Reid’s Tax Attack: Political Genius?

Sen. Harry Reid: Show us the tax returns.

By Bob Gaydos

I don’t know if Harry Reid is a liar or a political genius. It’s possible he’s both, or neither. Or one or the other.

Whatever the truth, and that’s an elusive commodity in this election campaign, the Senate Majority Leader has managed to do what the Obama reelection team has heretofore not — delivered a verbal broadside to Mitt Romney’s election campaign which actually has the potential to increase in damage the longer it hangs around.

Reid has said publicly, repeatedly, and even on the floor of the U.S. Senate that Romney paid no income taxes for 10 years. Reid says a credible source who would know such things told him. Romney says the charge is false. Other Republicans have called Reid a liar. Reid, and other Democrats, have replied simply, “Show us the tax returns.”

Genius. If I’m lying, you can show the world right now. Harry Reid is a dirty, rotten liar. If I’ve sullied your reputation by implying you evaded taxes even though you’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars (at least), hell, sue me. I repeat: Mitt Romney paid no taxes for 10 years.

The whole tax thing becomes particularly difficult for Romney, of course, because his dad, George Romney, established the precedence for presidential candidates releasing tax returns for several years when he ran for president in 1968. In releasing 12 years of tax returns, the Michigan governor said it was the best way to let Americans know of any potential conflicts of interest their would-be presidents might have as well as providing some insight into their character. Guess he was right.

Thus far, Mitt Romney has released a tax return for one year — 2010 — and an estimate for 2011. He says that’s all he will release. Even that little bit of information has raised red flags about how he feels about paying taxes, investing in America and creating jobs. There’s stuff, for example, about a bank account in Switzerland. This account was apparently closed in 2010, but there’s no way to know if Romney paid taxes on the account in previous years and, if so, how much. And why mess around with Swiss francs anyway if you’re such a proud American?

Another item of curiosity in Romney’s tax return is a $100 million IRA. Now, Americans are by and large OK with people accumulating wealth legitimately, but it is hard to imagine contributing enough within even generous legal yearly limitations to build up a $100 million IRA. How did he do that?

These questions were raised by people with a far better understanding of the tax code than I. They were posed in a Time magazine article by Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California. and former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, and. Peter C. Canellos, a lawyer and former chair of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section.

The two also wonder about the Romneys’ 2010 federal tax rate of 13.9 percent on adjusted gross income of $22 million. That’s lower than the rate for the average American taxpayer earning abut $50,000 a year. Romney apparently used a tax loophole that allowed him, as someone who manages other people’s money, to claim an absurdly low tax rate.

With this attitude towards taxes and no previous returns to help make judgments, how are Americans supposed to know how a President Romney will address the tax code and the general inequity in wealth in America? How are they supposed to take an accurate measure of the man if he won’t reveal how he made his wealth, where it’s invested and why so much of it is in accounts in other countries?

Back to Reid. Some fact-checking web sites have jumped on him for not corroborating his claim with, you know, evidence. Fair enough. I’m very much in favor of corroboration. But the fact-checking web sites have gone so far as to say or suggest that Reid is lying because he has offered no proof. That is a reach too far. No one knows whether Reid is lying, save for Reid and Romney. Reid may be playing dirty politics. Then again, he may not. In either case, Republicans, who have made provably untrue claims about President Obama in their TV ads, have no credibility when it comes to accusing Democrats of making false accusations. Pot, meet kettle.

So what do Republicans do? They can keep calling Reid a liar and he can keep saying, “Just show us the tax returns to prove it.”

Or they can ignore the charge and let the questions linger: Why won’t Romney release his tax returns? Does he have something to hide?

Neither is good for Romney.

I’m no fan of Harry Reid or the politics of rumor, but when Republicans and their mouthpieces at Fox News — acolytes all of Karl Rove — start calling Reid a “hit man” for Obama and the Democrats, I have to confess thinking, what took them so long?

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4 Responses to “Reid’s Tax Attack: Political Genius?”

  1. ernie Says:

    So,they have to lie to get at the truth?

  2. BobGaydos Says:

    Well ..:
    1. That’s called international diplomacy.
    2. It’s also called good police work.
    3. It may not be a lie.

  3. BobGaydos Says:

    Quallah Battoo on Facebook:
    One of the magnificent pieces of political sabotage of the century so far. Harry Reid deserves to be leader of the Senate. That man has style.

  4. Marshall Rubin Says:

    Reid isn’t lying, but that’s not the point. He waited at least three years too long to get up the guts to show some leadership qualities. At the beginning of each year’s Senate session the majority party gets to enact the Senate’s rules, and Reid should have pushed through rules greatly reducing or eliminating the archaic use of the filibuster,

    Reid and the Democrats had reasonable notice of the obstructionist policies of the GOP when Mitch McConnell announced just days into the Obama Administration that their Number One goal was to destroy his presidency. They blocked virtually every progressive bill that the House Dems sent to the Senate. Very little was passed, and as the GOP intended, Obama was blamed. Stupidly, Obama blamed Congress for their inaction, when he should have directly leveled his charges specifically against the Republicans!

    Just a few weeks ago Reid finally admitted that he should have clamped down on the filibuster, but it may now be too late. Obama’s slim lead in the polls is mainly due to his likeability over Romney, instead of for his list of accomplishments.

    I can go on and on, but had Reid asserted some degree of leadership early on, we might now have single-payer health care,
    an abounding economy, and more. The GOP/tea party would be
    just an unpleasant memory, rather than the grave threat to democracy that they pose!

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