Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”. Bigotry may be based on real or perceived characteristics, including age, disability, dissension from popular opinions, economic status, ethnicity, gender identity,language, nationality, political alignment, race, region, religious or spiritual belief, sex, or sexual orientation. Bigotry is sometimes developed into an ideology or world view.
So as I sit here, skimming Twitter and the news (thereby avoiding the task of writing a research paper), I sigh and sigh. As the presidential election creeps closer, it seems the attacks grow more vicious, the rhetoric more misleading and childish, the desperation for campaign contributions more feverish. The heated vitriol among the most loyal supporters has always been there, but now it spreads through everything like a virus, infecting even those who had been more moderate and tolerant in their opinions and commentary.
I know this seems like a pretty harsh observation, but understand that I am not singling out one campaign or another, one group or another. I am pointing to both. Those of us who are in between become swept up and overwashed by the tide of vicious attacks and false accusations. Some who do not wish to receive figurative black eyes from the fervent remain silent. Some dare to express their thoughts but do so in fear of being misjudged or misunderstood. Some just do not care, seeing the entire process as futile as in their eyes nothing will ever change. Those who attempt to educate themselves about issues become exhausted after sifting through a barrage of bias. One side calls Romney a liar saying that he flip-flops, will present whatever works to get elected, and only cares about the rich. The other side says that Obama is the liar, distorting and cherry-picking facts that only support him, placing the blame on others, and keeping his real agenda hidden. If one votes for Romney, he or she must be a racist, an elitist who doesn’t care about those less-fortunate. If one votes for Obama, he or she must be a radical feminist/environmentalist, poor and uneducated, or a socialist (socialism is NOT communism by the way). No matter how a person feels, no matter which issues are important to that person, no matter what beliefs are best supported, the other campaign and its lackeys seek to break that person down (or lift them up) to earn another vote for their candidate.
So here is how it is for me…An American citizen with very real concerns and beliefs that are shaped by my personal experiences…a person who has worked hard to educate myself about my opinions and the issues that are important to me so that I can reach an informed decision: I have spent many hours researching and reading articles, blogs, documents, and information. Some of it is biased, although I try to find both sides. Some of it is boring, tedious, “want to shoot myself in the head” rhetoric in the form of laws, bills, and statistics. The point is that I have not allowed ANYONE else to do my thinking for me. I have questioned everything, and I have made up my mind. I know who I will be voting for come the time. I know why I am making the choice- why I believe and feel what I do. My choice is popular with some and unpopular with others (about 50% either way according to polls).
Now, even though I have made up my mind and am not afraid to express myself, I do not wish to persuade anyone else to feel the same way. I will argue proudly for my own beliefs, but I will not dismiss someone else’s simply because they are different. I do not view someone else’s opinion as inferior to my own. I might wonder to myself what motivates them, but that is because I recognize and understand that we are all very different individuals with different situations, experiences, and needs. I want to understand not change them. We are all at different places in life. Even if I might disagree with another person’s choices, I do not question the integrity or ability of others to make their own decisions. I fully embrace the right that each individual has to choose to vote or not. I embrace the right that each has to choose a candidate. AND I am sick and tired of listening to those who put down, attack, and vilify others because they think differently. I am sick of hearing about “libtards” and “republictards”, “Socialists” and “Facists.” I am sick of the finger-pointing, name-calling, and nastiness that oozes from political commentators, media outlets, and Americans. This is not high school. We are supposed to be rational, educated adults. So the likes of Rush Limbaugh resorting to calling Sandra Fluke a slut and Lawrence O’donnell challenging Mitt Romney’s son to a fistfight are infantile and unacceptable. Sadly enough, I could go on and on about this, but my entire point is that the behavior turns my stomach and serves nobody well.
In turn, I wish to be respected for my choices. I would like to be able to say something in a conversation without someone calling me “Darwinian” or “provincial.” I would like to be able to read and listen to civil, rational conversations. I would like to be able to read something that isn’t so heavily biased it makes my head spin. I would like people to quit implying that because I feel the way I do or believe what I believe there is something wrong with me.
