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. Bob

    Perhaps if the left did not fight a flat tax we would not have this problem.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doogie

      and if the right actually wanted to tax people we wouldn't have this problem.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Epacific

      You don't understand. A flat tax is a regressive tax which shifts the tax burden from the richest in this country to the poorest. This is typical right-wing-economics: conservatives assume that by making the rich even richer, these wealthy folks will immediately run out, start companies, and begin hiring. This is not the case: the wealthy simply hold on to more money. Look at the banks: after George Dubya Bush approved TARP, the banks received billions of dollars. That's right, billions. The idea is that by giving them this cash, they would loan them out to kick-start the economy. The only problem is that it didn't happen- instead, the banks kept the money to increase their own profits.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Philip

    @Mike C. The average investor has lost his ass in the market for over 10 straight years. The stock exchange is nothing but a shell game. 1 in 3 odds of winning. FACT: If American investors had placed their money on the pass line of any Las Vegas craps table instead of investing on the NYSE for the past 10 years, we would be further ahead/less behind than we are now. Our open market is one big fat ponzi scheme. A simple public audit of the federal reserve outfit conducting business in the USA would reveal this to be so true.

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

      That's why I follow Buffet's #1 rule of investing. Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. I bought during the panics of 2008 and 2011, and have seen gains on those. I also pay it safe with dividend stocks. You don't have to make 20% gains to be succesful. I bought dividend stocks when their prices tanked, and now I'm seing up to 15% dividend returns. The best thing about dividends is they *rarely* go down (note: rarely, but they can and do), so I will continually get 15% returns until I sell the stock, also for a gain.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kingfisher

      Now all you need to do is manufacture some fear and the profits will keep rolling in...

      January 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      everything you say is true, but if you look closers both in Vegas and on Wall street you will see one thing in common the average joe always loses in the end and the (card) shark always wins. if you know how to play cards the odd tip in your favor. if you know how to invest, the same is true.

      if you lose in the market, don't invest there, or hire a shark. wealth is never lost, it just changes pockets. if you are an uneducated investor, you're no more than gambling with the odds against you so don't whine when youre money changes pockets.

      BTW a good portion of that wealth was transfered to China. Keep shopping at Walmart America if you like the taste of chow mein.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bouna Sera' Wine Bar

    BIS, IMF and the WTO that's who!
    The audit would reveal an uneven playing field with countries rich in resources yet it's people STILL suffering from starvation.

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

      starving??? really?? I see fat poor people every where

      January 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. d

    There isn't a religious test to become president, but guess what, there isn't a "be poor" test either. Think about this logically. You want your leader to be someone who has succeeded along every step of his life thus resulting in a wealthy, intelligent successful man. Or would you rather have someone who slept through his math class didn't do his homework and got into college only because of affirmative action?

    We should be electing those we wish to emulate. If I wanted a poor person to run the country then I have plenty of bums on the corner to vote for...

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

      We want our President to not have the same "let them eat cake" mentallity that got good ol' Marie Antonette beheaded. Which is something that the ultra-rich may want to keep in mind. The French revolution and Russian revolution were caused by huge wealth inequality, and in both cases the rich didn't fair too well.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. me

    at the end of the day, i think i pay about the same % as Romney and i make an SUV less that $100K. Why? because of deductions. it is not rich vs poor, but inequality in the IRS tax code with different income treated differently. if you want Romney to pay more taxes on his investment income, be prepared to give up yours (on your IRA), or ask for and be prepared for a flat tax.

    it's pathetic that his taxes are even an issue. he paid a legal tax according to the laws of the land. why is that wrong? who out there is paying more than more than they are required?

    he is rich, again nothing wrong with that. he made his money from making weak companies strong and viable. some people lost jobs and many more jobs were created by his actions—it's called business not charity. maybe this itself should be the reason to get behind him—maybe he can help turn the US economy around and make the countrystrong and viable again.

    the alternative would be Gingrich who makes money from talking and delivering inflametory soundbites. another big talker is the last thing we need. we need a doer, a businessman and a centrist.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nik green

