Reactions to Romney’s tax returns

How the pundits are responding to the release of Mitt's 2011 figures

Topics: Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Paul Ryan, Tax Returns, 2012 Elections, ,

Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax returns today. Here are assessments from a few notable pundits:

Steve Benen, Maddow Blog:

“This can get a little complicated, so let’s be clear about the details. If Romney had simply filed normally, taking all of the deductions to which he’s legally entitled, he would have paid an effective tax rate of about 9 percent.

But that would have proven politically problematic, so purely for show, he deliberately overpaid the IRS, in order to increase his tax rate, on purpose. Romney was in the rather extraordinary position of selecting his own preferred tax rate, and then working backwards from there.

In other words, Romney chose to under-deduct and overpay his tax bill because he’s running for office for Pete’s sake. That’s not my argument; that’s the Romney campaign’s argument.”

Alex Castellanos, Mitt Romney’s strategist in 2008, to Politico’s Maggie Haberman:

“At first I thought this was an April Fool’s Joke. But it isn’t April. I can’t imagine that David Axelrod will now say, I’m glad Mitt put this issue behind him. This will drag Mitt’s taxes back into the debate. And there’s not many days left. I just can’t imagine why they would do this. There are 40 days left and you have now made more of them about Mitt’s taxes …. you don’t serve a life sentence and then confess afterward. They’ve taken their beating on this (already) … I just don’t understand how a (being) ‘little pregnant’ strategy (works).”

Adam Serwer, Mother Jones:



“Forget for a second that Romney once said that paying more in taxes than owed would disqualify someone from running for president. The cynical answer here is that Romney deliberately paid more in taxes because he’s “running for office for pete’s sake.” But his doing so undercuts one of his core policy arguments: That tax rates on the wealthy are too high. Not only that, but as revealed in the recording of a private fundraiser published by Mother Jones, Romney believes that those who pay income taxes are financing the laziness of those who don’t, even though that’s not a realistic description of Americans don’t pay income taxes.

Yet Romney just opted to shovel more cash to those he sees as irresponsible moochers, because paying an even lower tax rate might harm his chances of getting elected. The best part? If he loses, he might be able to file an amended return and claim those deductions anyway.”

Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post:

“The choice to not take the deduction allowed Romney to inflate his tax rate to 14.1 percent. The difference between his charitable giving of more than $4 million and his claimed deductions of $2.25 million increased his tax bill by several hundred thousand dollars, as he paid taxes he didn’t have to on nearly two million dollars.

Luckily for Romney, after the election he can recoup that money. If the American people reject him at the polls in November — and even if they don’t — Romney would be fully within his legal rights to file an amended return, requiring the Treasury to cut him a substantial check.”

Timothy Noah, The New Republic:

“If the 13.66 percent figure is correct, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was wrong when he accused Romney of having paid no income tax over a ten-year period. There wasn’t even a single year in which Romney paid zero taxes. However, 13.66 percent is a pretty low rate. During those years Romney’s fellow one-percenters paid more like 20 percent. Assuming Romney’s tax preparer signs that notarized letter to be released at 3 p.m., he may find himself picking up a lot of new customers for 2012.”

Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast:

“On the surface, there was nothing terribly damaging in the documents released Friday…Which raises the obvious question: why on earth didn’t Romney do this sooner? Why didn’t he put the questions and criticism to rest by releasing more returns, or at least the numbers? Has a small army of accountants been poring over the returns since the primaries?”

Guy Benson, Townhall.com:

“It’s official: The Romney campaign possesses a wicked sense of humor and an enviable degree of patience.  After months of caterwauling, breathless innuendo and baseless slander, the Democrats and their media allies are being treated to a Friday feast of piping hot crow.”

Jacob Weisberg, Slate:

“But as much as it reveals the absurdities of Mitt Romney, his voluntary overpayment underscores the absurdities of the current tax system. Romney owes so little because of the tax code’s favoritism toward the rich. Whereas the top rate on salary, wages, and tips is 35 percent, the top rate on interest, dividends, and long-term capital gains is only 15 percent. This is economically inefficient, because it encourages businesses and individuals to structure their affairs to take advantage of the differential. It is also instinctively unfair, because it privileges a hedge-fund manager’s carried interest over a factory worker’s wages.”

Noam Scheiber,  The New Republic:

“By my calculations, Romney could have saved another $262,500 (15 percent of $1.75 million) had he deducted the full amount of his charitable contributions. But that would have left him with an effective tax rate of 12.2% — which is to say, more than a percentage point below what he said he’d paid when responding to Reid’s allegations. I think the least the majority leader could do is buy him a nice dinner.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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