Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mitt's Taxes

Mitt’s Taxes

          For much of the summer, much of the Left (Democratic politicians and the “mainstream” media) have been making a big deal about Mitt Romney’s tax returns.  Well, Friday they were released.  His accounting firm had finished them and we now have his entire 2010 and 2011 taxes, as well as a notarized letter from the firm stating that over the past 20+ years, he has paid all his taxes, and they gave us his effective tax rate and his charitable contribution rate since 1990.
          I consider this a relevant topic for a Catholic blog for two reasons.  First, the full extent of the scandal perpetuated by the Left over this issue has been revealed.  I do not expect there to be any accountability for it, but as Americans, when we see corruption of this sort, we should be able to expect it. 
What do I mean?  Most glaringly there is Harry Reid’s accusation that Romney had not paid taxes for ten years.  We know definitively now that that charge is false.  I will assume the best possible motive for Mr. Reid and give him the benefit of the doubt that some anti-Romney voter, perhaps even a former Bain employee, made the false charge.  However, Mr. Reid’s publicizing it, especially on the floor of the Senate, is inexcusable.
The new rhetoric is predictable, but disheartening, and that is the second reason I find this relevant for a Catholic blog.  From the Obama campaign, we are hearing that Romney’s effective tax rate of approximately 14 percent proves that there are tax evasion loopholes available for the rich that are not available to the rest of us.
The main “loophole” in question is the capital gains tax rate, since the vast majority of Mr. Romney’s income came from investments.  This is a “loophole” available to all of us (I have enjoyed it myself, as has Mr. Obama, I believe).  If he wants to argue that it is too low and that it allows the wealthy to pay less in taxes than they should, he may have a valid argument.  However, as President, Mr. Obama did nothing to raise the rate, even when he had Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress.  He also has to acknowledge that his new biggest supporter, Bill Clinton, actually lowered the rate five percent as President (as did President Bush).
Mr. Romney did not choose the capital gains tax rate, in fact he has had nothing to do with it.  The government decided what he was to be charged in taxes, and he paid it.  In fact, since he gave 30% of his income to charity last year and only claimed half on his tax return, he could have legally, and without any apology necessary, paid less.
So what’s the point?  Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are both rich guys, and they both pay a lower effective tax rate than we might expect.  But neither have broken any tax laws, which is all we should care about as voters.  The fact that Mr. Romney gives so much to charity is nice, but not overly relevant.
The point, then, is that we need to have more responsibility among politicians and the media.  The fact that we were treated to completely outrageous and baseless accusations against Mr. Romney all summer should make us angry.  As Catholics and Americans we must demand better.  Anyone can make a mistake and say something stupid, but the rate at which such things came at Mr. Romney is totally indefensible.
Worse than that is what we’re still getting from the media.  I don’t mind opinion shows having strong opinions.  But “news” media are trying desperately to decide the outcome of this election by deciding which stories to cover, how prominently, what the spin will be, and which stories to bury.  Again, this leaves us with a responsibility.  How do we demand a more responsible media?  Letters, emails and phone calls are good, though they can be ignored, unless enough start to come in.  However, like anything, the media is a business, and they should have to earn our business.  Most have not.  Finally, if we have a career in media, it is critical that we perform our duties with honesty and integrity.  Not only will we be honoring our countrymen, we will be honoring our God.