Home > Economics, Election 2012 > Romney’s Evasions Are Nothing New

Romney’s Evasions Are Nothing New

August 18th, 2012

During some Q&A with reporters, Romney claimed:

I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that. So I paid taxes every single year.

At first, the thought was, hmm, okay, he’s on the record, so he’s probably telling the truth.

But then everyone started to realize that Romney’s statement was not off-the-cuff, but had been very carefully phrased—so much so that it means almost nothing.

Remember, words—especially when talking about money and economics—can be very cleverly phrased to make something sound like the exact opposite of what it is. A case in point is a Limbaugh favorite, to support trickle-down economics: “In the 1980’s, Reagan lowered taxes, and revenues doubled.” The statement is simple, to the point, and each part of it is true—but the whole statement is as bald-faced as lies get. The revenue doubling does not discount inflation, which makes up most of the increase, leaving only a 19% increase during Reagan’s terms, as much as 7% of which was due to simple population increase; and although Reagan lowered some taxes, he raised others more, making the premise of lowered taxes causing increased revenue unsupportable.

So, how about Romney’s statement?

Note that he did not say the magic words “federal income” taxes. He just said “taxes.” Also, note that he did not say what income he paid the 13% on. It is very likely, almost to the point of assuredness, that Romney paid no taxes on his capital gains income in 2009, and since that constitutes much of what he makes, it is likely that he was not including that in his statement.

In short, what Romney said was essentially meaningless; by playing with words, he could be saying that, if you take his non-capital-gains income, and include property taxes, sales taxes, state income taxes, and every other tax he can account for, the taxes he paid could well add up to more than 13% of his non-investment income.

And yet, in terms of federal income tax, which is what the question was actually asking about, he could have paid zero or close to zero for one or more of those years.

It is similar to what his wife is saying, that they have done what is “legally required,” when in fact, no tax returns are “legally” required and no one suggested they were; and that no one is suggesting that they illegally evaded taxes, instead the whole issue being about what is legally possible to evade.

You have to remember, though, that this is nothing new. In 2000, the question came up about Bush and drugs. At first he tried to evade the question, then he made statements about how he could have passed White House background checks when his father was president—which only ruled out a few decades, but left open the possibility that he was a heavy cocaine abuser in his 20’s. The fact that he didn’t just come out and say, “No, I never used hard drugs” essentially meant that he had, and knew that if he made a statement that he had not, it was possible that some witness or evidence could emerge to contradict him.

The same is true here: Romney is playing games, hoping to twist and turn through the slippery use of language until the media tires of the cat-and-mouse game and turns to other issues.

However, his reticence on his taxes has been so damaging that it is obviously clear that there are details in his returns from 2009 at least, and probably in earlier years as well, which are pretty damning in some way. Romney has judged that it is better for people to suspect that he possesses embarrassing wealth and uses his privilege to avoid his civic duty, than to open his records and remove all doubt.

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  1. Troy
    August 18th, 2012 at 16:18 | #1

    taxes = “civic duties” — I like it!

    meshes well with “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”

    anyhoo, trickle-down theory is basic math failure.

    it’s just right-wing propaganda-mill BS designed to justify having the rich get richer and devil-take-the-hindmost.

    Reagan’s decade came with an immense leveraging up in debt across the board.


    that was the secret to our success, such as it was.

    when 5% of the country is collecting 33% of the national income, low taxes on the 5% is just going to result in the system seizing up eventually due to lack of monetary velocity within the “99%”.

    $600B/yr bleeds out overseas thanks to the US’s colossal trade deficit.

    Trillions are taken in rents in real estate and medical care.

    The endgame is not pretty and we’re barreling right towards it.

  2. Tim Kane
    August 18th, 2012 at 22:58 | #2

    The nice thing about the tax issue is that it is clearly, very clearly a hot button that bothers not just one, but both Romneys beyond belief. And it’s a button easily pressed. Nice.

    I expect to see Harry Reid keep pressing it and pressing it, like the monkey who gets cocain every time he presses the button, instead of the button that feeds him, until he starves to death or dies of a heart attack. It’s just too easy to keep pressing that button.

    The amazing thing is that it has even Romneys wife to the point of mendaciousness on public television: “we’ve done everything we are legally required to do we even give 10% of our income to charity. As if the Mormon Church is a charity. If you are a Mormon, tything to the church is more like ‘protection’ money you give to the mob. They rewarded Willard by making him a Bishop.

    Secretiveness, I think, is second nature to Mormons. The more people know about the religion, the more they are shocked, repulsed, or amazed at what people will believe. As my brother says, they are a cult. If they have secret ceremonies, and they do, then they are a cult. Romney’s a bishop. And he wants to be President of the United States.

  3. Troy
    August 19th, 2012 at 06:08 | #3

    Really stunning that the fundies are going to have to pull the lever for a Mormon, yes.

    Baptists and Mormons do NOT get along, LOL.


    ”It is a cult, in the sense that it does not adhere to what would be traditional or orthodox biblical teaching. It’s really been kind of comical at the outrage of some folks when it’s called a cult….”

    Rev. Bryant Wright endorsed Romney 8 months later.

    They’re also a cult for having hidden — hidden because they’re patently bullshit — teachings not exposed to initiates and shunning people who leave the Church.

    Amazing how much damage organized religion is doing to this country.

    If I were writing a Civ game I’d spent a lot of time on the religious aspect of societal development. It’s just as important as scientific culture to a society, over the centuries.

    Maybe more, because it’s the religionists that throw the scientists on the pyres.

    So many millions in this country have lost the ability to think.

    A term I came across some time ago describes it well — “thought-terminating cliches”.


    I was arguing online somewhere this week and destroyed the guy’s argument — pointing out that we just had to raise taxes on the 5% to pay back the $2.6T in the SSTF over the next 20-odd years, and he came back with:

    “Yes, that’s always the “solution” — advocate the government steal more of other people’s money.”

    About half this country has fundamentally broken minds.

  4. Troy
  5. Troy
    August 23rd, 2012 at 09:48 | #5

    “How do you run a democracy when the voters don’t have a clue what the parties and candidates stand for?” — “The Votemaster” at electoral-vote.com today

    Indeed. In 2010, Wisconsin voters sent Feingold packing for cutting payments to Medicare (via PPACA provisions), putting in his place some teabagger who made his fortune selling medical supplies to Medicare patients at high profits.

    Chances are only 50-50 we’re going to get through this decade OK (ie. any better than we got through 2000-2009).

    The bullshit here is rising to astounding levels.

  6. Troy
    August 24th, 2012 at 08:02 | #6

    me, a year ago:

    August 23rd, 2011 at 06:41 | #2 Reply | Quote

    This is a very sick society.

    The problem is not that the Republicans are so bizarre, the problem is that they have the support they do.

    Outside of Jon Huntsman, their candidate field is something out of the John Birch Society.


    Dem 47 Ties 2 GOP 51



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