If you haven't done so already, read Brad's summary of Mitt Romney's 2011 tax returns. Done? Okay. Then here are a few points on Mitt Romney's 2011 taxes, from least-to-most serious.
1. Can you imagine the meeting at Romney campaign HQ where they decided that Romney should pay extra taxes in order to avoid contradicting his statement that he'd paid at least 13 percent for the last decade? What were the pros and the cons like in that debate? Was there sobbing?
2. According to Noam Scheiber's calculations, that statement cost Romney $260,000. It's not much given the size of his fortune, but it's a lot more than if he'd just, say, lost his $10,000 bet with Rick Perry. Is it the most personally expensive comment ever made by a presidential candidate?
3. Harry Reid was wrong. According to a statement from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm that prepares Romney's taxes, Romney hasn't paid less than 13 percent over the past 20 years. That makes Reid's behavior here shameful. His defense is that he was just passing along what he'd heard, and all Romney had to do to prove him wrong was release the returns. But Reid isn't some campaign flack, or even a congressional backbencher. He's the majority leader of the United States Senate. There's a dignity that comes with that office, or there should be.
4. The focus on Romney's tax returns is on how much he pays. But look at the other side of the ledger: how much he makes. In 2011, Romney earned $14 million. But as Romney himself joked in 2011, he was unemployed that year. So he made $14 million without even having a job.
That money, of course, all came from investments. But Romney didn't even manage those investments. Someone else took charge of the decisions. Romney basically made $14 million in 2011 -- putting him way, way above the top 1 percent, which starts at around $350,000 a year -- because Romney was very rich in 2010, too. That's the nice thing bout being rich: It makes you richer.
Compare Romney to a single mother of two who works full-time at Wal-Mart, who takes the Earned Income Tax Credit and whose children get health insurance through Medicaid. Romney says she's not taking personal responsibility. He says he couldn't get her to take personal responsibility if he tried. And yet, Romney is someone who doesn't even have to take personal responsibility for earning money anymore. He's beyond all that.
Romney's situation is wonderful. It's the dream. And he worked to achieve it. I have no qualms about any of that. But his riches have come with a lack of empathy for what it's like to be poor, or even just not-rich. He's taken the fact that he's rich as an indictment of the work ethic of people who aren't. And he's carried that belief into his policy proposals. His policy platform matches his comments: He won't raise taxes on the rich, but he wants to cut Medicaid by over a trillion dollars in the next decade.