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. d

    "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

    If it's ok with Jesus it's ok with me.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. You Nail Your Own Coffin

    The overriding question here is knowing that a candidate has that much wealth, in the multi millions of dollars and making more each year, when the vast majority of Americans do not have that kind of money and will never have that kind of money, why would anyone want to elect a Republican into the nation's highest office knowing they would not or could not ever be sympathetic to the plight of the Middle Class, Minorities, and the Poor? Let's face it, these rich folks have nothing in common with us. They've never walked in our shoes. They can't or won't help us so why keep electing and re-electing them into office? All they want is our votes and then They're Done With Us! We need one of our own who truly understands the problems we face and one who understands it not just from the standpoint of dollars but also of sense!

    January 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • puchis

      My my by all means let elect someone who's walk in your shoes now take a look at how many democratics have more weath than this dud. Off the top of my head take a look at Kerry.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • me138

      they are all rich, John kerry paid even less than romney where is the outrage...lol

      January 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ialsoagree

      As a liberal independent, I agree with Puchis. More than 50% of our representatives in congress are also millionaires. The issue, IMHO, isn't about Romney specifically, but about the wealth gap that exists in the United States – the worst wealth gap in a 1st world country, that's pretty pathetic – the fact that, in overall taxes (including payroll taxes etc.) Romney makes more than 99% of Americans, and pays less in taxes than about 25% of Americans, and gets the most benfit from government.

      Sure, people can point at welfare, but lets be honest, getting 20-50K dollars a year from welfare is a pittance compared to the billions of dollars pumped into our military that primarily helps business owners and investors with foreign interests.

      I don't know about you, but my income doesn't come from foreign investments, I don't own foreign businesses or foreign property, and the only benefit of the military I see is when they protect me from a genuine threat – which hasn't really happened since the cold war.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Anyone think about electing someone who knows how the fix the economy? It's evident in looking at Romney's tax returns that he makes a lot of money, because he KNOWS how to make the money. Isn't this the type of person we want to be president in our current economic situation? Besides, I have no problem with allowing people to make as much money as possible. Isn't that what everyone wants? To have as much money as possible, economically speaking? It's just that some people are able to do it, while others don't put in the effort. I'm no where close to wealthy, but I have no problem with others making money because of their own innovation, intelligence, and hard work. I know I benefit from the products they sell, so keep it coming! Imagine if we limited what Steve Jobs could do by taking away his entrepreneurial spirit? We wouldn't have the iphone or ipad, or the knock off droid phones that imitated every technological idea that came from Jobs.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich Wont Help Poor

      Peter, God is not amused nor supportive of the rich! Obama, by comparison, is the poorest compared with the Republicans!
      "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." -- MATTHEW 19:24 King James Version.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank Bucalo

    The real issue is whether the 15% capital gains rate makes sense. The theory is that invested capital creates jobs, lifting all boats. My hypothesis is that over the alast two generations, capital has been invested in technology that destroys American jobs. Itwould be simple to take Romney's tax return to determine the comapanies he is invested in and compute the number of fulltime American employees they have today vs. ten years ago.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • facefur

      I agree that the capital gains tax rate needs to be re-examined. While I actually admire people who rake in large profits on investments, I have maintained that since the rate was dramatically lowered in 2003, there has been no evidence presented to convince me that such a pass on incomes has actually generated a single job. Well, okay, so maybe the rich hired more domestic help, but probably at close to minimum wage. The only factual result is that those with large amount to invest get to keep more of their gains, i.e. the rich get richer.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • twinswan

      Republicans have long touted trickle down economics. Just wondering how much of Romney's economics have trickled down into jobs? I'm guessing not many.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kingofall

    what the people here are not looking at is how can any working class person beleive when Mitt Romney tells them what he is going to do for them, or he know exactly what there going through, he never has or never will he doesn't even know any working class people never mind poor people, He is a MULTI MULTI millionaire who is catered to morning noon and night. enough said

    January 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • neddevine

      Regarding Mitt not understanding the average person:

      Romney is very private about his personal life, especially his religion, which endures all kinds of misrepresentation. Mitt Romney was an LDS (mormon) stake president, an assignment typically held for 9 years. A stake president presides over many "wards" (like parishes). Before that, he served as a bishop of a ward, which typically lasts 5 years. Both of those offices require an extraordinary amount of time in helping people in need, whether physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually. It takes compassion and wisdom and ability to meet those needs. My husband is currently a bishop, while in his "day job" he oversees 60 people in scientific research. His work in the church is demanding, and gut wrenching; thankfully the LDS church has many resources in place to assist these lay bishops. I can tell you that Mitt Romney is in touch and understands the problems of everyday people, but he holds these things sacred and is very modest about it.