When the election is over and done, when a president is sworn into office, life will continue regardless of who it is. My life will go on as it always has, and I will adapt accordingly as I always have. Some things will be harder; some things will be easier. I will do whatever I must to protect myself, my family, and my beliefs with integrity because in the end that is what really matters to me. Whether we have to change our lives completely will depend on how the tide flows. As always, I will find a way; my family will find a way; we will survive a President Obama or a President Romney.
Although they have quite a bit of catching up to do, the Romney campaign seems to be making a valiant effort in the email deluge. Here are the last 6 emails I received over 8 days.
August 12 #8
I am deeply honored to join Mitt Romney as his running mate — and I am thrilled to be a part of America’s Comeback Team.
I’m looking forward to what lies ahead — especially meeting supporters like you. One lucky supporter still can win the chance to meet Mitt and me before things really heat up with the Convention.
Enter now until Wednesday: http://www.mittromney.com/donate
America is on the wrong track — but Mitt and I will take the right steps, in the right time, to get us back on the right track! And together, we will unite America and get this done.
Thanks for your support and your excitement — we are looking forward to meeting and celebrating with supporters like you soon.
August 12 #9
Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has made great decisions, and choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate is a truly inspired choice. I got to know Paul during my Senate campaign when he endorsed me early on when I was still considered a long shot.
Paul Ryan is a courageous reformer who understands our nation’s challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama and other Washington politicians trying to tear him down.
The Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win in November because it offers the American people visionary leadership to recapture the free enterprise spirit that has empowered countless Americans to build businesses from scratch and live the American dream.
I’m excited about the visionary change a Romney-Ryan team will bring to Washington, and I look forward to campaigning with them this fall.
Donate today and send a message to President Obama and his liberal allies that we can’t afford four more years of reckless, runaway spending.
August 16 #10
It’s hard to believe the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL is just 11 days away. The convention is our moment to stand united as a party, and to throw our collective support behind the Romney-Ryan ticket and the entire Republican team.
As we ramp up for Tampa, we hope you’ll ramp up your support, too — because we’re counting on you to help Mitt, Paul, and the entire Republican team win in November.
Show your support by donating $15 or more today.
Ours has been a campaign to unite every American who knows in his or her heart that we can do better. And with your help we’ll take back America.
Katie Packer Gage
Deputy Campaign Manager
Romney for President, Inc.
August 16 #11
Four years ago, President Obama ran on a campaign of “hope and change,” promising to be a different kind of politician. Today, however, we bear witness to a campaign based on frustration and division.
With no record to run on, President Obama and the liberal Democrats continue to practice Chicago-style politics, making false accusations that disgrace the Office of the President. President Obama and his allies have gone from implying that Governor Romney is a felon and murderer to saying that Republicans want to put Americans in chains.
Watch this recent video to see how the Obama campaign and the liberal Democrats have gone too far.
It’s time for President Obama and the liberal Democrats to take responsibility for the tone and rhetoric coming from their reelection machine.
Please donate $10 or more today to bring civility back to Washington.
Chairman, Republican National Committee
August 17 #12
It’s been a long road to the convention, and supporters like you have gotten me this far.
That’s why I’m excited to invite you to join us in Tampa.
Donate $3 today to be automatically entered for your chance to go behind the scenes in Tampa and to be there when I accept the nomination.
It’s time to put an end to President Obama’s campaign of frustration and division by coming together as a unified party. The convention is sure to be a pivotal moment and an unforgettable experience for anyone who shares my belief that it’s time to get America back on track.
I hope you’ll be there to celebrate with us.
August 18 #13
No one from the government was there when we were sweating it, when we were building this business. I’m proud of the business I’ve built, so I appreciate Mitt Romney for standing up for people like me. He knows the kind of hard work and dedication it takes to make a business successful.
We need a president who understands business. Who understands what it means to make payroll. Who understands what it means to grow an enterprise and to be successful. I think Mitt is the candidate for the job.
Show pride in your accomplishments — and help Mitt and the Republican team win in November.
Get your built by us shirt here!
Shop the entire Built By Us Collection now!
