The Romneys have decided that they will release no more tax returns. So far, what they have released indicates that they pay perhaps 13% of their income in taxes. There are many ways of looking at this number. For example, one might say that because we’re talking about millions of dollars of income, that figure means that Mitt and Ann pay more dollars to the Treasury than most people.
Another way to look at it is to say that the number, 13%, is meaningless.
The wealthy have something that the rest of us don’t. They benefit from deductions. By the time a tax rate is figured on adjusted gross income, those deductions have erased a large part of what the rest of us think of as income as if it never existed.
We have heard about the tax deductions for the dressage horse. Over seven hundred thousand dollars was deducted for expenses of owning a horse. I wonder how many people have realized that this is the equivalent of simply erasing monies derived from income? I wonder how many people have thought: if they got freed from the taxes on a horse, how many other deductions did they get?
Let me give an example that has nothing to do with the Romneys. I once attended a local seminar where the speaker explained to the audience how we could have an airplane for free. Thanks to government largess, income credits could pay for the plane, hangar fees, even fuel and other expenses and all one has to do is to prove that an airplane is necessary for business use.
Think about that. How many corporations and small businesses use these tax credits to own and operate a multi-million dollar vehicle at taxpayer expense? And by “taxpayer,” I mean those in the middle and lower classes who have no such government benefits.
It’s been said that ownership is overrated. Having the use of such things as airplanes and limousines and offices and valets and assistants and automobiles and land and anything else one can imagine without actually owning them is the way to go. Meanwhile, your millions only increase and you can pass those along to your heirs.
So the wealthy have influenced the tax code by squeezing any benefits that might go to the less fortunate. It is no longer easy to own rental properties or to have an office in your home. No breaks for you. Many right-wingers are trying to remove the standard deductions from wage earners. They complain that some people pay no taxes, while in fact all of us do pay taxes, whether property taxes or sales taxes or even Social Security taxes.
Imagine that. The rich pay Social Security taxes, too. But the taxes have a cap, so they only pay the same as the median workers. And although they don’t need Social Security to survive, they can still collect it. Given that the wealthy are far more likely to have good and unlimited health care than the working poor, they might live longer to collect more of the Social Security pot. And still they want to eliminate it. Why?
If you make a decent living and pay into Social Security all your life, what are the chances that you will live long enough to recoup the money that you paid in? You wait until you qualify for your full amount to retire, and you’re dead two years later.
My point with all of this is that the system is set up so that the very wealthy can benefit so much that their wealth will never be in jeopardy, that they would have to be complete incompetents to ever be reduced to poverty, while the “average” Americans are only one health care problem or bank crash from losing everything they own.
Now, if I were the Mittster, and I could get away with only releasing one or two years’ of taxes, I’d certainly not pick the years that were the most damning. I’d pick the ones with as little information as could be used against me. So the threat is real. At present, the types of perfectly legitimate yet onerous deductions and breaks are unknown to the press and the public, but those other years’ taxes could be so egregious that only mental patients could possibly cast a vote for the Romney.
Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is, that is already a truism.