Mittimal Damage


After being badgered incessantly by Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum, “vulture capitalist” Romney finally released his tax filings. We finally got to see what dirt was being covered up in his returns.

And the dirt was — nothing!

The press sifted through the 500 plus pages of Romney’s 2010 filing (and his projected filing for 2011), desperately looking for something to hit him with, and Romney came out totally clean. The media mission was to find new material that their guy Obama could use to bash Romney, but the mission was an abject failure.

True, the released material shows Romney to be a very rich man. But the filings only confirm what anybody could have found by Google-searching the dude and reading his Wiki entry, to wit, that he is worth around a quarter of a billion bucks. Listen, don’t get me wrong: I would love to have that kind of scratch. But it doesn’t put the man on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list — he’s nowhere as wealthy as such media-darling leftist billionaires as Warren Buffett and George Soros.

Progressives are cheap when it comes to spending their own money to help others. They are generous only with other people’s money.

To be precise, in 2010 Romney earned $21.7 million, of which $12.6 million was capital gains, $3.3 million taxable interest, $4.9 million dividend income, and the remaining million or so money coming from various business gains, refunds, and speaking fees. Romney gave a whopping $3 million to charity — about 14% of his income.

Taxes on cap gains, dividends, and interest rates are a flat 15%, and charitable donations are quite legally deductible — which explains why he “only” paid about $3 million in taxes (about a 14% effective tax rate).

In short, he legitimately minimized his taxes, and paid no more than he was legally required to. This puts him in the same boat as the rest of us, Obama and Biden (and Buffett and Soros) included. I confess that I try to minimize my taxes legally. I never — repeat, never — pay more than the law requires, and I have nowhere near Romney’s tax burden.

The mainstream media was reduced to nitpicking. It turns out, for example, that Romney — whose portfolio is in a blind trust, please note, so invests without his knowledge or control — had small investments in Swiss and Cayman Island accounts. All quite legal if declared to the government — and it was.

Of his generous charitable giving, half of it went to the Mormon church, and the rest to a variety of charities, including one for researching MS (an ailment that afflicts his wife).

His projected 2011 filing, which he has promised to release in April when it is filed, shows similar income, charitable outlays, and tax rate.

There is no doubt that Obama will use as much of this as he can to hammer Romney in the fall, assuming that Romney is the Republican nominee, which I regard as virtually certain. But there is little ammo here.

Indeed, Romney’s lavish charitable giving actually underscores Obama’s cheapness when it comes to charitable giving. Compare the nearly 14% of his income ($3,000,000) that Romney gave, to what the Obamas did: from 2000 through 2004, they gave about 1% to charity (or less than $11,000), and in 2007 they gave 5.7% (or about $240,000). Even more tight-fisted was VP Joe Biden, who averaged a pathetic 0.3% (a truly risible $349) in annual charitable giving in the decade before he became vice president, and not much more since. Last year, Biden gave 1.4% ($5,300) to charity. Truly nothing compared to Romney.

The national average for giving is about 5%.

This illustrates the thesis of Arthur Brook’s estimable Who Really Cares?, a book I reviewed for these pages some time back (March 2009, 43–6): the progressives are cheap when it comes to spending their own money to help others. They are generous only with other people’s money.

Even the 14% tax rate that Romney enjoys is hard to use against him. Remember, the John Kerry household paid 13%, and the Democrats had no problem voting for him as their nominee. And for Obama to push the capital gains and dividend rates back up is for him to risk a major downturn on the stock market, as well as in the lavish support he is getting from his billionaire buddies. That could cost him the election.

In the end, after relentless attacks by Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum, all that has been revealed about Romney is that he legally and ethically earned a large amount of money, paid his taxes, and is a devout member of his church. In short, what is known now is what everybody knew all along.