Co-owner, Village Corner Deli
August 19 #14
The convention is just days away — and we are excited to watch Mitt accept the nomination in front of the entire party.
Would you like to be there with us for that historic moment — when the confetti and balloons drop?
Two lucky supporters will win the chance to join us at the Republican National Convention in Tampa and actually be there when Mitt becomes our party’s nominee. And we’ll even take care of the airfare and hotel.
Donate $3 today to be automatically entered for your chance to join the Republican team in Tampa.
Don’t miss out on your chance at a front row seat to history!
Chief of Staff
Republican National Committee
Should politicians be held accountable for the things that they say? Is there a difference between a harmless gaffe, a slip of the tongue, and a true reflection of the individual’s personal agenda? If so, how can the average person determine the difference?
According to George Will, “A politician’s words reveal less about what he thinks about his subject than what he thinks about his audience” (1). So the question remains whether we should we judge politicians by their words, especially if we do not have a clear view or record of their actions. Nevertheless, many politicians have said things that when taken out of context could easily be misinterpreted. This is especially true for prominent individuals, and I doubt that there has been one who has not made some sort of gaffe.
The following video is a compilation of awkward moments and worth a laugh.
According to columnist Michael Kinsley, ” A gaffe is not necessarily when a politician tells the truth. It’s when a politician says what’s really on his or her mind, which may or may not be the truth” (3). In the game of politics and elections, it is only natural that the opposition will pick up on any gaffe and use it to their advantage by either taking it out of context, exaggerating it, or misrepresenting it. We have seen this repeatedly during election cycles, especially now. Kinsley argues that ” Either the remark is being misinterpreted by opponents, or it is what used to be called a Freudian slip, unintentionally revealing an attitude or prejudice that the candidate was trying to suppress” (3). He also argues that politicians are so well-trained on their talking points, especially those in major elections, that it would be unlikely that one would actually slip and say what is really on his or her mind.
I would agree with Kinsley on some of his points; however, I also know that politicians, especially those in big elections, have people who write their speeches for them. These speeches are riddled with the well-rehearsed talking points that we so often hear repeated over and over by all who are a part of the campaign and support it. There is often little variation in the substance, and the politician giving the speech typically uses a teleprompter. A 2009 article in The New York Times suggests that President Obama relies on a teleprompter “extensively” and “…uses them for routine announcements…” (4). The author of the article goes so far as to assert “For Mr. Obama, a teleprompter means message discipline, sticking close to the intended words. While some presidents prefer extemporizing, Mr. Obama likes the message to be just so” (4). Although I was not a big supporter of Rick Santorum, I do agree with a statement he made regarding the use of teleprompters:
“See, I always believed that when you run for president of the United States, it should be illegal to read off a
teleprompter. Because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.You’re voting for someone who
is going to be the leader of our government. It’s important for you to understand who that person is in their own
words, see them, look them in the eye…hear what’s (in their) heart.You’re choosing a leader. A leader isn’t just
about what’s written on a piece of paper” (2).
Perhaps in an effort to appear more genuine or in-touch with people, President Obama seems to speaking more freely during his campaign stops. I do not know whether or not he is still relying on a teleprompter for the smaller events, but my instinct tells me he is not. Nick Wing from The Huffington Post states that “Team Obama thinks the switch, or partial switch — the president is not giving up the teleprompter entirely — will help him better connect with voters” (5). Unfortunately, Obama has made many gaffes in recent months, ones that the republican party is quick to dissect. I cannot say whether or not this a result of Obama’s diminishing reliance on teleprompters and growing attempts to be more extemporaneous.