      I am sure that the DNC is lining up all the disgruntled people they can to distort the work that Romney did in his church, but I hope that people will have the wisdom to remember the exponentially more people that he helped, very privately and without fanfare.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • neddevine

      Just so there is no misunderstanding, when I say Romney "holds these things sacred", I mean that a bishop or stake president does not divulge the private trials of anyone that comes to them for help, much like a catholic priest in confession.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • kingofall

      to nedevine, no disrespect to what Romney has done helping people in his life, but UNTIL YOU HAVE WALKED A MILE in that particular persons shoes you have ABSOLUTLEY no idea what it's like, helping them for an hour, a week , or a month or a year, IS NOT EVEN CLOSE, and at the end of the day he lays his head down in his multi-million dollar mansionS nice and warm from the elements outside, enough said

      January 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • neddevine

      I understand your point. . .it's impossible to really know unless you live it. But by your standard, that while the majority of Americans have had challenges, they have not walked in the really desperate shoes, including Barach Obama.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Navy74

    So, Romney made a lot of money. That is a dream that can be realized by many people in our free country. He paid the legal 14-15% taxes on his earnings. He also paid another 20% on top of that to charity. Looks like he is trying to do the right thing with his money rather than the selfish thing. I'm not convinced the government could do as well with that extra 20%.

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

      Since his biggest charity donation was to the Mormon church, yeah, I'm pretty sure the government could put it to bette use. "Lack of anti-gay-marriage billboards" is not a pressing national problem.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Only goals

    By golly, this is one of the richest half Mexicans I have ever heard about! Too bad he's only interested in making more money and grabbing the power of the White House and little else!

    January 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Needs To Understand Things

      Yes, I heard about that too. hispanicprblog.com/hispanic-culture-news/mitt-romney-hispanic.html But the bad thing is that he would not help anyone who was not wealthy like he is and therein lies the problem! The rich have absolutely no compassion for the Middle Class and the Poor let's face it. So, let's not waste our vote on him, re-elect OBAMA in 2012!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • facefur

      While he certainly and obviously want the White House and the power of the Presidency, he could make tons more money staying out of politics and going back to his venture capital firm. Regardless of how money influences politics, going into office doesn't make you rich, just influential. You make money either before or after holding office.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • neddevine

      Needs to Understand: Obama is a millionaire.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Needs To Understand Things

      neddevine, Obama may be a millionaire but at least he is compassionate about those in the Middle Class, Minorities, and the Poor and does something to help them. What's Republican Romney's excuse?!

      January 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Humble

    Since he has been getting 14% lower tax for many years , how many jobs has he created?
    Don't be deceived lower tax for the rich only amount to more tax account

    January 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David Henry

    When Exxon was making a return of only 10% on its $Billions, citizens complained about the $ volume as excessive. Romney pays Millions $ is taxes and now citizens are up in arms about his tax rate %. Sounds like anti-capitalism to me. The key word in the entire Romney tax issue is "INVESTMENT".

    January 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Humble

    Do I get tax relieve on my saving account? is that not investment

    January 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Fair-is-Fair

    Where's the similar dissection of Obama's tax returns?

    January 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      He only made $1.8m last year, so I guess he doesn't classify as rich. It also means he can relate to people.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. affguy

    I make approximately 0.5% of what Mitt Romney does per year ($100k/yr) but pay approximately double the percentage of my income to taxes (29%). I don't fault him his income, or the legality of his payments, however I find serious fault in the tax code that allows such inequity, skewed toward the far upper reaches of our economic composition. With budget shortfalls as large as the US has seen over the last 30 years, the wealthy should be on tap for *at least* the same percentage as the middle class, and honestly, they could afford to dig a little deeper than those of us who actually have to save/budget for things like transportation, appliances, home repairs, etc.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. neddevine

    People also seem to believe that money from the wealthy would somehow abolish the deficit, and wipe out poverty. It wouldn't even make a dent. Let these guys pay their fair share (40% Income tax is very fair, which isn't mentioned since Romney no longer has that income, but was subject to in the past), and give them incentive to invest.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Barry

    I am glad that R-money made his money. I am happy for him and regardless of what he did to get it, he got it legally. My issue is the Tax code. I have alwys said that the US Tax Code was design for the rich, for the rich and by the rich. As for Rmoney, can a poor or middle class person rationally thinks that this guy if gets elected to office would truly be an advocate for the those below his economic status? For all those older voters, especially, if you are white and on SS, medicare or even medicade, there you are advocating for him, if he gets into the white house, surely, you can kiss you benefits goodbye.
    By the way, why should anyone be surprised, UNCLE SAM gives million in subsidies to oil companies that makes BILLIONS in profits.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chacha

    I thought what Romney has done (become rich and successful) is what we all should be striving for? Did I miss something? When did we become a nation of whining cry-babies? Waaaah! Romney has more money than I do!! BOO HOO! Go Romney! He worked hard. Good for him. I'm poor by definition...but I'm not crying about it. I work hard. If there is something wrong with the tax code, then it should be fixed. But please. Can you tell me are any of these politicians "middle class"? PLEASE!

    January 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. J0e

    Democratic Senator and Presidential Candidate John Kerry and Al Gore were more wealthy than Governor Romney. And it appears Governor Romney never had a $1250 haircut as did Al Gore's VP candidate John Edwards. Then there's the Kennedys....

    January 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
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