Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

More Questions Than Answers About Romney’s Taxes

25 Sep

On Friday, Mitt Romney belatedly released just a single additional tax return — his 2011 filing — and a cryptic summary of the previous two decades. The summary featured no details about any individual year. And as for the 2011 return, it was cooked to produce a higher tax rate — and more favorable headlines — for Romney, calling into question what else in this and other returns was manipulated to produce a more favorable appearance.

Here’s ten questions about his taxes that Mitt Romney still needs to answer:

1. After the election, when the subject of your tax returns is outside of the public glare, will you file an amended tax return to claim your full deduction of charitable contributions? Was the tax rate you reported for other years similarly manipulated?

2. Why was your 2011 income $7 million lower than you estimated it to be in January? How does someone overestimate their income by $7 million?

3. Financial disclosures show that you have as much as $82 million in your tax-deferred Individual Retirement Account, despite the fact that tax rules limited contributions into such accounts to $30,000 per year. Did you lowball the value of the assets you put into your IRA, as tax experts suspect? And did you do the same with gifts into your sons’ trusts?

4. What was the purpose of your Swiss bank account and the myriad offshore entities shown on your return, based in countries like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, if not to avoid taxes?

5. Can you explain what one tax expert has called a “mysterious one-time infusion of foreign tax credits” in 2008?

6. You have not disclosed any foreign bank account reports (FBARs). Did you file all FBARs on all of your offshore accounts with the Treasury Department by the legal deadlines each year?

7. You claim to have paid an average tax rate of 20 percent over the last 20 years based on a flawed calculationWhat was your real tax rate?

8. Your 14 percent tax rate –- not to mention the approximately 10 percent tax rate you would have paid had you not inflated it — is less than what many middle-class Americans pay. And you paid just 0.2% of your income in payroll taxes, while most Americans pay about 15%. Do you think that is fair?

9. Your tax returns show that the Marriott Corporation paid you $260,390 in directors’ fees in 2011. When you were the company’s audit committee chair in the 1990s, were you aware that the company was abusing a notorious illegal tax shelter?

10. You say you’ve made a “commitment to the public” that your tax rate should not be below 13 percent. If you believe that the richest Americans shouldn’t be paying an exceptionally low tax rate, why don’t you support President Obama’s “Buffett Rule”?

In fairness, Romney actually did answer question number eight during a 60 Minutes interview that aired last night. Romney argued that it is indeed “fair” for him to pay a lower tax rate on millions in investment income than a middle class worker pays on $50,000 in wages:

Pelley: Now, you made on your investments, personally, about $20 million last year. And you paid 14 percent in federal taxes. That’s the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes $50,000 and paid a higher rate than you did?

Romney: It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35 percent.

Pelley: So you think it is fair?

Romney: Yeah, I think it’s the right way to encourage economic growth, to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.

Not only does none other than Ronald Reagan disagree with Romney, but his economic argument is also wrong. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy ushered in the weakest job growth in decades. Lower taxes on the wealthy do not lead to job growth. In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for Mitt Romney to come clean about both his tax returns and plans to increase taxes on the middle class while slashing them even further for the wealthiest Americans.


FAMiLY LEADER: Meet The Radical Group Driving The GOP Primary

13 Jul


Much of the news around the 2012 Republican primary over the past few days has been driven by a highly controversial pledge offered by a radical conservative group in Iowa, the the FAMiLY LEADER (the lowercase “i” represents individual submission before God). Here’s what you need to know about the group and its leader, Bob Vander Plaats.

WHO: Bob Vander Plaats is a thrice-failed Iowa gubernatorial candidate who successfully led a campaign last year to oust three of the nine Iowa Supreme Court justices who backed a unanimous decision in favor of marriage equality. Vander Plaats then took over leadership of the FAMiLY LEADER and is now positioning himself as the 2012 Iowa caucus kingmaker, having led Mike Huckabee’s successful 2008 caucus campaign. More recently, Vander Plaats has also tried to position himself as a Tea Party leader.

Other fast facts on Vander Plaats:

WHAT: The FAMiLY LEADER, a Christian conservative group with radical anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and other extreme views.

WHERE: The group and its affiliated organizations are based just outside Des Moines, Iowa.

WHY THEY MATTER: Social conservatives dominate the GOP base in Iowa, and Vander Plaats is angling to be the gatekeeper for those voters.

The FAMiLY LEADER has been hosting a presidential lecture series for the past several months, with each candidate coming to Iowa in turn and traveling the state with Vander Plaats to speak to conservative audiences. The candidates who participated in these events were Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.

The group will host its own presidential debate in November, after which Vander Plaats will make his endorsement.

WHAT IS IN THEIR PLEDGE: Last week, the FAMiLY LEADER unveiled an extremely controversial 14-point “Marriage Vow” pledge that any candidate who wants to be endorsed by the group must sign. Here are its key elements (more details can be found here):

  • Black children born into slavery were better off than black children born today (The group deleted this “misconstrued” provision after massive public outcry.)
  • Personality fidelity to his/her spouse
  • Married people have better sex and lead healthier lives
  • Homosexuality is a choice
  • Homosexuality is a public health threat
  • Homosexuality is like polygamy, adultery, and polyandry
  • Porn should be banned
  • “Sharia Islam” must be rejected
  • Must uphold the Defense of Marriage Act and refuse to define marriage as anything other than one man, one woman
  • Appoint strict constitutionalists as judges
  • Shrink the size of government

WHO HAS SIGNED THE PLEDGE: Bachmann and Santorum almost immediately signed the pledge (including its offensive pro-slavery provision); Jon Huntsman declined on the grounds that he does not sign any pledges; thrice-married Gingrich declined to sign during an appearance yesterday with Vander Plaats, citing the need for unspecified “across the board” changes to the pledge; and Gary Johnson attacked it as discriminatory and “un-Republican.” Others have until Aug. 1 to respond.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT THE GOP: Its Christian conservative base has become extreme, out-of-touch, and fixated on things of little concern to most Americans.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT THE 2012 CANDIDATES: Most of them are willing be to directly associated with extreme, highly-offensive views in order to win over the most conservative segment of the GOP base during the primary.