Most gaffes are harmless, perhaps an insensitive or misdirected attempt by a politician to connect with his or her audience. There are plenty of examples from which to draw (I will focus solely on Obama and Romney). For example, in January Mitt Romney said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” When read by itself, that statement appears to be poorly constructed and paints the speaker as a ruthless tyrant. Nevertheless, when one reviews the entire speech, the meaning is clearly a continuation of his assertion that people should have choice and be able to fire health insurance companies that do not provide adequate or service to their customers. In February when he stated, “[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs” he showed his struggle to connect to the average American and appeared somewhat insensitive. But given Romney’s financial background, it would be naive for anyone to expect that on occasion he may slip and reveal glimpses of his wealth. And, when taken in the context of his speech, the message was clear that he was showing his support for the American auto industry, not flaunting his wealth. In September of 2011, Obama commented “Now, we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America. We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad…” Obviously this is a harmless slip of the tongue to which any person could fall victim. It would be very easy to say intercontinental instead of transcontinental, and it does not demonstrate a lack of knowledge on Obama’s part. This June he had an “oops” moment when, according to White House transcripts, he said, “I want to thank my wonderful friend [Ellen DeGeneres] who accepts a little bit of teasing about Michelle beating her in pushups — (laughter) — but I think she claims Michelle didn’t go all the way down. (Laughter) ” It is unlikely that he realized or intended any sort of sexual innuendo in the comment.
So how does an average person such as myself determine what is in a candidate’s mind and heart? What information can I use to determine whether or not a verbal slip by a politician is merely poorly chosen words or a glimpse of more? I do not wish to form my opinions strictly based on those of conservative and liberal talking heads, like FOX and MSNBC. Therefore, the first thing I do is eliminate anything that is merely a regurgitation of a talking point. Then I spend an inordinate amount of time reading articles and opinion pieces. Yes, they are often biased, but I review ones that are representative of both sides. I also draw conclusions through my own analysis. I refer not only to the context of the speech but also the speaker’s tone, body language, and word choice.
On July 13, President Obama gave a speech in Roanoke, Virginia during a campaign event. The content, and obvious gaffe, has been the subject of much debate as well as fodder for the Romney campaign. In her article for The Hill, Amie Parnes writes, “Republicans say the seemingly unscripted ‘you didn’t build that’ moment…exposed what they say are Obama’s dismissive feelings for the role of business and the private sector” (6). Although my initial reaction upon hearing the speech was insult and anger, I gave it deep consideration. Rather than focusing on sound bites and isolated lines, I read the 38 minute speech for myself. I also watched the video. Despite the many platitudes, ideals, and personal reflections contained within, there was only one portion that stood out to me, and it still insulted and angered me. The following excerpt, approximately 33 minutes into the speech, is what I believe deserves analysis:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something
back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get
there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.
There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me
tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in
your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.
Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else
made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that
all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do
things together. (7)
I realize that the conservative media and republican party have picked lines from this section of the speech to strengthen their attack on Obama. Nevertheless, that is not specifically why I chose it. As a matter of fact, I feel that in this instance they are fully justified in their attacks. Despite the fact that Obama’s main message is that everyone works together and relies on others to accomplish goals, which I support, I think there is also a hidden message here. I see some very disturbing and telling things in these spoken lines.
It is obvious that Obama is not following a script at this point as he says “They know they didn’t — look…” The shift in his sentence structure and a brief pause indicate a change in direction, and his expression and tone clearly demonstrate deliberate thought. As he continues, his facial expression, body language, cadence, and tone all change. When Obama says “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there,” he appears agitated, almost angry. I would even go so far as to say he has the beginnings of a smirk or sneer on his face. Then he continues to attack some invisible adversary as he lectures, ” It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” All of this combined forces me to question his real target. Is it Mitt Romney? Is it those who earn $250,000 or more a year? Is it the individuals who have taken pride in establishing their own businesses? Just whom is he addressing and berating? I also wonder if this is how he views the mindset of “successful” Americans (I’m so smart and worked harder). Does Obama define success by wealth?
These questions all lead me to wonder exactly what Obama means when he says, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” I now know that the object of his derision is the business owner. Obama’s tone is still accusatory and bitter. His body language and expressions continue to indicate agitation. His curved fingers and lowered eyelids as he expresses his thoughts signify anger. Unfortunately, he does not pause to define who that “somebody else” is that made things happen. Is he speaking of the government? middle-class Americans? other businesses? Just who is the “somebody else”?
