Spin Suffers Minor Setback on Tax Returns

I think Tom Hamburger, a reporter for The Washington Post, took one for the team on Labor Day.  He wrote a front page article entitled “Mitt Romney exited Bain Capital with rare tax benefits in retirement.”   http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mitt-romney-exited-bain-capital-with-rare-tax-benefits-in-retirement/2012/09/02/1bddc8de-ec85-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html 

Based on 38 years as a lawyer, six as an investment banker and 17 as an investment advisor (there was a lot of overlap), Hamburger seems to have gotten the article right enough. Well done. Not easy.

All that work enables his employer to claim that it has written something serious.  Publishing it on Labor Day enables that same employer to assure that nobody read it.  Of course, this was overkill because who wants to read 2484 words about tax returns? Sound bites and innuendo are much more fun. Let’s try one-sixth the word count on a better day.

What the political scrum wants is  the dollop of dudgeon that the tax returns are not being made available to be both misunderstood and not read.

Did the Romneys comply with the law? No source disagreed, and Hamburger leads with a “scrupulous” compliance quote from a campaign spokeswoman.

Can all of us do this? Nope, we’d have to be very rich and hire some fancy talent.

Was it fair? Probably not if you think of “fair” as “equal” but “fair” might also mean following the rules. To make it look better, others probably got more. By the way, the fairness argument would only apply to those who created the tax law not those who complied with it.

Does Romney have a lot of money in his retirement accounts? Damn right he does: high eight figures; maybe nine. Bain did well for its clients, and clients love managers who eat their own cooking. Romney ate Bain’s cooking to great advantage.

Did he get a very good deal when he retired from Bain? Yes. Was it appropriate for the founder of a  notably successful  privately held company. Depends on your point of view.

Does it look good? Here’s the final paragraph: “Some tax experts worry that the arrangements Romney benefits from set a bad precedent for a president. ‘He looks for every tax angle to a degree that is unbecoming in someone who would be the executive in command of the administrative apparatus that enforces the tax law,’ said Lee Sheppard, a tax lawyer and contributing editor for Tax Analysts, a publication for accounting and legal professionals.”

Unbecoming? Did I miss all the people who pay extra tax because it is “becoming?”

Quick question: Would we need a publication like Tax Analysts if we had a tax law that made any sense? Can we divert some dudgeon to that?

One Response to “Spin Suffers Minor Setback on Tax Returns”

Sellers McKee, September 07, 2012 at 7:42 am said:

What part of “scrupulous” do the critics not understand? Too big a word for union members? A flat tax would have solved the problem in the past and it would solve the problem today. The only problem is that 50% or 60% paying nothing today would also have to pay their “fair share.” Fair is only fair when the other guy bears the burden, I guess.
I saw one comment comparing what Romney has done with “insider trading.” Are people that ignorant of the law? Insider trading is against the law (a felony anyone?). Romney didn’t write the tax laws and is probably not fully aware of what his tax lawyers and accountants have done to his advantage. The code is so complex that no one but a tax professional has a chance of understanding it.


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