Romney and taxes: Morally unfit to be President

Romney’s federal tax returns are out and it turns out that he paid only 15% taxes on his income.

You can already see his defense of this by misdirection:

Of course, this neatly avoids the real issue: The issue is not that he didn’t voluntarily give more money to the federal government. Sure, nobody wants to unilaterally pay more taxes than what the law requires.

The issue is rather that he thinks a tax code where he pays a lower percentage than actual working people is fair and supports such a system as a matter of public policy. That is what I think makes him morally unfit to be President.

This isn’t Romney specific. The general republican idea that instead of easing up on historically low taxes for the rich, we need to bust unions and close schools and stop infrastructure projects and lay off cops is widely accepted.

The whole idea of the whole current “deficit crisis” is sort of insane in and of itself. Going back to historically average take rates over the last 30 years would leave us with a big surplus. The idea that the richest country in the world is just too poor to be able to afford basic public services and that we all must sacrifice them together and damage our society to maintain the excesses of the super rich is quite frankly beyond the level of mere political disagreement but into the realm of sick and actively malicious.

It is a valid reason to reject Romney - and it will be especially ironic how he’ll be claiming that we can’t possibly raise the top tier tax brackets, or increase capital gains tax, lest the rich all decide it’s not worth it anymore and go live in the streets as hobos, because the rich (sorry, Job Creators) are already massively overtaxed, you know, despite having the lowest taxes in over a century in the US and the lowest taxes in the developed world. But he isn’t anything special or unique in that regard. It’s a valid reason to reject the entire republican party.

The irony of this is that conservatives will read over my post and label me a raving socialist or worse. And actually I probably skew well to the right on this board in regards to opinions to the proper role of government. But even libertarians shouldn’t think whatever role the government plays, that the financial burden for it should be on the backs of people who can’t afford it. I suspect many have a hardon for returning us to an almost fuedal state in terms of the powerful crushing the powerless.

I think a lot of the conservatives on this board realize the insanity of the current tax situation, but they’ve decided that being apologists and strictly adhering to the party line trumps that.

I don’t know about the “morally unfit” part, but I do agree it was a lousy defense. Saying something is legal does not mean it is right.

He could have said something a wee bit less unabashed. “Yes, I pay a lower tax rate than average, because I am fortunate enough to be able hire people whose jobs it is to find all the loopholes embedded in our complicated tax law. If elected, I will streamline the system so that there are no more special loopholes just for rich guys like me, so that all taxes will be between 15 to 20%.”

This way, he admits he’s doing something sneaky–yet no sneakier than what’s allowed—and expresses a desire to share his advantage with others. I wouldn’t believe him, but it would be a much better response than, “But it’s L-L-L-LEGAL!!”

So at first glance he has $21 M income, $4.5 M deductions, resulting in a $3 M tax bill.

I’d have to see a breakdown in greater detail (which I’m sure some newspapers are doing as we speak). Otherwise, at this point, I don’t see anything that’s necessarily immoral or even slightly hinky on Romney’s part. Much of his income is from investments taxed at the 15% capital gains rate. Some portion of his income is probably from short-term capital gains and taxed similarly to the usual income tax. (Wiki has a chart of capital gains tax rates). A (relatively) small portion of his income is taxable on the normal income tax scale, IIRC $400k from writing and speaker’s fees. Post-deductions, he payed about 18%.

Yes, I think there’s something seriously wrong with the US tax code, exemplified most dramatically by Warren Buffet paying a lower effective rate than his secretary. But I don’t think there’s anything “morally unfit” about what Romney did here.

He paid more in tax for that one year than I’m going to do for my whole working life. And in addition $3 million in charity. I wonder how that compares to his detractors in this thread. But anyway, you should all vote Ron Paul. That’s a no brainer.

Tax rates are a problematic issue in this country. I don’t think that the numbers in and of themselves paint Romney in any sort of bad light. Every person should apply the tax code in the way that the government asks them to.

On many issues I believe that there are moral and ethical reasons to act at a level above the minimum required by law. Paying taxes is not one of them. No one has a moral imperative to pay more taxes than the government makes them.

That’s not true. He feels the current system is unfair, and that he should be asked to pay even less.

True. The fun part is that “the government” is NOT some ethereal being making all the rules for us. The government is made up of people, and those people decide what the tax code is. Romney wants to be one of those people deciding on the tax code.

