Romney, Taxes, and Running Out the Clock

Much of the reaction to today’s release of 2011 tax returns and a “summary” of ten prior years of Romney taxes by his accountants revolves around (a) the relatively low effective tax rate he paid (14.1%); (b) his decision against taking the full charitable deduction to which he was eligible in order to keep the effective tax rate about the 13% figure he’s decided on as the minimum he’s paid in the past; and (c) the timing of the release, on the traditional “dump bad news” day of Friday.

None of that particularly fascinates me. I’m more interested in some other questions: (a) why release this stuff on the very week Mitt made unfortunate headlines on taxes? (b) why release a “summary” of earlier tax returns which only increases interest in seeing the details? and (c) what are the exemptions or deductions taken in previous years that the campaign seems so determined to hide?

If, as seems the case, this is all part of some planned “run out the clock” strategy for dealing with questions about Mitt’s wealth (or as he would have it, “success”), finances, and taxes, it appears to be based on the dubious assumption that the public sympathizes with Romney here and will give him the benefit of the doubt unless someone comes up with something illegal, unpatriotic, or at least highly unseemly. Methinks it’s Romney, not his critics or opponents, who has the “calendar” problem right now.

It reminds me of a University of Georgia basketball game I once attended near the end of Coach John Guthrie’s tenure, when the Dawgs seem to be stalling late in a game when they trailed by a bucket. “Hey Guthrie!” shouted a leather-lunged student near me. “Look at the scoreboard! We’re behind!”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.