Mitt Romney now says those who think he doesn't pay enough taxes should include his charitable giving - much to his own church and all of it already taken as tax deductions - because that would boost his effective tax rate from 13 percent to above 20 percent.
Does he really think his taxes are a charitable gift to the government? Is he that arrogant or does he just think we're that gullible?
Romney has steadfastly refused to release more than his full 2010 return and partial returns for 2011. He also refuses to identify his major fundraisers and bundlers. He and his wife defend their secrecy by insisting the Democrats and the media will only pick over any data they release instead of focusing on the issues.
Democrats made Romney an offer he could refuse – and did. Instead of living up to his father's example of releasing 12 years' of return, make it only five and we won't ask for any more, Obama's campaign manager told his opposite number.
No thanks, said the Romneys.
The presumptive GOP nominee said he looked at his past tax returns and he paid about 13 percent a year for the last 10 years, so there's no need to release his them. How do we know? Trust me, he said. His wife chimed in that her husband is an honest man so take him at his word and quit pestering him.
One commentator said that response was like the athlete who refused to take a drug test but assured everyone he had never used any illegal substances.
Romney's taxes are not a diversionary tactic. Politicians of all stripes release theirs because it builds public trust. Refusal undermines that trust. What is Romney hiding?
Did that 13 percent cover only federal income taxes? Yes, his staff said, trust me. Does that include taxes on real estate holdings, personal property, foreign tax credits? What about sources of income? How much has he stashed away in offshore accounts?
He obviously thinks he pays too much because he has proposed cutting taxes on himself and his fellow millionaires even deeper, and his running mate has been pushing a plan, which Romney endorsed, cutting his taxes to about 1 percent.
The longer Romney refuses to open his tax returns the more people will be convinced he has something big to hide and the more doubts voters will have about him. He could have ended this debate many months ago when his Republican rivals were the ones making the demands. Now it is the Democrats, and for them his refusal is a gift that keeps on giving.
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