How is it that a person earning $20.9 million last year paid only 15.4% in federal taxes, or that same person earned $21.65 million but paid only 13.9% in federal taxes the year before? It doesn’t seem right, nor equitable, but these two examples are exactly what Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid the federal government the past two years according to his tax returns he just released earlier this week. Mr. Romney most likely did nothing illegal in his tax filings, however it is a sad commentary on America’s income tax system when the upper one percent of income earners in this country pay a significantly far less percentage of tax than the average working American. Mr. Romney earns more in interest on his vast investment holdings in just one day than most Americans do working an entire year, yet he believes the ultra rich still pays far too greater a burden in taxes. Why does Romney also have his money in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland? Once again, there is probably nothing illegal in doing so, but it just sounds fishy to me for a candidate for the office of President of the United States who has investment money in overseas banks, one country notorious for being a tax haven, the other for being a place where criminals and dictators hide their ill-gotten income.
By releasing only two years worth of tax returns, the first thought that comes to mind is why not release a few more years? Romney should release at least the past five years worth of returns as this is the length of time that he has been running for president. In 1968, while also running for president, George Romney released twelve years worth of returns. The senior Romney stated at the time that by releasing so many years worth of tax returns, nothing could be hidden from the public, in that a person could legally conceal much information regarding their income and taxes paid by releasing just a year or two. Yesterday, I heard one television political commentator remark, and I wish I could remember all the facts, that during the 1990s when Congress was attempting to correct some of this injustice, that all the major financial services companies fought passionately to prevent this from happening. One of them being Bain Capital, Mr. Romney’s old venture capital firm. Ironic, isn’t it?
In addition to his tax filings, it has been reported that Mr. Romney gave his five sons $100 million and not one son was required to pay any gift tax on the bequest. Again, there was probably nothing illegal in how Mr. Romney did so, but it is just that our tax code so favors the wealthy elite at the expense of the middle class, who has to pay more than their fair share to make up for what the rich fail to adequately pay. All these shenanigans remind me of the old play on the Golden Rule, that being the one who has the gold, makes the rules. In my most recent blog that I posted on Monday, I opined that America is no longer a democracy but has instead become a plutocracy, governed by the wealthy elite, be they individuals or corporations.
Mr. Romney isn’t the only person to take advantage of our inequitable tax laws. Wall Street money barons earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, yet because their earnings are legally counted as capital gains and not income, pay only 15% federal tax. The Republican Party does a great job convincing a good number of Americans that when President Obama talks of raising taxes on the upper one percent of income earners that he wants to raise everyone’s taxes. Why so many people fall for this erroneous distortion of the president’s proposal is beyond me. I try to give such people the benefit of doubt and blame it on misinformation and political propaganda by the far right, ultra-conservative media machine. All you need is one page for the tax code, that being a schedule of tax rates per applicable income level, the other 30,000 pages of tax rules and regulations are for various deductions so rich folk and corporations can avoid paying their fair share. America’s tax laws greatly need overhauled so that all Americans pay a just rate. And no, this isn’t class warfare nor envy as many of our Republican leaders like to proclaim, it’s judiciousness.
Steven H. Spring