Are Romney's Taxes Really Relevant?
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Harry Reid isn't the problem. Yes, the Senate majority leader shouldn't go around accusing Mitt Romney of paying no taxes unless he can provide proof. But let's assume that he's right: that Romney legally evaded paying taxes and parked vast sums in offshore accounts. It still doesn't matter. It's irrelevant to Romney's fitness to be president.
If Romney broke the law, he's a criminal. If, however, as the Democrats charge, he legally gamed the tax code in order to pay as little money as possible, he's a typical American. Ask yourself this question: when tax time comes around do you a) ask yourself what's fair to pay given your circumstances and the country's needs; b) try to figure out how to pay as little as possible, often with the help of an accountant. If the answer is b, you and Romney basically did the same thing. Sure, he had better accountants and thus likely saved himself more money. But you both put your own self-interest ahead of the country's, which is what most people do most of the time.
But aren't presidents supposed to be better than the average Joe? Aren't they supposed to be, even in their personal lives, exemplars of virtue and good citizenship? No, I don't think so. It's hard enough to find a president who will pursue public policies that make the country better. Once you blur the criteria by evaluating a president's or presidential candidate's private conduct, you've lost sight of what really affects the lives of most Americans. If presidents conducted their public affairs the way they conduct their private ones, then the latter might have some predictive value. But people are too complicated for that. Bill Clinton--and, for that matter, John F. Kennedy--was personally reckless but politically cautious. With George W. Bush, it was the reverse. Clinton mistreated women privately but his policies benefited women nationally. With Bush, again, it was the opposite. Nor is there much evidence that Americans mimic a president's personal life in their own. Abortion and teen pregnancy rates went down under the philandering Clinton. The latter spiked under Bush.
Sure, sure, you say, but with Romney there really is a link between private conduct and public policy. Here's a rich guy who, Democrats suspect, paid very little in taxes himself and wants to make it easier for his fellow gazillionaires to pay little or nothing too. Why not use the (alleged) unfairness of Romney's personal conduct to highlight the unfairness he would foist on America? Because there's no logical connection between the two, and conflating them diverts attention from the real debate. Romney didn't (allegedly) avoid paying taxes because of his philosophical belief that rich people shouldn't pay much in taxes. He avoided paying taxes because he didn't want to pay much in taxes, or whoever was acting on his behalf didn't want him to. And that makes him just like most super-rich Democrats. (Liberals don't rush to pay more in taxes because they're sympathetic to government spending any more than conservatives rush to join the Army because they're sympathetic to military action.)
Source: The Daily Beast | Peter Beinart
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