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Gary Horton: Romney’s hidden taxes reveal all

Posted: August 29, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 29, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Lance leaned across our table, looking understandably agitated as we hit the predictable downward spiral common of today’s conservative versus liberal discourse. “If you’re paying 35 percent on your taxes and you could legally reduce it to 13 percent like Romney, wouldn’t you do it?” Lance drives his point home harder, pointing his finger at my chest, “Would you do it if it were legal?”

“Yes, I would, Lance,” I replied. “I would seek the benefit of tax law, as it is both legal and accessible to me.”

“Then,” Lance triumphantly summed up, “don’t make a big deal out of Romney’s taxes. Romney didn’t break the law; rather, Romney was following it.”

Lance made his point. Sort of.

While it’s likely true that Romney followed some interpretation of tax law for all his now infamous undisclosed years, it’s also likely he employed the most favorable interpretation the very best tax lawyers in America could dream up. Such go for broke tax strategies are likely, or may be, legal — until you lose on audit, of course. As any venture capitalist worth the name would say, “In life, business and in taxes, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’”

For the rest of us, there’s the more mundane everyman’s “HR Block” type of tax adherence. We don’t have practical access to Romney’s offshore tax havens and “carried interest” kind of creatively legalistic tax strategies. Romney’s tax posture is the kind where you pull out every trick in the book and just figure you’re going to spend some of those tax savings on the tax lawyers who make it happen. The only problem is when you have to explain yourself to everyday voters who routinely pay their due without slight of hand.

My bet is that Romney played so crafty with taxes, that while he may legalistically say he paid full boat, he can’t release the actual returns and expect middle class voters to accept the special, privileged tax breaks he has claimed and they can not. In disclosing his tax practices, Romney isn’t so much afraid of disclosing he’s broken the law as he’s terrified of voter recoil when the middle class learns just how extensively guys like him work the system to their privileged advantage. Romney fears electoral mayhem when Joe Tea Party finally understands just how rigged the tax system is to upper crusters of the 1 percent. It’s, “Adios, sympathetic trailer-dwelling Republicanos,” once they finally register how wrong they’ve been done. Fortunately for Romney, he need only keep his tax secrets secret for another nine weeks.

Shamelessly, while hiding his personal tax history, Romney calls to conservative Kool-Aid drinkers, begging for bigger tax breaks for long-suffering ultra-high earners, like himself. By contrast, a real patriot would look our current tax injustice, and, against his personal interests and the interest of his class, level the playing field so as to be fair to each and all. But for such selflessness you have to seek a real patriot, not a self-serving, pillaging “private equity” guy. For “as a man can love only God or Mammon,” Romney cannot both love and serve America while loving money more than the equality, fairness and social justice America is said to stand for. Romney’s heart beats in his wallet more than in his national allegiance, and his hidden, offshore tax-sheltered accounts are evidence to this fact. Tea partyers be warned: This man is cut from a cloth you can neither comprehend nor afford.

During our discussion, my friend Lance inadvertently captured the critical essence of this season’s presidential contest – made now even clearer with Romney’s selection of Ayn Rand (only the strong should survive) disciple, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Romney’s privileged culture makes virtue of contorting rules to fit private purpose, while Ryan’s celebrates the power to create rules from which to extract such advantage. Together, the presidential partnership of Romney-Ryan becomes a political Batman and Robin “Double Punch” permanent redistribution of national wealth toward the economic elite. Romney’s 10-year hidden tax return trickery is set to become tomorrow’s bona fide tax code, and intentional wealth concentration and income inequality will become the law for whatever is left of the land.

Meet the Romney-Ryan ticket: Revenge for the hyper-wealthy who have for so long been made to suffer the indignities of a progressive tax code is now close at hand. As for us regular SCV’er types? The trickle-down math seems to indicate fewer services and a future divided between have-nots and have much mores, more greatly than ever before.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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