.

  • Hue and Cry on September 21, 2012 9:40 PM:

    Even Market Watch--that bastion of capitalism-- has criticism of Mitt Romney:


    Interestingly--isn't this relevant:

    Adam Smith wrote this, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, WAY BACK in 1759:
    " This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.
    That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages."

    Wake up voters!!!!

  • esaud on September 22, 2012 8:23 AM:

    I don't know why he just doesn't make up a bunch of phoney tax returns. He's lied about everything else.

    And who's to say they are made up? I don't think the IRS can say so.

    As to what he is hiding? I'm with Duncan's guess that he didn't pay his full tenth in ultra high income years.

  • Just Guessing on September 22, 2012 10:16 AM:

    Two things:

    "tax advisers providing a summary of his tax liability for a 20-year period from 1990 to 2009".

    Question; why a summary from 1990 after he has been so unprepared to share anything else regarding his returns? I heard that capital gains taxes were high at the end of the 90's so that would automatically inflate the percentages he claims. Sneaky.

    "Mitt Romney has scrupulously complied with the U.S. tax code, and his income is reported and taxed at the applicable rates, and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed." as quoted from his lawyers.

    "Scrupulously" - sounds like he was audited.

    "Paid 100% of what he has owed." Owed? Including fines, amnesty etc.

    He's still covering something up.

  • Danny on September 22, 2012 3:24 PM:

    It could also be that there's something in his tax returns that is so bad that it would simply disqualify him for the presidency. Maybe they're dealing with it this way not because they think this is a winning strategy but because they know that all the other options are way worse.

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