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Republican Posturing on START

14 Jul

Last week former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney threw his hat into the foreign policy ring in an error-filled Washington Post op-ed calling the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) — signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in April– Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake.” Romney’s op-ed led to a vehement response from foreign policy leaders and experts from across the political divide. Yet it also coincided with the emergence of a new action campaign from the conservative Heritage Foundation that laid out two objectives: repealing health care reform and stopping the New START treaty. However, these efforts are being countered and a new Lawrence Bender film titled “Countdown to Zero,” set for release on July 23, promises to raise awareness of nuclear weapons issues just as An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change. It is now a pivotal time for the New START treaty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should soon vote on the treaty, and the White House has indicated that it wants a full Senate vote this year. While Republican obstructionism in the Senate has impeded progress on issue after issue, Republican support is required to achieve the 67 votes needed to ratify the New START treaty. Past arms control treaties have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and START should as well, as it is merely an update and extension of the original START treaty negotiated by Ronald Reagan. It also has the unanimous support of the military and strong backing from many of the most senior Republican foreign policy officials, including Henry KissingerRichard LugarGeorge SchultzJames Baker, Brent ScowcroftColin PowellJames Schlesinger and Stephen Hadley. The upcoming votes on START therefore provide a critical litmus test for whether Republicans have moved well to the extreme right of Reagan and now have no problem playing politics with the nuclear security of the country.

ROMNEY’S FAILURE: Following Romney’s op-ed, which laid out a series of long discredited and specious arguments, military reporter Fred Kaplan wrote, “In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and — let’s not mince words — thoroughly ignorant as Mitt Romney’s attack on the New START treaty in the July 6 Washington Post.” Senator John Kerry (D-MA) responded the very next day in the Washington Post, “the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing. Sadly, former governor Mitt Romney failed that test. … When it comes to nuclear danger, the nation’s security is more important than scoring cheap political points.” In a rare intra-party rebuke, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) called Romney “misinformed,” adding, “Governor Mitt Romney’s hyperbolic attack on the New START Treaty…repeats discredited objections and appears unaware of arms control history and context.” Former Georgia senator and noted leader on national security and nuclear issues Sam Nunn remarked, “I didn’t see a single reference in the Romney article…to catastrophic terrorism, I didn’t see a single reference to U.S.-Russia cooperation required to keep materials out of the hands of terrorists. … It could be captioned: ‘I’d rather run for President than learn about national security.’ Very little in that article was either accurate or relevant.” By the end of the week, Romney had been so thoroughly discredited that Max Fischer in the Atlantic summarized the response by saying that besides Romney himself, “most everyone else thinks that Romney is making a spectacle of himself.” Wall Street Journal political reporter Gary Seib asked whether Romney’s foray into national security was a blunder.
MODEST START: The New START treaty is rather uncontroversial. The original START treaty was vigorously pursued by Reagan and was ratified by a vote of 93-6 under President George H.W. Bush in 1992; eight current sitting Republican senators even voted for the initial treaty. It set verifiable limits on strategic nuclear weapons and the launchers used to deliver them. It also helped create vital nuclear stability between the U.S. and Russia by placing inspectors on the ground and setting up extensive verification and monitoring systems. Through this information sharing, U.S. military planners gained confidence and awareness of Russian nuclear activities and vice-versa. The New START treaty signed in April sets modestly lower limits on warheads and launchers, and perhaps more importantly, extends and updates the original verification and monitoring regime. Complaints from the far right that Russia cannot be trusted enough to enter into this treaty have it exactly backwards. The verification and monitoring measures exist because neither side completely trusts the other. The original START treaty expired last December and therefore every day that goes by without a vote on the new treaty, the U.S. military loses valuable information and intelligence on the Russian nuclear arsenal. This is why the New START has the full backing of the military and a growing consensus of bipartisan national security leaders. Even former Bush adviser Karl Rove called it a “helpful” and modest treaty.

GOP LITMUS TEST: While the New START treaty is relatively modest, the implications of it failing to be ratified are anything but. Rejecting this treaty means eliminating the framework that has ensured nuclear stability between the U.S. and Russia in the post Cold War era. With the loss of nuclear monitoring, suspicions, tension, and uncertainty would grow, which is unhelpful for two super powers that continue to have nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. A failure to ratify the treaty would strike a severe, perhaps fatal, blow to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, possibly leading to a new cascade of nuclear proliferation across the world. The non-proliferation regime is founded on a grand bargain between nuclear and non-nuclear states, where non-nuclear states agree not to obtain the bomb and, in exchange, nuclear states agree to cut their arsenals and share civilian nuclear power technology. Should the U.S. reject a treaty like START and fail to uphold its end of the nuclear bargain, non-nuclear states could easily balk at upholding their end. Consequently, any effort to control nuclear materials and prevent nuclear terrorism would also likely fray and the threat of nuclear terrorism would grow, especially since START’s rejection would also prevent further far reaching talks to address Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons that are more prone to falling in the hands of terrorists. This is how the world can descend past the nuclear tipping point and how a new anarchical nuclear age comes about. Since the implications of START’s failure are so severe, should Republican senators decide to reject or obstruct the New START treaty, it would signal both a dramatic and dangerous shift to the extreme right, as well as a reckless willingness to play politics with the nuclear security of the United States.

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