I’m not sure the Obama campaign could have scripted this more perfectly. In a remarkable bit of good timing, President Obama is set to deliver a State of the Union speech focused on income inequality and tax unfairness on exactly the same day that Mitt Romney will reveal that he made over $40 million in the last two years — all of it taxed at a lower rate than that paid by middle class taxpayers.
The Post scoops the returns that Romney is set to release today, and they confirm what he has already acknowledged: He pays a far lower tax rate than many middle class taxpayers. Here are the key figures:
— Income of $21.7 million in 2010 and $20.9 million in 2011, virtually all of it from profits, dividends or interest from investments, and none from wages.
— $7 million in charitable contributions in 2010 and 2011, including at least $4.1 million to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
— In those two years Romney actually paid less than that charitable figure in taxes, sending around $6.2 million to Washington. In 2010 he paid a rate of 13.9 percent; in 2011 he paid a rate of 15.4 percent.
— $13 million in “carried interest.”
— Romney holds investments in many entities like Luxembourg, Ireland and the Cayman Islands. While the Post notes that these are “all famous tax havens,” those investments don’t appear to be sizable. And Romney’s representative flatly asserts there was no tax advantage in any case, something which some tax analysts have found credible.
As other tax experts have pointed out, however, Romney may have an incentive to release only these two years’ worth of returns, because he would not have been able to restructure investments in previous returns to conceal things that might prove politically problematic.
Either way, all this comes as Obama is set to deliver a speech focused on extreme disparities of wealth, and on precisely the element of the tax code that enables his likely rival to pay a far lower rate than many middle class taxpayers — at a time of rising public preoccupation with inequality. As Chuck Todd put it this morning: “If Team Obama could have picked any day to have Romney release his tax return, today might have been the day they’d pick.”
Romney doesn’t just disagree with Obama on these fundamental issues; he personally symbolizes virtually the entire 2012 Democratic message. He is the walking embodiment of everything Dems allege is wrong with our system and the ways it’s rigged in favor of the wealthy and against the middle class. Yet this is the standard bearer the GOP seems set to pick.