Now that Mitt Romney has released his tax returns for 2010, we can have a stab at answering another key question. What would Romney himself pay in taxes if his tax policies become law?
In 2010, Romney enjoyed an income of $21.7 million. Of that amount, he paid about $3 million in taxes — a tax rate of just under 15 percent.
Citizens for Tax Justice, which is liberal-leaning but nonpartisan, supplied me with its analysis of what Romney would pay out of his 2010 income in taxes under various scenarios. The column to the right is what Romney would pay under his own plan:
The column to the left represents what Romney would pay under current law — if we did nothing and allowed the Bush tax cuts to expire. He’d pay $5.5 million out of $21.7 million, or around one-fourth.
The column in the middle represents what Romney would pay if Obama’s 2011 proposals pass. He would pay less than if we did nothing and just let the Bush tax cuts expire, because Obama would raise taxes on capital gains and dividends from 15 percent to just 20 percent (letting the Bush cuts expire would hike taxes on dividends to 39.6 percent). Under Obama’s plan, then, Romney would pay just under $5 million in taxes — around 23 percent.
And the column to the right represents what Romney would pay under his own proposals to keep the Bush tax cuts for the rich, retain the 15 percent tax rate on investments, and repeal the Medicare tax in health reform. His tax burden would remain at just over $3 million out of 21.7 million.
As you can see, the amount Romney pays drops substantially as you move from left to right.
This is about more than Romney’s tax burden; it goes to the very heart of what this election is all about. The GOP is set to nominate someone who not only disagrees with Obama about what constitutes fair taxation. Romney personally embodies, and personally benefits from, everything that Obama and Dems will allege is unfair about our current tax system and all the ways the economy is rigged for the rich, and against the middle class.
Romney believes that this Dem argument about this tantamount to a call for an “entitlement society,”or a call for “equal outcomes.” Romney is a deeply flawed messenger for that message, given how enormously he benefits from the status quo, under which some people enjoy far more equal outcomes than others.
“It’s hard to think of a more entitled person,” says Robert McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice.
In his State of the Union speech today, Obama will not name Romney. But he will advance an argument that is all about Romney and the rest of his class. As Robert Borosage put it so well today:
Mitt Romney argues that the president wants to transform America into an entitlement society, whereas he wants to return it to an American opportunity society.
The president would be well advised to take this on. Make the case that the entitlement crisis America faces comes from the sense of entitlement by the wealthiest Americans that they can pocket all the rewards of growth, and use their wealth to rig the rules so they don’t pay their fair share back to society.
And then argue forcefully that opportunity requires investment in rebuilding the country, and in people – in education and training, in early childhood nutrition, in affordable health care and retirement security, in a safety net when things go bad. Those who would shred public investments in our future would destroy the broad middle class that, in fact, is the triumph of American democracy.
No one is a better personification of that argument than Barack Obama. No one a better foil than Mitt Romney. Let’s get that on.
The above chart captures this perfectly. Romney is the perfect antagonist in this morality play.