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Why Does Mitt Romney Want to Keep His Tax Returns From the Bain Years Under Wraps?

These documents could reveal a lot about how our economy was transformed into a playground for the 1 percent.

Before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was, as he describes it, " unemployed," he used to get up in the morning and go to work, like the rest of us. Did he pay taxes, like the rest of us have to? He doesn't seem to want us to know.

If you are lucky enough to still have a job, you get dressed, go to work, sit in a noisy cubicle, pound a nail, teach a class, take care of someone, or any of the other things we do most days. You get your paycheck, you pay your taxes. Let's say you do pretty well, making ... more than $379,150 (after all deductions). According to the IRS your federal income tax should be 35 percent on every dollar that is above that amount. But maybe not, if you are as wealthy as Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney has released his most recent tax returns. They tell us some eye-popping things about Romney and about the wealthy 1 percent and the low taxes they pay on the gains from invested wealth. But they only raise questions about Romney's controversial years "working" at Bain Capital. What would we learn from seeing his tax returns from the Bain Capital years, and what would that tell us about the transformation of our economy into a playground for the 1 percent and a sweatshop for the rest of us?

What We Did Learn From Romney's Tax Forms?

Romney has released an "in-progress" estimate of his 2011 taxes, and the tax returns for 2010. It is not yet known why he did not release tax returns from earlier years before he was running for president, but it could be that returns from earlier, pre-candidate years might provide details he would not want the public to see. Since even these returns show he has foreign holdings, including a Swiss bank account, the failure to release earlier returns is likely to raise concerns.

Romney's 2011 estimate is 104 pages. The 2010 tax returns consist of Mitt & Ann Romney Return, 203 pages; Mitt Romney Blind Trust, 37 pages; Ann Romney Trust, 83 pages; Romney Family Trust, 81 pages; and Tyler Charitable Foundation, 39 pages.

These documents tell us that the Romneys received more than $42 million in income for the two years of self-described "unemployment." In 2010 $7.4 million of Romney's income was "carried interest" from Bain Capital. Most of the rest was also capital gains income. ("Not very much" -- about $374,000 -- was from speaking fees. This was seven times the country's median household income of all wage-earners in a household the same year.)

In 2010 with income of $21.6 million, he gave $3 million to charity (including $1.5 million to the Mormon Church) and paid about $3 million in taxes. And, finally, the Romneys paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 and estimate they will pay a 15.4 percent effective tax rate in 2011. This compares to the top federal income tax rate of 35 percent the rest of us are supposed to pay.

From these tax returns we have learned a few things about Romney, but also about the divide between the vastly wealthy -- "the 1 percent" -- and the rest of us -- "the 99 percent." We learned why he thinks making $374,000 from "speaking fees" is, as he put it, "not very much." We learned why he can casually say to Rick Perry, "I'll bet you $10,000." We learned that he has investments in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and a Swiss bank account. And, of course, we learned the big one: The tax rate on his enormous income is only 14 percent, which is almost certainly "l ess than his secretary."

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