|Don't tell anyone, but I don't actually pay ANY taxes! |
Fuck you, Uncle Sam!
Mitt Romney, who is aspiring for the position of head diplomat of the US, has been in the news lately for saying some rather undiplomatic things during his visit to
Anyway, that's not the real point of this post. Instead, today I'm interested in Mitt's tax returns and his motives for not releasing more than the past two years worth. This story has been getting a lot of press and Mitt himself has received quite a bit of pressure even from his conservative allies. As Salon's Joan Walsh notes, conservative stalwart George Will believes "[Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them [than to continue their concealment]." The hypothesis is that while the tax records that Romney has released, 2010 and 2011, indicate an effective tax rate of 14%, prior records could reveal an effective tax rate that is significantly below that mark.
Of course, at this point it is pure speculation, but plausible speculation nonetheless. At this point, what else could motivate Mitt to continue to hide? We already know about his multiple offshore accounts. It doesn't seem likely that having possibly more offshore accounts prior to 2010 would be much more politically damaging.
[And just an aside on the offshore accounts, if I may. I don't particularly care - on a certain level - if people legally utilize offshore accounts, while saying nothing of whether it should be legal. But it seems, how shall we say... inapropriate as an aspiring presidential candidate. Why? Because the President of the United States is a servant of the people; the President should never put his personal interests over those of the people he is serving. And yet, by shielding his bank accounts from Uncle Sam, that is exactly what Mitt Romney is doing: further enriching himself at the expense of the budget shortfalls and deficit that he and his party are so eager to use as justification for cutting support for those most in need. In short, Mitt Romney is part of the problem.]
...back to my original point. So his tax rate might be below the 14% that it was in 2010 and 2011. So what? you say. I think a lot of Americans, considering that someone earning 40k would pay a higher effective tax rate than a certain person making $20 million, as Romney did in 2010, would find this to be fundamentally unfair. I think we all assume Mitt's paying a rate at least as low in his prior records; a significantly lower rate would only make the contrast more apparent. And the more apparent this fundamental injustice becomes, the more media coverage it gets, and the more pressure that is put on elected leaders to correct this injustice by enacting policy through statute (ideally).
That's why Mitt's taxes matter. Its one thing to say 'I agree with the Republican platform that favors rich people and stacks the deck against the poor.' That's a value judgement - albeit a callously inhumane one, IMO. But to say the information contained in his tax returns doesn't matter is incorrect.
I've noticed that some people like to pull the dismissive cop-out of saying 'its all just politics'. Yes...and? I think everyone finds politics to be repugnant, especially when its in the service of protecting individual politicians (exhibit A). But the fact of the matter is that politics serve as the conduit to the passage of policy. Good public policy is the ultimate goal. But without political support from other leaders and the electorate (e.g. 'politics') no policy will be passed.
Essentially, to eschew the political process is to mute oneself and their self interests. If you're not willing to advocate for your position, its guaranteed that someone that has an opposing interest is willing to advocate for theirs. If you ignore politics, you're going to lose.