Thursday, July 19, 2012

Romney's Tax Returns

Mitt Romney says he won't let people see his tax returns because it would give the Obama campaign material to use against him. That's just another way of saying that if people knew how much money Romney made, how he made it, and how little he paid in taxes, they would vote against him.

If Romney wasn't refusing to show us his tax returns, I wouldn't be particularly interested in seeing them. But his refusal to let people have the information makes me curious about what could possibly be in them that he is afraid to show us. We already know that he is fabulously wealthy, that he made his money by buying companies, tearing them apart, pilfering their assets, drowning them in debt, sending jobs overseas, and then selling the companies, some of which ended up in ruins. We already know that he paid a smaller percentage of his income in taxes than almost any working person in the U.S. How much worse could his tax returns make him look? Did he claim fictitious children or a teddy bear as dependents? Did he use a phony Social Security number? Did he pay taxes on illegal drug deals?

What I'd really like to see, though, is the corporate records for Bain Capital. Romney told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he was the sole shareholder, president, and CEO of the company, so he can show us those records if he wants. It is his company to do with as he wants.

I'd like to see the memos, letters, emails, and minutes of meetings that discussed sending jobs overseas. I'd like to see the correspondence between him and his investors that advised them on how they could avoid paying taxes on the money they were making by investing in the deals that his company put together. I'd like to see what the corporate accountants were doing to shelter money from the IRS. These are all the sorts of things that routinely are discoverable in court cases . They often are very revealing and they can all be easily produced. Corporations produce these sorts of records every day when they are involved in litigation. If we had this information we could compare what Mr. Romney was actually doing and thinking with what he now tells us he was up to, and with what he is telling us he wants to do with the country.

The law requires that publicly traded corporations reveal a good deal of this sort of information so that investors can make informed decisions on whether to invest in a company. Mr. Romney's company was not publicly traded – he owned the whole thing. So he never had to let anyone know what he was doing, except that he should not have been deceiving his investors or breaking any laws. But he would have kept all these records, because you can't run a company as big as Mr. Romney's without keeping those records. The records are there, ready for us to look at.

Mr. Romney brags about his success at Bain Capital. He wants us to think that his work there prepared him to run our country, create jobs, and revive the economy. I can't think of any reason why he wouldn't want us to see the records. He should be proud of them, if they show that he really was a brilliant businessman and that his outrageous fortune was actually earned and not just a reward for taking advantage of working people. So far, Mr. Romney hasn't released those records. I wonder why.

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