Is Harry Reid Right? Only Way to Know Is If Mitt Releases His Returns
I guess what it comes down to is that Kevin Drum simply doesn't believe Harry Reid is telling the truth when he says that an extremely credible source called him on the phone and told him that the reason Mitt Romney will not release his taxes is because he didn't pay any taxes for ten years. Mr. Drum makes that clear by begging the question with his choices of sophistry, revenge, disingenuousness, or lying as a virtue as the only potential rationales for the Majority Leader's allegation. Mr. Drum is entitled to his opinion, but he isn't entitled to thrust his opinion on the rest of us in an effort to make us own it.
Does anyone really believe this? Really? Then, as if that weren't enough, Reid made his little bluff even less plausible by deciding that Romney didn't just avoid all taxes for one year, he avoided them for ten years. Yeah, baby, that's the ticket! Put these two things together with the fact that Reid hasn't even tried to make his fairy tale sound believable (it's just some guy he talked to) and this is not a story that a five-year-old would credit. It's just Reid making stuff up in order to put pressure on Romney, and I think we all know it.
I'll tell Mr. Drum what I think. I think someone called Harry Reid up and told him that story. That doesn't mean that whoever told Reid the story knows for certain that Romney didn't pay his taxes. It doesn't meet the standard a reporter would need to report that Romney may have not paid his taxes. But it was convincing enough to Reid that he was willing to bet that Romney wouldn't be able to refute the charge. I mean, at this point I guess we can start talking about moral choices. If Reid is convinced that Romney found enough write-offs and tax shelters that he was able to zero out his taxes, he can keep that opinion to himself or he can share it with the world. On the down side, maybe Reid's source is wrong or full of shit. In that case, Romney might choose to release his taxes just to prove Reid wrong. That could be embarrassing. On the up side, if Romney releases his taxes, the American people will get the information they deserve to have while vetting Romney as a potential president. Chances are, they won't like what they see in those tax returns even if he did pay some taxes. So, it's a political winner for Reid. It's a winner for the American people. I don't see why this is a problem morally or politically. I really don't.
But Drum just thinks the story is made of whole cloth. He's telling us that it is a transparent lie that has no credibility. Isn't he engaging in an even worse libel than the one he's imputing to Reid? Mr. Drum, after all, doesn't even say that he has a credible source alleging that Reid is lying. He's just attacking Reid with nothing but his opinion to back him up.
Now, I've been bullshitted around by Harry Reid's office a couple of times (on the procedure for telecommunications immunity, for example), but they've never outright lied to me. At worst, they treated me like they thought I was stupid. I think of Harry Reid as a man who will say some pretty blunt things, but I don't think of him as a liar. I'm not saying he hasn't or he wouldn't lie. I am not even saying that he isn't lying in this case. I'm only saying that I have little reason to assume he is lying.
Maybe the charge itself seems so outlandish that it's hard to credit. But Mitt Romney has a lot of ways to avoid paying taxes. Start out with the fact that most of his money comes from capital gains and dividends which are both taxed at a lower rate than income. Then factor in a 10% tithe deduction. Perhaps there is a giant mortgage deduction in there, too. Push some money into a tax-deferred IRA that somehow accumulated seven to eight figures. Then push more income into tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and take other money and put it in secret Swiss bank accounts. He also has a ton of money that is deferred in future payments from Bain or stock options at various corporations. With a phalanx of accountants, it is not impossible that Romney could get his actual income down to a point that he could deduct away any money due.
Remember, he didn't take any money for serving as governor and if he took any money for working on the Olympics, it was deferred.
The story isn't as outlandish as it might sound. And Harry Reid isn't a guy with a credibility problem so big that he can just be dismissed. I think Mr. Drum needs to cool his jets on this one. He's jumping the gun. He could be right, but the only way we'll know is if Romney releases his tax returns.