It is becoming more and more obvious with each passing day, that one presidential candidate is being open & honest about the income and financial affairs of he and his wife -- and the other presidential candidate is not. As the top chart shows, President Obama has released his tax returns for the last 12 years. But Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) has not even come close to that. He has released his return for only one year (and an "estimate" of another year). Why?
It's not like other Republicans didn't release their own tax returns for several years. Most of Romney's Republican opponents did so, and they all asked for Romney to do the same. Hell, even Romney's own father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president. But then Romney's father paid his fair share of taxes, and did not try to dodge paying taxes by hiding money in overseas accounts.
But Mitt is not his father. As the bottom chart above shows, Mitt has hidden money in at least seven other countries, and in six of those overseas accounts he has refused to even reveal how much money he has in the accounts. Why won't he reveal his finances? Why won't he reveal his tax returns? Is it something as simple as he doesn't want Americans to know just how truly wealthy he is -- that the $250 million he admits to is only the tip of his financial iceberg?
Or is it something much more sinister -- like tax evasion? We already know he paid a lower tax rate on $21 million in income in 2010 than most middle class Americans must pay on only a 5-digit income. Could he have made much more than $21 million and hid it in the overseas accounts (many of which are notorious for being havens for tax-dodgers) to avoid paying taxes in America? His refusal to release his tax returns or his financial information makes that seem highly likely.
Last Tuesday Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) tried to cover for Romney by saying "it's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally". That's a ridiculous statement -- and one that should anger most Americans. Very few Americans (and none that aren't super-rich like Romney) have overseas accounts and refuse to reveal what is in those accounts. And most Americans pay their taxes without trying to hide anything. In fact, the majority don't even itemize deductions -- using either a 1040EZ or a 1040A form which allows only the standard deduction. Romney (and Graham) may be tax evaders, but most Americans are not. They may not be happy about it, but they honestly pay what they owe. Here's how the New York Times puts it in their editorial:
"Paying taxes forthrightly has long been a matter of civic pride for most American politicians, a demonstration of honesty and of a willingness to share in society's burdens. Since the Watergate era, presidential candidates have released several years of tax returns, allowing voters to peer at their financial choices and discern their entanglements."
"Mitt Romney has upended that tradition this year. He has released only one complete tax return, for 2010, along with an unfinished estimate of his 2011 taxes. What information he did release provides a fuzzy glimpse at a concerted effort to park much of his wealth in overseas tax shelters, suggesting a widespread pattern of tax avoidance unlike that of any previous candidate."
The United States has never had a president who hid a large part of their wealth in overseas bank accounts (whether it is a scheme to avoid taxes or not), and this is not the time to elect one -- especially in the middle of this jobless recession when millions of Americans are having trouble just making ends meet financially. The president should be a shining example for other Americans in paying taxes -- not a person who hides his wealth and dodges paying his taxes by using overseas accounts.
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