The Tax Return Scuffle: Romney Should Seize teachable moment

There were no condescending remarks, chiding and pejorative nicknames, or even really much of a controversy, but the issue was, in many ways the same.

Much like many on the left didn’t believe Barack Obama needed to validate the “birthers” demands and show his birth certificate, I didn’t believe it was necessary for Mitt Romney to show his tax return.

Obama being born here doesn’t really have any bearing on his ability to be president as long as he’s a legal citizen, which, by legal accounts, he is.

Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate likewise does bring anything to bear on his abilities as a leader or administrator.

I mentioned yesterday that class warfare was a lazy, albeit effective political tool.

This fight over who has more millions is really childish, tantamount to someone who buys a Maserati, then derides his neighbor for “wasting his money” on an Aston Martin.

Romney did, like Obama, release his tax return which showed, among other things, what we expected: the guy is rich.

We knew that.

But there’s actually an important teaching moment here. I’ll refer you to the article CNN wrote about the issue.

First, the headline: “What’s in Romney’s tax return: Romney made $42.7 million in 2 years.”

This was obviously part of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry’s plan when they brought this up: make Mitt Romney look like a rich elitist, out of touch with the common person.

They could hammer that point home with a tax return showing that not only is Romney ultra-wealthy, but pays just a 14% effective tax rate.

As the GOP hopefuls knew they would, the liberal media obliged with a headline to obfuscate the things on his return that are truly important, and as such, actually undercut the conservative message.

Mitt Romney had a ton of money over the last two years. That’s indisputable.

Because that money was made on investments, that $42.7 million yielded $6.2 million in taxes, not the 35% tax rate for income on top-earners, but the 15% rate on capital gains.

Yes, $42 million is a lot of money, but so is $6 million.

Romney is constantly being attacked for not being conservative enough. In an ironic twist, his life is actually the perfect conservative archetype to advocate for lower, broader taxes.

It might seem like his exorbitant income and low tax rate is exactly what the 99% are bitching whining about, but actually, Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate is higher than 80% of the country.

In fact, if you read that linked article carefully, you’ll see that effective tax rate actually does what liberals hope, progress the more you make.

The second major triumph for conservatives is the charitable donations. The rich are vilified for their greed, yet Romney has donated more than $7 million to charity of those two years.

That’s more than he paid in taxes and that also means almost 31% of his income over the last two years have gone to taxes and charity even with just a 15% capital gains tax on his income.

Here is a look at Romney, Gingrich and Obama’s 2010 tax return side by side.  Gingrich paid the upper-echelon rate of 31% while Obama paid just 25% despite being in the top tax bracket.

Furthermore, both Romney and Obama donated 14% of their annual income to charity.

On the other hand, Romney donated an additional 7% of his income to the Mormon Church while Obama got almost $900,000 in exemptions for his book expenses.

This is precisely why arguing over whose tax returns make them the best presidential candidate is a waste of time. It doesn’t indite or support a candidate.

On the other hand, Romney’s return proves a point for conservatives attempting to argue that our tax code doesn’t skew for the rich, in fact quite the contrary.

Our capital gains tax (one of the highest in the world) does do a considerable job taxing the investment professionals OWS hates, yet those people still find money to donate to charities who help people.

So much for the rich hating the poor.

That doesn’t mean Romney has won the class war, he certainly hasn’t. In fact, he ought to use it as ammunition back at his opponents, Obama and the GOP field, to show that he is a perfect example of why free markets and low taxes can benefit the poorest and neediest among us.

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