Given that Obama has few accomplishments he can run on, we can also expect from him what we knew all along. His likely $2 billion reelection campaign (the $1 billion his campaign will have to spend, and the $1 billion that will be spent by groups that support him) will be entirely negative. And it will be as repetitive as it will be negative. It will simply repeat that Romney is rich, rich, rich! And he is white, white, white! And he is Mormon, Mormon, Mormon!

I am weary already.

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Jon Harrison

Excellent points regarding the Mittster's tax returns. The guy has played by the rules; it's not his fault that he's paying "only" about 15%. And his charitable giving is pretty impressive, although one should note that the majority of it goes to the Mormon Church (Mormons are required to tithe).

I doubt the Obama campaign will make Mormonism an issue. The people who are worried about electing a Mormon president are right-wing Christians who hate Obama; Mitt's Mormonism will not cause them to vote Democratic. Similarly, it seems highly unlikely that the Obama campaign will make an issue, even subliminally, of Romney's whiteness. Last I looked a majority of the electorate was still Caucasian. And I don't think a race card will be necessary to get most nowhites to vote for Obama. Perhaps the last three sentences of the second-to-last paragraph are just the usual hyperbole, and not serioulsy meant.

Be that as it may, I find it interesting from a sociological viewpoint that so many middle-aged white males (committed lefties excepted), from gun-toting rural folk to obscure suburban academics, have such a deep hatred for Obama. The venom never seemed quite so poisonous when Jimmy Carter or Teddy Kennedy was the target. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have to think that there's a certain amount of "ressentiment" at work that wouldn't be present had Barack been born paler.

Gary Jason

Regarding Mormonism, I never said Obama would PERSONALLY attack them; no, he will be content to allow super-pacs working on his behalf to do that. They will cleverly spend lavishly in areas where evangelical Christians live, hoping to depress the vote by arousing latent resentment of the LDS church. A report out already notes Obama is sending administrative aids and campaign allies out to organize and structure pac attacks. (see:

Regarding the race card, oh, please, give me a break. It was played heavily in the last election, especially in Latino areas. Reid explicitly said that no decent Mexican-American, and this has been echoed by members of the Regime regularly. Again--watch the super-pacs...they are going to push race to win the Latino vote and get out the black vote.

That is not hyperbole, but an honest description of what I think we will see. I know you support the guy, which is your right, but I report honestly what I see.

Jon Harrison

I don't support Obama, except perhaps as the lesser of two evils. I haven't voted since 1988, and I won't be voting this time either. If Rand Paul is the Republican nominee at some point in my lifetime, I'd seriously consider voting for him, just to see the boat get rocked. Of course, the possibility of a libertarian becoming president at any future time is quite small.

In my view the United States is both irredeemable and (contrary to the views of Mark Steyn, Pat Buchanan, etc.) likely to be around for a long time to come. I continue to observe and comment on American politics because I'm stuck here; there's no place else I want to live. And this godforsaken country is still a paradise compared to most of the rest of the world.

When you explain more fully what you mean about using Romney's whiteness against him with some voters, I at least understand what you are driving at. The manner in which you originally expressed yourself made it seem as if you were predicting a blatant race-baiting strategy. This apparently was not your intention.

Targeting evangelicals regarding Romney's Mormonism to suppress turnout would be nothing special in American politics. Scapegoating and fear-mongering have been part of American elections since the 1790s. The Republicans pefected this form of electioneering under Karl Rove. All's fair if you can get away with it in the squalid world of American politics.

Since I'm posting here about politics, I'll use a line to say again that Obama's gonna be re-elected, no matter who the Republican nominee is. That is, assuming he can correct the egregious error his HHS secretary made this week when she imposed government rules about contraception/sterilization/abortion on Catholic organizations. And assuming he can avoid such utterly stupid political moves in the future. He's a very smart politician; therefore I think this misstep will be retraced and future missteps avoided.


Yet Romney still wants to tax many americans at rates at least 2, and up to 3 times what he's paying.

I could care less what he pays in taxes. What I'm concerned about is how much he wants to force me to pay.


I pretty much agree with all of this.

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