January 24th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Romney tax release lights up debate on wealth inequality

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made $42.7 million over the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes, newly released documents show.

Romney and his wife, Ann, filed a joint 1040 reporting $21.7 million in 2010 income and $3 million in federal taxes. They also said their 2011 income was $21 million and tax bill was $3.2 million. Over the two years, Romney's effective tax rate - the percentage of his income that he owed in federal income taxes - was just under 14%.

Nevertheless, and contrary to popular perception, Romney's effective federal income tax rate is still above that of many Americans - 80% of whom have an effective rate below 15%. That tax rate is higher when other federal taxes - such as the payroll tax - are included.

And there's nothing that gets people revved up like peering into someone else's taxes to learn more about their wealth, especially when they're running for office. So you know that people were abuzz this morning trying to dissect it all, that is, if they could wrap their heads around it.

It appears Romney and his campaign knew that too, and expected the onslaught. If you did a search on Twitter for "Romney Taxes" "Romney Tax Returns" or "Romney" you saw an interesting promoted tweet, meaning someone paid for that tweet to show up at the top of the heap.

And judging by the tweet, Romney's camp must have thought, if people are going to be searching around, we ought to offer a message.

For the most part, the conversation online seemed more focused on what Romney's overall taxes show about America, rather than the candidate himself.

Rick Newman, the chief business correspondent for US News & World Report, tweeted a statistic that seemed to characterize what others were thinking.

[tweet https://twitter.com/rickjnewman/status/161820377935396866%5D

A majority of the comments we saw online showed that many folks, while they may have been a bit revolted by the mass amount of money Romney makes, found that more of the problem was our tax code or a major gap divide between the wealthy and middle class.

[tweet https://twitter.com/edwardvirtually/status/161824789172977665%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/marclamonthill/status/161820174784282624%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/marclamonthill/status/161821094037295104%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/NickKristof/status/161781523740229632%5D

Others bemoaned the general fact that Romney didn't have to pay more, considering what they pay, even if it is all part of the current rules.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Cephster/status/161824859045900289%5D

But others thought that there wasn't any massive damage done by Romney releasing his tax returns, because they showed he also gave money to those who needed it, and simply followed our current rules.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Toni_TWG/status/161824885176401922%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/jrawlinsisu/status/161823455078125569%5D

Some joked the release was well-timed because it came when people were paying more attention to Oscar nominations.

[tweet https://twitter.com/AndrewCDaniel/status/161823761753063426%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/joe_hill/status/161812094528913408%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/carlimck/status/161819689947901952%5D

But for others, there was also a continuing sentiment of wondering why we get all excited about these tax releases anyway.

[tweet https://twitter.com/g2slade/status/161815915418234881%5D

For some, knowing where the politics and money collide along the campaign trail was the more important monetary detail they'd prefer to learn.

[tweet https://twitter.com/betthearm/status/161812408099287040%5D

What do you think? Does it still matter that we see candidate tax returns? And if so, what is your reaction to Romney's release. Let us know in the comments below.

Post by:
Filed under: Economy • Mitt Romney • Politics • Twitter
soundoff (733 Responses)
  1. Sherry

    His tax returns don't upset me in any way (good for him for donating to charity) but I don't want a president who is THAT RICH in office. I'm sure presidents before him certainly made a lot more moneythan I do, but I can't imagine anybody wih this much wealth really understanding what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck, to worry that you'll never be able to retire because you can't afford it, to realize you're one paycheck away from being homeless, etc. I don't think he will fight for the middle class, he has no idea what it's like.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      So where is your "rich" cutoff in order to be qualified to be president? Trust me, NONE of these guys has ANY clue what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck including the current president...

