Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Did You Do in the Crisis, Mitt?

cross-posted from Dagblog

All that talk about how many years of tax returns Mitt Romney will release obscures the real question. It's not how many years he won't give us. It's which years.

What Romney doesn't want to give us, most of all, are his taxes from 2008 and 2009, the years of the crash and the bailout. Those returns tell us how Romney's personal fortune weathered those years, how much he might have lost, and how much he might have profited.

Had Romney been the Republican candidate in 2008, or been chosen as McCain's running mate, he would have been releasing his returns from at least 2006 and 2007, and likely more. (McCain would doubtless have insisted on more, and even the 2012 Romney is willing to release one or two returns.) Whatever clean-up his accountants and attorneys may have done before this year's run were presumably done before that year's run. If he was ready to release those returns four years ago, he has no reason to hide them now.

It's the ones between then and now that Romney wants to hide. It's not that he told his accountants to let it all hang out in 2009; Romney's been planning to run in 2012 since the day he realized he wouldn't win in 2008. But the 2008 crash changed a lot of plans. There's one theory that Romney lost so much in the 2008 crash that his accountants could "carry over" the losses and wipe out his 2009 tax bill. But it's also possible that Romney's business interests were helped, directly or indirectly, by government action to stop the crash. And those theories aren't even mutually exclusive: Romney could have lost tens of millions, excusing him from paying taxes, AND profited from taxpayer dollars to the tune of more millions. The bailout money stopped the bleeding for big investors, and kept them from larger losses; Romney could have lost a bundle (without missing it from his daily life) and also been saved from losing even more because the taxpayer bailed him out.

[What's the worst thing that could conceivably be in those returns? What would destroy the entire rationale for Mitt Romney's candidacy? TARP money.]

Either way, those tax returns tell a story about Mitt Romney and the financial crisis that's still hurting the rest of America. It didn't affect him the way it did us, because he lives in a different world. He did not go through that experience the way his fellow Americans did. He is not one of us. Whatever he says in his convention speech Thursday night, that's the truth.

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