The next two lines in the speech absolutely define who Obama thinks “somebody else” is- the government. He states, “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.” This may be two short lines, but they resonate loudly as a clear example of Obama’s point. Companies (aka businesses) are successful (aka rich) because the government provided the Internet (aka means). The statement is faulty logic (post hoc I believe), and also plays off the fact that most people do not distinguish between the Internet and the World Wide Web- which I will save for another post.
Obama’s words are clear here, and no spin, retraction, or “what I meant” can make it any less shocking to me. The obvious disdain and vexation with which Obama speaks, the facial expressions, the body language, all paint a very vivid picture for me. I am no expert in body language, but I sense the change at this point in the speech. I see the sneer, sense the slight variation in his voice, notice the tension in his body. All indicate to me a strong, deep, personal feeling about something.
Gaffes are a part of human nature. Sometimes they are a harmless slip of the tongue signifying nothing. Sometimes they provide material for late night talk show hosts and opponents. Sometimes they reflect the true beliefs and feelings of the speaker. In the case of Obama’s speech I feel it is the latter. I believe that he meant exactly what he said.
I really like the points that Patrick Gage makes in his blog regarding Obama’s speech. He poses a good argument to support his assertion that “Obama believes that government is the foremost creator of economic prosperity in America.” Please take a moment to read it.
(1) Famous Quotes About Politicians and Politics
(2) Politicians (Barack Obama) Who Use a Teleprompter Can’t Think for Themselves
(3) The Gaffe-termath of Political Slips
(4) President Sticks to the Script, With a Little Help
(5) Obama Teleprompter Getting Less Use On Campaign Trail
(6) ‘You didn’t build that’ remarks won’t change Obama’s strategy on the stump
(7) Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia
10 Most Awkward Political Gaffes (video)
Dumb Mitt Romney Quotes
Romney: ‘I like being able to fire people who provide services to me’
Mitt Romney: Wife Ann drives ‘a couple of Cadillacs’
Obamaisms: Dumb Quotes and Gaffes by Barack Obama
President Obama’s ‘private sector’ gaffe a possible window to soul like other recent gaffes?
I must admit that I am somewhat torn by the current debate over whether or not Mitt Romney should release more tax returns. I have listened to arguments on all sides, and I feel somewhat divided on the issue. The one conclusion that I have drawn, however, is that many of the politicians calling for the release of his tax returns are quite hypocritical.
The argument that the opposition is putting forth is that anyone who runs for the office of president should be transparent. In addition, they claim that it is tradition for presidential candidates to release many years. Many top Democratic officials have gone so far as to imply that Romney will not release his returns because he is hiding something nefarious. Some have not gone quite that far but are willing to speculate that there are years when Romney did not pay any taxes or that he is avoiding paying taxes by “hiding” his money in offshore accounts. It is all speculation of course, laced with the worst kinds of innuendo designed to discredit and paint the Republican candidate in a negative light.
One example of this practice is in a statement by Obama’s campaign manager, ” ‘The President and the Vice President released their tax returns today so that Americans can review their personal finances, understand how they earn their income and ensure there are no conflicts with the interests of the nation…But on the eve of April 17th, Governor Romney has yet to provide tax returns from the period in which he made hundreds of millions as a corporate buyout specialist, or as governor of Massachusetts, the experience he says qualifies him to be president’ “(3). Senator Reid gave a speech to the Senate in which he asked, “ ‘We’d like to know what’s in those tax returns that he refuses to show to the American public. Did he pay any taxes?’ ” He has even gone so far as to suggest that “Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns would make him ineligible to serve even as dogcatcher” (9). Another example of the innuendo is when “Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee,…harangued Romney for refusing to release more tax returns, calling it a ‘penchant for secrecy‘ ” (9).
