Those Tantalizing Tax Returns

As everyone on the planet knows by now, Mitt Romney is not going to release more than one year of his tax returns.

And as every parent on the planet knows, there is nothing–nothing!–that will intensify children’s interest in something like being told they can’t see or do it. And come to think of it, adults have a similar tendency to fixate on what is seemingly out of reach.

In the last few days, we’ve had two examples of this phenomenon: hackers who claim they have obtained copies from PriceWaterhouseCooper have threatened to release the returns if they aren’t paid a ransom; and Larry Flynt (yes, he of Hustler ‘fame’) has offered a million dollars to anyone who will deliver the returns to him.

You’d think they’d get together….Maybe they still will.

These new efforts come on the heels of what may be the biggest political gambling operation outside Intrade–a robust market in rumors about what could possibly be so damaging in those returns. It is intriguing. Romney’s intransigence about his tax returns adds one more element to the shady public persona he has projected. (A Facebook friend recently asked “Is anyone else waiting for Romney to offer a great deal to put you into a 2012 Malibu?”) What can he be hiding that would hurt him more than the secrecy does?

It isn’t only the refusal to release his taxes. As the Presidential campaign goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that Romney’s entire strategy was to make the election a referendum on the incumbent. That wasn’t a bad idea; with the economy still sluggish, and many people still very uncomfortable with Mr. Obama’s perceived “otherness,” making the choice all about the President made some sense. (When you add in Mr. Romney’s own wooden demeanor and general lack of warmth and likability, it makes even more sense.)

Making the election about Obama does not relieve the Republicans of the duty to run an actual candidate. But that’s what they’ve done. Even the media–obsessed with the “horse race” and generally oblivious to policy–has complained about the absolute absence of specifics to back up the vague platitudes coming from the Romney-Ryan ticket. The message has been “fire Obama and we’ll do better,” but there has been no explanation of how–no description of the steps Romney would propose to take, or how his administration would differ from either Barack Obama’s or George W. Bush’s.  We are left with “trust me.”

If you are going to center your campaign on a message that essentially says: “Voters, you need to fire the incumbent and replace him with a more trustworthy person who is a better manager,” then at an absolute minimum you at least need to demonstrate that you are that trustworthy, competent person. You can’t also ask us to take your own character and capacity on trust. But that is exactly what Romney is doing by refusing to release his tax returns.

He is asking voters to fire Obama and hire an empty suit.

Whatever is in those tax returns must really be damaging.


  1. This is the critical question: Did the Romneys get amnesty from the IRS in 2009? To my knowledge, the Romneys have not been directly asked this question.

    What we know:

    1. Romneys had a Swiss bank account in 2009.

    2. Bank was UBS.

    3. UBS, after being fined $780,000,000 by the IRS for conspiring with its depositors’ to conceal taxable income, released to IRS the names of 4,700 Americans with UBS accounts.

    4. IRS offered amnesty to Americans with unreported foreign bank accounts in March 2009.

    5. In 2009 IRS received approximately 30,000 requests for amnesty from Americans with foreign bank accounts.

    6. The penalties for foreign account tax evaders who failed to obtain amnesty were draconian.

    What we do not know:

    1.Whether the Romneys asked for amnesty.

    2. Whether there is any other reason for refusal to produce the 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax returns.

    Jim Beatty

  2. Wow is right! This is PhD-quality: Piled Higher and Deeper! Dr. Phil says, “People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing!” He’s right, as usual!

    When the Veep (Alben Barkley’s term) candidate looks better than their Presidential one, there are serious problems beyond measure!

    BHO should win this going away, but I’m not feelin’ it yet. We all know what big piles of cash and highly placed friends can mean…think Florida, hanging chads, 5 hundred-some-odd votes, and little brother Jeb.

  3. Actually, I’d heard that. I’m glad someone else explained it because I couldn’t make heads or tails of how to explain it. Jim has it pegged to a T. Good Job. Well Done.
    That’s the number one reason why Romney can’t release his returns…he DOES have something to hide and it would cause a real ruckus. Probably disqualify him and then what? Or the address he used would indicate fraud in voting. The republicans would have to come up with another candidate – NOW? Why it would be a civil war in the GOP!

  4. 1) Fast and Furious documents- After refusing congressional requests, the White House used executive privilege to keep documents concealed related to a failed Arizona operation to track firearms in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, ultimately killing a US border patrol agent. Eric Holder became the first Attorney General in American history to be cited for contempt by the full House of Representatives.

    2) Health Reform Negotiations- Candidate Obama promised a transparent administration, with health care reform negotiations on C-SPAN. Instead, they were conducted after-hours and behind closed doors with deals cut on behalf of the present lobbyists and legislators.

    3) Medical and Educational Records- Sen. John McCain released thousands of pages of medical records. Sen. Barrack Obama provided a one-page doctor’s note. Sen. Obama’s supposed academic brilliance was a major selling point. Where is the proof in disclosed educational records?

    Does any of these constitute all the collective merit that encompasses a successful and respected Presidency? Of course not. Should both candidates be transparent and release pertinent records? Darn tootin’. But, two points related to the omnipresent dual standard:

    1) If the President was a Republican, holy hell would be raised from the New York Times, to NBC News, to NPR if similar records, documents, and negotiations were withheld.

    2) It doesn’t matter that we have succeeded in electing a President of color, or that Herman Cain was leading the Republican candidate pack at one point. The media accusations of racism batter to death any expectation of a common standard for all Presidential candidates.

  5. While I understand the prevalence of convenient conspiracy theories, a far more likely scenario is that he’s living off of investment income and has had no realized gains for the past few years. Thus, he hasn’t paid any taxes because he hasn’t made any money.

    It’s not that difficult.

  6. Hmm, I guess if Romney was a Democrat the Tea Party would be demanding the returns, claiming that since he didn’t produce them he was covering up a felony and wasn’t qualified to be President.

    Maybe it reveals that he denounced his citizenship and became French.

    Regardless, if he then produced the returns, they would claim that the documents were forgeries.

    Well, he is a Republican, so I guess I am just speculating. 8)>

  7. I made a point of talking to a Democratic candidate driving a Mini-Cooper on my street, campaigning for city-council. I requested a sign and before election found it in my yard. I thanked him then and again now for running against the corrupt Republican councilman in my district.

    I attended and would continue going to Tea Party rallies because, nebulous they may be, but I don’t perceive any other organization largely devoted to fiscal sanity, limited government, and a layman’s interpretation of the Constitution. Not long ago, these stances were not considered extreme.

    I suggest we hold media to identical standards of transparency and disclosure from our candidates, as it enables us to better make our voting decisions. To do otherwise is to invite further deceit and a hard road ahead.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with your call for transparency from both candidates and the media, Dave — and thank you for your support. 8)>

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