Posts Tagged ‘Swiss bank account’

Reid’s Tax Attack: Political Genius?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

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?