On the other hand, Romney supporters argue that this issue is just a way for Democrats to distract the voters from the real issues at hand such as the economy and President Obama’s poor record in office. According to John D. McKinnon, “Democrats see a way to deflect voter dissatisfaction over the weak economy and diminish the GOP’s advantage on tax issues by attacking what they describe as tax breaks that have unfairly benefited wealthy people and big corporations and drawn jobs and investment away from the U.S.” (5). Supporters also claim that even if Romney did release more returns, it would not be enough to silence the opposition, and the returns would become a tool that the Obama campaign would use to manipulate Romney’s image as a fat cat who only cares about the wealthy. The tax code is so complicated that even if the public did review Romney’s returns, it might not understand many items such as investment dividends, which would make it very easy for the opposition to distort. ” ‘In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy,’ Romney told Costa. ‘And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about’ ” (6). An article in The Washington Post states, “Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry said that by calling for the tax returns, Obama “wants people to be jealous of and resent wealth” and that the president “is without question wanting a street fight in this campaign.” (7)
As always, I try not to be swayed by the media or political talking heads. I want to form my own opinions on issues, and part of that requires that I educate myself as much as I can. So, the first question I asked myself is what value there is in reviewing Romney’s tax returns. I wonder how many people would actually take the time to read through the tax returns themselves and how many would rely on political analysts and strategists to do it for them. There are two problems I see here. First of all, as I have already pointed out, tax returns can be very complicated and difficult to understand. Most people don’t even want to look at their own tax returns, and many who have itemized deductions and other complicated financial issues hire a professional to do the work. So would the average American glean much from Romney’s tax return? The second issue is that if voters rely on others to interpret the information for them, then it will likely be biased. It is easy to manipulate numbers, omit certain information, and misrepresent other information to support a point.
In order to see how I would interpret such information, I reviewed all of Obama’s returns and the two for Romney. To be honest, I did not have the patience of will to understand what was in half of them. The two things I did pay attention to were the adjusted gross income and gifts that each gave to charity. (I have listed both below.) I was not sure what it meant when I saw foreign income listed on Obama’s return, nor did I understand what the $24,000 gifts the Obama’s gave to their daughters was. Romney’s return has sections that went completely over my head.
The conclusions I drew are simple.
- I really have no idea exactly how they made their money. I do understand some of the employment, but once it goes into investments- capital gains and losses- etc, I am lost.
- I do not have the patience or will to determine what tax rate they paid.
- Seeing the returns has not influenced me in favor of one or the other one bit, although I must admit that I am somewhat impressed by how well Romney seems to have chosen his investments and done for himself.
- Both men are far richer than I have ever been and probably ever will be. Neither can empathize with MY financial life or know what I truly need and want nor should he need to.
- I would expect any individual who runs for the office of president to have acquired some wealth. I would want that because if he (or she) has been successful in his (or her) financial life, then that individual should be able to transfer the knowledge and skills to handling the economy.
- Both men are far richer than I have ever been and probably ever will be.
2000 AGI $240,505 Gift $2,350
2001 AGI $272,759 Gift $1,470
2002 AGI $259,394 Gift $1,050
2003 AGI $238,327 Gift $3,400
2004 AGI $207,647 Gift $2,500
2005 AGI $1,655,106 Gift $77,315
2006 AGI $983,826 Gift $60,307
2007 AGI $4,139,965 Gift $240,370
2008 AGI $2,656,902 Gift $172,050
2009 AGI $5,505,409 Gift $329,100
2010 AGI $1,728,096 *822,322 foreign income Gift $245,075 *$24,000 to daughters
2011 AGI $789,674 *269,710 foreign income Gift $172,130 *24,000 to daughters
*2,768,000 treasury bills redeemed
2010 AGI $21,646,507 Gift $2,984,974
2011 AGI $20,901, 075 Gift $4,020,572
Personally, I find very little value in reading someone’s tax returns. It does not speak to me about the individual’s character or values. It does not show me his philosophical views or how well he will lead the country. It is just a matter of numbers on paper that mean nothing.
Another question I have to ask myself is if Romney is hiding something potentially damaging. I have a difficult time arguing against this because I have often felt that if someone refuses to share information, it is because it is something that is not in their best interest so to speak. Nevertheless, that is speculation of the worst kind and makes me no better than those who use this issue to debase an opponent without actual evidence. The logical side of me has to weigh other factors. First, Romney did give the 2008 McCain campaign 23 years of returns when he was considered as a running mate.(3) If the McCain campaign had found something, I am fairly certain it would have surfaced by now. In addition, if there were something illegal in those returns, the IRS should have caught it and acted. That’s what the IRS is for, right? And if government organizations are efficient and effective, then they should be able to follow through.
