As regular readers have probably noticed, I’m disgusted with this whole media-fabricated “scandal” over Mitt Romney’s taxes. During Monday night’s debate Romney said that the overall effective income tax rate he’d paid for 2010 was around 15%. (His tax rate is much lower today than it was back in his Bain Capital days, because most of his recent income comes from capital gains on investments, which are typically taxed at 15%.) The media quickly erupted with stories claiming, falsely, that this effective tax rate is lower than the rate paid by most middle class workers.
The media treatment of this so-called issue is false in two ways. First, as I pointed out in my last two posts, the tax system in this country is actually steeply progressive. Media claims that “most middle class workers” pay higher effective income tax rates than Romney are just plain lies.
In Tuesday night’s post I showed how most lower income workers actually get welfare from the IRS. In Wednesday night’s post I filled in a few sample IRS 1040 forms to calculate effective income tax rates for typical middle class taxpayers, to demonstrate how progressive the current tax system is.
That brings me to my second point.
The second phony and unfair aspect of the attacks is the implication that Romney, even if he were paying a below-average tax rate, should somehow be criticized personally for this.
As I was filling in those tax forms yesterday my eyes landed on the line we are all familiar with, the line where the taxpayer signs his return.
Federal law requires every taxpayer to sign his own return, even if he had professional help in preparing it. Right above the line for the signature are the familiar and chilling words “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete.”
Assuming that Romney doesn’t want to go to prison for fraud, he must have accurately reported his investment income (which is taxed at 15%) as investment income, and his income from any wages he might have gotten as wage income. There is no line on the form where the filer can ask to have his investment income taxed at a higher rate, the form only asks the filer how much investment income he received.
Romney, in other words, would have had to perjure himself in order to pay a higher tax rate.
So there you have it. The news media, partisan as always, has portrayed Romney as a villain because he complied with federal law when filing his tax return, which actually put his effective income tax rate higher than what anyone in the middle class pays anyway.
This is pure partisanship on the part of the press. Nobody at CBS News tried to stir up a scandal when Presidential candidate John Kerry paid only a 13.4% tax rate on his five million dollar income; only talk radio listeners and Washington Times readers heard anything about it. Kerry had the right letter after his name, so the media didn’t see anything wrong with his tax rate.
The media and the other Democrats are trying to kill two birds with one stone with this phony Romney scandal. By claiming that lower income workers pay higher taxes than the rich, they stir up the usual left wing envy and resentments, and build pressure for an even more progressive tax system than we already have. And, of course, they start the process of undermining support for the likely Republican (i.e. “evil”) candidate for President.