    If a flat tax is favored by the rightwing as 'fair', how about the notion of 'flat fines;' as well? For example, a simple moving violation, such as a speeding ticket of typically $300, is a significant punishment for the working poor, but to a wealthy person, it doesn't even register.. its the equivalent of leaving a penny in the penny-jar at the grocers.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MCFx

    Who writes the tax codes? CONGRESS. In the 2006 elections, the Democrats won a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. In the 2008 elections, Democrats won a Supermajority in the Senate, maintained a majority in the House of Representatives, and won the Presidency. After the 2010 elections, the Democrats maintained a majority in the Senate and still had control of the Presidency. Why is it that the tax code hasn't been changed in the last 5 years???!!!! Because, it makes no ECOMONIC sense for Dems to raise taxes on the rich (effectively taxing themselves and their donors) and it makes a whole lot of POLITICAL sense to wait until you can have the Republicans to fight a tax increase and point the finger at them as obstructionists.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • The King

      Maybe you haven't noticed but the Dems did propose legislation to let the bush tax cuts expire on couples with AGI>250K, individuals >$200K. The GOP shot it down with their nonsensical "punish success", "class warfare" schtick. The fact is, trickle down economic theory coupled with weak trade policies and a global economy doesn't work. The GOP have to know this which is why they resort to their nonsense.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fistface

    I don't care personally. In fact I think giving the Federal Government 6 Million dollars as any one individual should cover you for a lifetime. What the real problem is, is the tax-brackets for the working class that make 120k and below.. The big and bloated Fed simply cant justify taxing anyone more than 10% of their earned income that actually work for a living. They need to cut spending.. and seek whatever revenue they need for their BLOAT elsewhere.

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

    Yea that 80% number should also have next to it the number of people living at or below the "poverty" line and the percent uninsured, etc. etc. etc. If one guy had all the money and everybody else were slaves, he'd pay 99.9999% of the taxes, because he had 99.9999% of the income. But whatever. Vote for Romney you lDIOTS.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John

    Just curious as to when the United States became a country of whiney haters...?

    What's really going on here is nothing but outright childish jealousy. As if any of the people bemoaning Romney's wealth would do anything differently if they was as successful as he has been. (Actually, most would have probably lost or spent their money already instead of shrewdly investing it)

    I'd be willing to bet that 90% of you whiners wouldn't even donate the millions to charity that he did...

    Face it... some people are smarter and more successful than you are. Get over it. Go live your life and stop worrying about what the other guy has. Jeeze.

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

      and this is the heart of the "outrage". "Mitt has more money than me." this is a presidential election, not preschool.

      don't we want someone who is successful at streamlining failing business, making them efficient and profitable (net adding of jobs), running the biggest business on earth, the US government?

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

    Much is made of the fact that Romney's 14% taxes paid is less than the majority pays, but the real question should be what is the average tax burden on people after the cost to exist- the cost of food, clothing, and shelter. For many the cost to exist is only slightly less than what is needed to survive. How many want to be poor so they can pay a percentage of tax on total income less than Romney pays?

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

    So you would rather he liquidate all his investments? That would be great for America and for you too! (sarcasm intended).

    Imagine how hard it would be for your employer to get money to pay your salary if every multi-millionaire liquidated their investments. Hello Armageddon. They take on risks so that people with good ideas can get them to the market place and let people like you and me decide if that investment is worth our money.

    ...and where is the outrage over hollywood actors and their incredible fortunes?? Hope they are investing.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sam

    Do you really want an unsuccessful President? When was the last time we had one? People should stop whining and do what it takes to be the best they can be. That is why America is so great. It's the land of freedom and opportunity not handouts like some people want. We need to embrace capitalism not destroy it.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. The Nation

    Romney believes on the values and principles that sustain the 1 percent and his only answer to the poor is "work for it because I did it – until then rot in hell".

    January 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alex

    If I hear Suzzane say Mitt "FINALLY' releases his tax returns to show us what we already know, how rich he is, Ill scream. How about Barrack finally releasing his birth certificate to show us what we all hope is true?......Coming from one who makes the median income of less than 50k, I am sick of the attack on the rich, they already pay the majority of taxes in this country. How about the 40%+ in this country who pay nothing, where is the talk of them paying their fair share. A flat tax makes all pay their fair share

    January 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
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