Friday, August 17, 2012

Mitt Romney makes his tax return troubles worse

By Nathan Rothwell
Mitt Romney displays "Presidential Accountability Scorecard"
source: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo
An excellent piece from Steve Benen over at the Rachel Maddow blog appeared yesterday on the ongoing tax-return saga with Mr. Romney. It seems that while he just wishes the issue would die already (even though he could very easily make that happen by just releasing the returns already!), he manages to keep it going by opening his mouth every now and again to put his foot in there.

I won't get into the six reasons Benen lists for how and why Romney continues to make life difficult for himself, as I highly recommend showing him some love and traffic by reading them over at the Maddow blog. However, I would like to add a seventh reason Romney dug his hole even deeper: he compared his religious tithing to his tax obligations.

Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I thought the entire point of giving to charity was to do so out of the goodness of one's heart. Romney may be required by his church to tithe 10% of his income, but this requirement comes from the idea that those who live comfortably and are well-off in life should feel obligated to make the world just a little bit brighter for those less fortunate. Unlike the tax debate plaguing this nation that centers on "fairness," charity tends not to get involved in that debate. No one argues over whether the impoverished "deserve" any help. It's done first and foremost in the name of human decency.

Granted, the Mormon Church tends to lavishly spend a great deal of its collected tithes on itself. It also uses much of that money to enter into the political arena (such as its enthusiastic and infamous backing of California's Prop 8 in 2008), which can hardly be considered charity. But like most religious institutions, it also contributes a great deal of money toward helping the less fortunate, which should be commended.

And this is why Romney's comparison of his tax obligations and his charity obligations is so troubling. Religious tithing is supposed to come from a place of altruism, and maybe he believes this deep down. Yet he lumps both obligations together in a single sentence, and it is clear he looks upon his tax obligations with more disdain than anything (famously bragging "I've paid all the taxes I owe, and not a penny more!")

Does he feel the same way about his obligation to his church? Does he pay them exactly what he owes, and not a penny more? Or could it be that, like his tax returns, he's used some creative accounting to minimize the amount of money that his religion demands of him? It truly makes one wonder if, much like his taxes, he thinks of his charitable giving as nothing more than a heavy burden on his offshore bank accounts.

Every time Team Romney attempts to settle this issue with an answer that's only appropriate for their own gain, they invite more and more questions on themselves. Questions that can only be answered if he would search within his heart for a modicum of honesty and release his tax returns to the American people.

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