"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Romney's Taxes

Mitt Romney ought to have released his tax returns a lot sooner, both to forestall the ridiculous attacks on his wealth from people like Newt Gingrich who ought to know better, and because they both show several good things about him and also allow him to make some important points.   Anyway, he has now released his 2010 return, and according to a WSJ summary, here's what they show:

Mr. Romney reported $21.7 million in income. He paid $3 million in federal taxes, slightly more than the $2.98 million he made in charitable donations. At least $1.5 million of his charitable donations went to the Mormon Church.

Of Mr. Romney's 2010 income, he noted a capital gain of $12.6 million, taxable interest of $3.3 million, ordinary dividends of $4.9 million and smaller sums of gains and losses on business income, refunds and other income.

To my eye, here's what this information tells me.   First, Romney has been extraordinarily successful.   The capital gains income means he liquidated tens of millions of dollars of stock holdings, money that he had put at risk investing after having earned it in the first place and after having already paid income taxes on it once.   Same with the interest income, same with the dividend income -- this is the second go-round on being taxed on this money.   If I were him, I'd make that point over and over again -- I already paid income taxes on this once, I invested it, put it at risk, in the stocks of companies that hire employees, and now I am paying taxes on it again.   Oh, and by the way, when I die, I'll have to pay taxes on it a third time under current law.   So if you don't like my tax "rate" because it's mostly based on the 15% capital gains tax rate because you don't think that's "fair," we have a different idea of "fairness."

Second, Romney gives a hell of a lot of money to his church.   Essentially tithing -- paying 10% or so of his after-tax income to his church.   That's a good thing, in my book.   To put it in perspective, he gives substantially more to his church annually than the 1500 middle-class families in our old parish gave.   Compare and contrast to the charitable giving by Al Gore or Joe Biden, which has been well-documented.   Republicans and conservatives who are churchgoers are generous people.  

Third, Romney also obviously gives a hell of a lot of money to other charities.   Again, a very good thing.   Does it show that Romney is a good man and would make a good President?   Not necessarily.   But it certainly doesn't prove anything bad about him.  

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