      January 24, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Morgan

      I so agree with you Sherry. The thing is though, when you have a rich candidate he is not looking for personal advancement because he is already self-actualized. This makes me believe they actually have altruistic motivations. I'm sorry but Obama was so for the liberation of his people from the social oppression that comes with lack of education and opportunity that he only focused on payouts and not reforming systems that allow us to help ourselves.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • PJ

      In the wealth debate, many want to demonize a persons based on their current salary/wealth, but want to ignore the often long and difficult path the person traveled to attain that status. Assuming that the person was born with it or earned it nefariously is ignorant. My wife and I spent a combined 20 years in higher education, during which we lived at or just below the "poverty" line (according to the government definition). Then we graduated and overnight are considered wealthy (in the top 5%). The government and many on this board want to ignore the hard word and education debt (which we were never eligible to write off) that we spent to attain our current position. Good for Mit! He has contributed more to this great country than the 47% of our population that PAY NO TAXES. How about we get everyone to contribute before we start singling out minorities to enhance their contributions.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      Ya, we should elect a homeless person, because he could totally understand all of that. *sarcasm*

      I'd rather have a president who knows how to get rich so that he can help me (and you if you'd pull your head out of your hole) get rich.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Philip

    ...as if his personal tax returns are more vital to the economy than the federal reserve. Ron Paul wants to have the fed audited and has much to say on this subject. But he's having trouble getting your attention. As it turns out, more are interested in Gigrish's se/xcapades than they are in how the fed came to own things like The Harley-Davison motorcycle corp.and the Crossroads Mall in Norman, Oklahoma. The fed robs us blind. Duh.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      True and they also perpetuate this type of income inequality. There is never enough money in circulation to pay off debts. Therefore someone will always end up broke while others hoard the wealth for themselves.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mountainDude

    Romney's income is a problem for me but not because of 'envy'. It's simply that his reality is so different from mine. Even if he tries there's no way he can truly relate to the challenges and opportunities I face any more than I can relate to the challenges and opportunities of managing an eight figure income. I'm a first generation college graduate from Appalachia who chose the mountains over job opportunities in far away cities so obviously money is of limited importance to me. I live in a town with a per capita income of about 15K and a poverty rate of 25%. I worry about the future of my people and I doubt that even a well-intentioned multi-millionaire will be able to design policy which will be to our benefit rather than simply another burden to bear.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. JB

    I have much more respect for Romney than I do for a president that would spend 4 million taxpayer dollars so his family could have a Hawaiian vacation. That 4 mil could have bought 2.5 million Christmas dinners for the homeless at the shelters. But his family needed a luxury retreat more than starving people needed food. Enough of this class warfare already!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      How do you know it was on the public any more than any other presidential vacation? Purely nonsense!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike C

    Wow, AND he had a Swiss bank account. Keep on supporting him, rich-wannabes, maybe someday you too can be dishonestly rich.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Show me the dishonesty? You will be "poor" your whole life...

      January 24, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike C

      Hiding money from the Government prevents improvements to infrustructure, safety and national defense. Swiss bank accounts are illegal and therefore dishonest. I may be poor someday due to the bankruptcy of the country and devaluation of currency. But as of right now I'm very comfortably living in the top 5%, legally putting my money in tax-exempt bond funds. Someday I hope to be one of those 40% of Americans that don't pay taxes, by having all my money in tax-free investments.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • souptwins

      Except all his income is taxed regardless of where the investments are held. The article also says he has not control over where the "blind trust" is invested. They diversify the assets but it doesn't change the US taxes paid.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. OregonTom

    No citizen of the United States should pay taxes. This country should be run for profit at the expense of OTHER nations.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. shawn

    Liberals like Kerry move their yacht out of state to avoid Mass taxes and claim their for the middle class. Democrats want mindless slaves chained to their welfare programs to ensure their elitist class gets elected. Communist!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. therichwritetherules

    He pays the legal rate. True. The problem is it's the fox guarding the hen house because the rich (nearly 50% of Congress are the 1% and all of them are in the top 5% of earners with a base salary of $174,000 – Google it) are the ones who write the tax laws....and imagine that, they favor the rich.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • WakeUpPeople

      EXACTLY. The disgusting truth is that it is congress(especially REPUBLICANS) who have changed our very laws to enable the wealthy(mostly THEMSELVES) to get away with paying zero taxes!! I would like to slap the stupid woman doing this interview with Mr. Johnston, because she is so dumb to not UNDERSTAND that THIS is what the Occupy Wall ST. protestors across this country are complaining about!! The level of corruption of the wealthy in this USA has caused our economy to nearly collapse. The people in charge of our government are the ones who are DOING this!! She comments that it is "legal"– BUT IT SHOULDN"T BE!! That is the ISSUE here. WAKE UP LADY! Get these crooks OUT of our government!!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ronnie

    Congrads to Romney for having te courage to come out as rich! This is tremendous progress from his denial stump speeches where he wears jeans that don't fit and talks about his middle class upbringing. Good for you Mitt. It gets better.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. Realitycheck

    Step 1. Go earn your keep. Make your own money.

