ROMNEY IS NOT ANSWERING BUT SHOULDN'T HE IF HE REALLY WANTS THE POSITION OF PRESIDENT...Romney in a bind as others push him on tax returns
When it comes to his taxes, Mitt Romney is adamant. He plans to release two years of returns. That's what John McCain did in 2008. And, by golly, that's what Romney will do now.
How much he puts out is his prerogative. There's no law saying he has to release any returns. But he should, if he plans on winning the presidency.
When you run for president, voters have every reason to understand your finances. Romney's returns are the definitive source for answering a number of significant questions:
» How much of his wealth came from astute business decision-making and how much from tax avoidance and financial engineering?
» What was the purpose of his offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland?
» How did he end up with $21 million to $102 million in an Individual Retirement Account despite strict annual contribution limits?
» Did he skirt taxes in ways not available to most voters? Particularly, how much of his wealth came from a loophole that allows hedge fund and private equity managers with incomes that can exceed $1 billion a year to pay a tax rate of just 15 percent, less than half the normal top rate?
In political terms, the controversy over the returns puts Romney in a tough spot. If he releases more, the Obama campaign will undoubtedly use them to push its theme that he's out of touch with the middle class. If he withholds them, he signals he has something to hide.
Recognizing the dilemma, even some of Romney's supporters are encouraging him to open up.
In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama released all his returns back to 2000 (and had to account for his dealings with Tony Rezko, a shady Chicago businessman). John Kerry, another rich presidential nominee from Massachusetts, released 20 years in 2004. And when Romney's father, George, sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, he released a then-record 12 years of returns.
So far, Mitt Romney has released his 2010 tax return, a summary of his expected 2011 return, and disclosure reports required under the Ethics in Government Act. How many more returns should he release? Enough to end any suspicion that he's hiding something.
It's up to Romney to provide more clarity about his finances, even if he is, as he told National Review, understandably "not enthusiastic about giving (opponents) hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about." The issue isn't going away, and he's better off dealing with it now rather than closer to Election Day.
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