Hey, wait a minute: Isn’t Mitt Romney a certified member of the 47 Percent?
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Mitt Romney, a son of privilege who used family connections and family advantages to accumulate a “vulture capitalist” fortune, and who collects multi-million-dollar checks for doing absolutely nothing, claims to have identified 47 percent of Americans “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”
Most of these people, Romney gripes, “pay no income tax.” That, Romney suggests, makes them non-entities in his political calculus. “My job is is not to worry about those people,” Romney says. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
But Romney should not be so dismissive of the tax-avoiding class. After all, he’s one of them. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center says roughly 46 percent of Americans paid no income tax for the last year, where numbers are available for 2011. Slightly less than half of those are taking advantage of tax breaks designed to ease the burden on elderly Americans who live on fixed incomes. Roughly a third of them do not pay because they are beneficiaries of tax credits designed to help the working poor and children to get by.
In other words, the Americans who do not pay taxes are, for the most part, either low-income workers or retired low – or middle-income workers. The Tax Policy Center offers the example of a working couple making minimum wages who have two children and earn under $26,400 a year. Using standard deductions and specific exemptions designed for families in their circumstance, they can file a form that has a zero in the amount due column.
Mitt Romney is not a member of this class of Americans. As a quarter-billionaire, he is part of a multi-generational elite – the most privileged 1 percent of the 1 percent – that has never, ever had to worry about making ends meet at the end of the month.
But Romney has something in common with the working poor. Like them, he benefits from federal programs designed to allow some to avoid paying some or all of the taxes that would otherwise be due from them.
Romney has not released the tax returns that his dad said a candidate for the presidency owes the American people – forms for the 12 years before candidacy. So we do not know if he is an actual member of the 47 percent.
By Romney’s own admission, his accountants make sure he does not “pay any more (taxes) than are legally due.” All indications are that he takes full advantage of exemptions, credits and havens. And loopholes.
What sort of loopholes? We get an indication from documents filed by the firm that continued to stream money to Romney long after he quit. “The documents posted (in August) show that Bain Capital will go to great lengths to help its partners and its investors avoid tax,” explained Rebecca Wilkins, counsel at Citizens for Tax Justice.
It’s how someone who makes tens of millions of dollars says he pays around 13 percent of his annual income into the U.S. Treasury, as opposed to the top marginal tax rate of 35 percent. For 2011, he estimated that he would pay $3.2 million on income of $21 million. If Romney had paid at the 35 percent rate he is supposed to be paying at, the check he wrote would have been for $7.4 million.
So he avoided paying $4.2 million in taxes. That’s the same as the total amount that – were they paying at the marginal rate that would apply to the working poor if there were no exemptions – would be paid by roughly 1,100 of the low-income families Romney dismisses as “dependent.” It would seem that Mitt Romney has earned honorary membership in the 47 percent.
JOHN NICHOLS is Washington correspondent for The Nation.