    Step 2. Invest your money. Fedelity.com. Open a brokerage account. Doesn't take much.

    Step 3. Sell your investments after they turn profitable. Yes the more money you have the more you can potentially make.

    Step 4. Congrats! You are wisely taking advantage of a system that is already in place for YOU to succeed and make money at a 15% tax rate. It's there for a reason people

    Step 5. Welcome to the American dream. Take some of that money and start a business. Hopefully a successful one, so then you can listen to your former self whine and complain about how the system is unfair

    January 24, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike C

      Step 2.5: stock market tanks, you sit on those stocks for years waiting for them to go back up, earning nothing. OR you panic and sell, welcome to the new investing poor, you just realized loss only to be able to deduct a small portion on your taxes.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • ScrewEm'

      Let's say another crook is exposed like Bernie Madoff and there goes your dream.....right down the toilet.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Realitycheck

      Thats a risk we all take. He has taken the same risk has he not??? So are we mad about someone investing successfully? What's the real problem here? Anyone can do it. He doesn't even make his own investment choices and neither do I. ALL THINGS THAT ARE ACCESSIBLE TO ANYONE. Now go and make something of yourselves

      January 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ScrewEm'

      I'm curious Reality......just how do you know what "decisions" Mr. Romney has made about his investments? Do you think he takes the credit for being a wise investor, yet he has no say-so in his investments? I think not.

      And if you are under the impression that these foul-ball politicians "earn" all of their money, I have a great big oil well in Paris I'd like to sell you.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kunil

    What does Romney do with all that money? Is he re-investing it in the economy in order to accelerate the trickle down phenomenon?

    January 24, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I just look at my trickle-down jar. It's still nearly empty :(.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • d

      Romney worked hard and paid millions of dollars back to the govenment. He probably paid for the street you drove on to get to work, or the food you by because your too old, or sick or lazy. You are all indignant, but look at yourself in the mirror. What have you done? Paid for ten minutes of light on a street lamp? Not paid anything? When do we get to the point that the wealthy just find America too parasitic to live in and take their money to another country?

      January 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Philip

    *Harley-Davidson, just one of the properties aquired by the fed during this recently manipulated economy. As you weree watching and complaining about Congress donating 583 billion dollars to banks, the fed was quietly gobbling-up over 3 trillion dollars worth od US property. Who controls the fed? Who can audit the fed? Who does actually audit the fed, but keep it secret? Answer: one single foreign bank located in the town of Basel, Switzerland.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. ScrewEm'

    Personally, I don't care how much any of these foul-ball politicians make. What I would be more concerned with is how they made it and what influence their position has had on their income. I find it odd that when our politicians finally retain the office they seek, their income drastically increases. Far beyond what said office pays.

    Between insider trading, pay-offs and the "good ol' boy" perks for being a politician, no damn wonder they'll tell you anything to get elected. I don't respect anyone that gains at the loss of others.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. retriever2

    It's quite easy to lower your tax rate below Romneys..........have 8 kids

    January 24, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. mms55

    phillip just stop already ,our goverment does more good than harm.without our goverment we would still be driving on dirt roads.there would be no electricity or internet.people need to get a grip on reality we need a goverment that works for the common good unlike the private secture who only does what makes a profit for them.turn off fox news and go for a drive on tax payer roads and look around at all the wonderful things your country has done for you.we are the goverment don't ever forget that.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • ScrewEm'

      I agree that the government should work for the common good, but in reality, they do not. They use to, but not today. The face of today's politician is much different. Most have a self-serving agenda that has nothing to do with the common good.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
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