As Julie has noted, The Secretary Who Pays Taxes at a Higher Rate than Her Billionaire Boss will be sitting in the gallery tonight for the SOTU.
As Senator Barack Obama once observed in a different context, “Shoot. Me. Now.”
Julie has a good analysis of how the claim made by annoying billionaire Warren Buffet that his secretary’s tax rate is lower than his is extremely misleading.
I want to make only one observation about America’s most famous secretary and her taxes before I pass onto Mitt Romney’s tax returns: If Mr. Buffett’s secretary has income from investments, her tax rate from the capital gains tax on that portion of her income would not be lower than her boss’s rate.
If she doesn’t own investments, then shame on Mr. Buffett. I certainly hope he is making it easy for those who work for him to invest in and reap benefits from his enormously profitable endeavors. Creating investment opportunities for employees is certainly more beneficial to more people than raising the capital gains tax, which will evenually hit the secretary, assuming she is able to sock some away. (It is reported that she has to get the red-eye flight back to Omaha in the morning. C'mon, Mr. Buffett couldn't you have given her the day off?)
Mitt Romney also lives on the income from investments and pays at a rate similar to Buffett's. That is why so many folks were salivating to get Romney's income tax returns released. Of course, he had to release them, no doubt about it, and perhaps by releasing them now he has rendered the issue less potent should he become the Republican nominee.
But I think the content of those tax returns actually makes a point that the GOP would be wise to emphasize, especially at a time when President Obama appears to be itching to do away with charitable giving deductions.
First, Romney sent quite a bit of money to Uncle Sam: his tax bill for 2010 and 2011 is around $6.2 million, but the Romneys gave a bit more to charities. The Romneys gave $7 million to charity (much of it going to the Mormon church) over the same period. Mollie Hemingway's headline said it all: Romney,Taxpayer and Tither.
Conservatives, who believe that churches and charities do a better job of helping people than the dependency-creating federal government, rightly argue that ‘tis better to give to charities than to the IRS.
When you give money to charities you can make judgments about whether the money is actually doing any good. Instead of being helpless as a government bureaucrat decides it would be nifty to throw half billion at solar toys, you get to decide what to back.
As blogger ExJon twitters:
The headline should be that Romney donated 15% of his income [to charity]. Instead it'll be that he "only" paid 14% to almighty government.
So maybe we really can learn something from Romney’s tax returns. He may be forced to give the public a much-needed tutorial on how the tax system works.
The world’s most famous secretary will be on hand tonight as a cover for populist rhetoric, not clarity.
Hat tip to Guy Benson