So what about the idea of tradition? Should Romney release his returns because it is what presidential candidates have done in the past? The Tax History Project is a website that lists past presidents, recent candidates, and their tax returns. Upon review, I found that the number of returns varies from 1 to 13. Jimmy Carter and George Bush only released 3 years while Biden has released 13. In some cases, the candidate only released a partial return or summary data. So I guess there is no firm tradition.
Finally, I have to ask myself what kind of backlash Romney could face if he did release more returns (that being one of his campaign’s main arguments). I tried to research past campaigns to find out how big of an issue this has been before. One interesting thing I found was that “Republican candidate John McCain released two years of tax returns for the years of 2006 and 2007 in April 2008, less than a month after Mr. Obama. The Obama campaign was not satisfied because the candidate, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress due to his wife’s income, did not release his wife’s tax returns” (10). This is an age-old argument that can be traced all the way back to 1980 when Reagan ran against Carter. It has been a relentless form of attack where either the candidate or his spouse faced enormous pressure. Sometimes some potentially embarrassing things were revealed. Ironically, these did not affect the election of the candidate to office. For example, “According to a separate Associated Press report, Reagan experienced “one of the most embarrassing incidents of his career” after his 1970 tax returns were released to the press. The reason? The millionaire former actor and governor, worth up to $4 million, paid no state taxes because of business losses and tax shelters” (10).
All of the research and reading I did lead me to another issue that I have not considered before. If the president should be transparent, shouldn’t all high-level politicians, including members of Congress who write and potentially benefit from the laws they pass? This is where I see the hypocrisy seeping in on this issue. It seems that in Washington there is a double standard, especially when it comes to a critical election year. Some of the following quotes support this:
“Like Romney, many members of Congress are far wealthier than the average American. And like the president of the United States, those congressmen stand to benefit from the tax policies they shape. Currently, the law only requires members of Congress to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. Asked why the rules should be different for members of Congress, she [Nancy Pelosi] said, ‘When I run for president of the United States, you can hold me to that standard’ ” (8).
“The widespread secrecy in one branch of the government suggests a self-imposed double standard. Yet while American politics has come to expect candidates for the presidency to release their tax returns, the president isn’t alone in having a say over the nation’s tax laws. Congress also stands to gain or lose by the very tax policies it enacts, and tax records – more than any broad financial disclosure rules now in place – offer the chance to see whether the leaders of the government stand to benefit from their own actions” (9).
“All three [Pelosi, Reid, and Wasserman Schultz] refused repeated requests from McClatchy to release their own returns, requests that started before the flap over Romney’s records” (9).
I do wish that Romney would release his tax returns. Mainly I wish this because I am tired of hearing about it and would like to get back to the real issues. The other side of me applauds Romney for not caving to the pressure and ridiculous innuendo the other side is throwing to the media. I am sure the returns will surface at some point, but I hope it is on Romney’s terms.
(1) President Obama and Vice President Biden: 12 Years of Tax Returns
(2) Tax history Project: Presidential Tax Returns
(3) Obama releases 2011 tax returns as campaign attacks Romney
(4) Obama, Like Buffett, Had Lower Tax Rate Than His Secretary
(5) Ann Romney: No More Tax Returns
(6) Romney: Releasing past tax returns would give Obama more to ‘distort and lie about’
(7) Romney, under pressure to release tax returns, turns fire on Obama
(8) Few in Congress have released tax returns, report shows
(9) Most members of Congress keep their tax returns secret
(10) Outrage over tax returns a replay of past campaigns
The 3 Reasons Why Romney Won’t Release Those Tax Returns
Why is Congress a millionaires club?
Republicans Step Up Calls for Romney to Release More Tax Returns
Romney’s Tax Returns Are Only the Beginning
Still more holes in Mitt Romney’s tax returns?
What’s Romney Hiding in His Tax Returns?
Why won’t Romney release more tax returns?
Gov. Romney: Just Release the Tax Returns