Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oh No, That Evil Republican Is Paying Exactly As Much In Taxes As He Is Legally Obligated To!

In the latest installment of The Media Is Trying To Make Me Like Someone Despite My Best Efforts (see previously: Sarah Palin), the gnashing and fainting surrounding the "revelation" that Mitt Romney's tax burden hovers near the 15% range is making me defend the guy behind the inspiration for some of the worst legislation of my lifetime.

Note that no one is claiming that Romney is a tax cheat (which, apparently is not a big deal these days). No, the complaints revolve around the nebulous rallying cry from 2011 that refused to die: he's not paying his fair share! A quick aside: who gets to determine what is fair? Will you be comfortable with that answer when the person or entity wielding the power doesn't share your political views?

Romney pays around 15% in income tax because most of his income is derived from sources that are taxed in the tax code at 15%. So what is the problem with that? Is it that capital gains should be taxed at a high rate? If you immediately answered yes, I bet you don't own any stock. That's too bad; when the economy is tanking it's generally a good time to invest, assuming you can stay in for the long haul. But enthusiastically wanting to raise taxes as long as they don't affect you personally is just so selfish. I can't believe a good liberal would ever be for it. And no self-respecting conservative would push for higher capital gains taxes, so...

Is the problem that Romney has too much money? To which I respond, how much money you make is irrelevant. The only way the amount of a person's wealth could be relevant is if wealth is a zero-sum game. Which frankly, I think a lot of people on the left seem to think. I have bad news for your worldview: this guy having more money doesn't mean that guy has to have less. This should be obvious, but for many it is not. Look at it this way: if wealth was a zero-sum game it would be a true statement that the world is exactly as wealthy now as it was 1000 years ago. Do you think that is a true statement? No, you don’t. So why would anyone make the argument that someone else has too much money? (Note: I could have just as easily used 100 years ago above, but I wanted to invoke that image of civilization at a point where the hot new invention was a bar of soap.)

Okay then, is the problem that Romney is "gaming the system", deliberately structuring his income so that his tax burden is as small as possible? Raise your hand if you don't do the same thing. That's what I thought. I have yet to meet anyone go out of their way to structure their finances with the goal of paying more taxes. That includes Warren Buffett.

Another aside: you should read the whole article at that link. One, because it hilariously talks about Buffet being ready to "take the Republicans tax challenge" by matching any checks Republicans write to the treasury while simultaneously ignoring the fact that the challenge was for Buffet to write his own check. The article tries to twist things around and make it seem like Republicans -- who don't want taxes raised -- should voluntarily write a check in order to not seem like hypocrites while Buffett -- who wants taxes raised -- is a hero for not writing one. The other reason you should read the article is that it's Time, and your last chance to read it could come any day now. (Sorry Canada, you had your chance.)

Back to the whole tax avoidance thing: do people have a duty to pay as much in taxes as they can, or does this moral burden only fall on certain people? People who, say, make "too much money"? If you believe that, then you should be all over people like Warren Buffet, who as we already know, is outraged -- outraged! -- about how little he pays in taxes. Not outraged enough to write that check to the treasury, but you know, outraged!

So, just to be clear: Romney hasn't done anything illegal. He hasn't done anything morally wrong. So just what is the problem here? Besides, you know, Romney having an 'R' after his name.

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