So, he enjoys a HUGE income, and pays a smaller percentage of that HUGE income to run the government than a regular Joe who is struggling to make ends meet. The problem for him is not today’s tax code, but the tax code he wants to enact when he becomes part of “the government”. His party has been beating the drum that the wealthy pay “too much” and Romney is proof that they often pay less than people who have a lot less to give.

I doubt there is much that requires hiring expert accountants to find. I, too, pay 15% on capital gains and qualified dividends (and 0% on municipal bond interest). It wasn’t hard to find, being right there on the 1040 and Schedule D.

The carried interest loophole needs to go. It will be interesting to see how much of Romney’s income qualified for that. Not that I regard it immoral to use it. Even though I don’t agree with it, I would take advantage if I qualified. I don’t agree with mortgage deductions either, but used them.

OK, I’ll bite. How is that misdirection?

It’s a pretty short post. Just read the whole thing.

Because the argument isn’t whether or not people should give up tax money voluntarily or only pay what is legally required, the argument is about how much should be legally required. It’s a non-answer, or at least an answer to a question that no one is asking.

Investing in wind power can yield an even lower effective tax rate, due to tax credits, etc. Are those who make that kind of investment thus morally unfit?

Certainly if he was cheating on his taxes that would make him morally unfit, but there’s no indication whatsoever that he was. If he even was sheltering his income and trying to find ways to pay less on his capital gains than what the intent of the code provided for then I could see a legitimate groundswell of resentment against him. But from what I understand the bulk of his income is not earned income which is taxed at the higher rate but capital gains from past investments that’s taxed at the lower 15% for everyone with that kind of income.

Despite my general dislike of Romney, I just don’t see this legitimately fanning a lot of flame.

I just did (both the OP and the article it linked to), and the post didn’t make any more sense the second time.

Listen up. Romney is running to become the Republican nominee. The question of his tax returns has risen, and he just released them as a result (and as a result of his losing in South Carolina). Those documents show that he’s paid income taxes at a 15% rate for the past two years. (Actually it’s 14 percent, primarily because of his charitable contributions, which are to some extent tax deductible.) Romney mentioned that he’s not going to pay more taxes than he legally owes. Neither do I. I rather suspect that neither do you.

BTW, the article linked to also mentioned that Romney’s tax payments put him in the top one percent of taxpayers in term of taxes paid.

The only misdirection here is the claim that his belief in the current US tax code (a belief that wasn’t mentioned in the linked article at all) makes him morally unfit to be president. Morally unfit?

Thanks for the post.

I’m arranging my relative scale of “moral unfitness: income taxes” at the moment.

I’m also including other high ranking officials of government…you know, like Cabinet Members.

I’ll get back to the Board as soon as I finish arranging Tim Geithner, Charlie Rangel and Chris Dodd. Should only take a moment.

So, to your mind, if you can find one example of a good tax rate, that must mean that all tax rates are good.

Intriguing thought process.

I don’t care if Romney’s 15% is going to dwarf my tax contributions for life, the point is that the rich have been seeing some pretty ridiculous gains as time has gone on (by no real efforts of their own, just favorable legislation), so of course tax contributions are going to be a lower percentage (especially with capital gains being arbitrarily set to historical lows). Obama made a few points in a speech that I think sum this up pretty well:

"The debate right now isn’t about whether we need to make tough choices. Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need. The debate is about how it should be done.

Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for? ",0,1875317.story

From Warren Buffet on Romney’s taxes:

“It’s the wrong policy to have,” Buffett told Bloomberg TV Monday. “There’s nothing wrong about him paying that. He’s not going to pay more than the law requires. And I don’t fault him for that in the least. But I do fault a law that allows him and me, earning enormous sums, to pay overall federal taxes at a rate that ‘s about half what the average person in my office pays.”

Buffett said he wasn’t surprised by Romney’s estimate last week of about a 15% effective tax rate.

“I thought that’s exactly what I expected,” Buffett said. "He makes money the way I do. He makes money by moving around big bucks, not by straining his back or going to work, cleaning the toilets or whatever it may be.

Buffett supports Obama’s push for a new tax policy that would require millionaires to pay the same tax rate as middle-class workers. Obama has called the principle “The Buffett Rule.”

So it is morally wrong to donate your money to charity, instead of hanging onto it until the government takes it by force?

So your complaint is that he isn’t being forced to do what he is doing already.


The moral problem here honestly doesn’t lie with Romney in this particular scenario. It lies with the way our country handles taxes.