The incredible new Vanity Fair piece on Romney’s secretive off shore tax accounts and business practices at Bain immediately made me think of one of my favorite video clips of 2012, this one where Romney is talking about how issues related to the concentration of wealth should only be discussed in “quiet rooms”: http://youtu.be/ismksjp10q0
Mitt Romney undeniably likes his secrets, especially when it comes to money, and I have to admit that the revelations in Vanity Fairgave me a different take on the “quiet rooms” quote. I had always assumed it was just Mitt being Mitt, doing his classic Thurston Howell III imitation, another in a long line of Mitticisms (I like being able to fire people, I know a couple of Nascar team owners, did I tell you the funny story about how my dad laid off a bunch of people, etc.) reminding us how cluelessly out of touch Mitt was. It was also the ultimate in big money Republicanism: we don’t talk about these issues in public because we don’t want people to get mad and start a class war. But now it occurs to me what Mitt was really trying to guard in his quiet rooms: all the millions he has secretly stashed away.
What Mitt, with his offshore accounts and his secretive business practices and his endorsement of the Ryan budget which gives even more advantages to Wall Street tycoons like himself, is trying to preserve is the ability to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. He wants a world where the wealthy have all these advantages and loopholes and secret deals and lower tax rates, precisely because that was his entire business model at Bain Capital. He wants a world where he doesn’t have to pay taxes on his accounts in Bermuda and the Caymans and Luxembourg and Switzerland. He wants a world where he can recruit any sleazebag overseas investor to invest in Bain. As Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon.com puts it: “This pattern of elusiveness is hardly confined to Romney’s finances, but rather defines his public life.”
Mitt’s entire career is defined by the secrets he has, and the fact that he didn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else except for a few other well-connected Wall Street guys. The way Mitt made his money is exactly the kind of thing we should be talking about in this presidential campaign — and not only because it relates directly to Romney’s character, experience, and values. We should be talking about this because we should be debating as a country whether we want a country whose economic system is structured primarily to benefit a small number of wealthy, well-connected insiders operating behind closed doors, manipulating the tax code and financial markets to become more and more wealthy; or whether we want a country where businesses make money the old-fashioned way, by manufacturing and selling quality products, and playing by the same rules everyone else has to play by. By and large, with only occasional exceptions where Bain actually created real new jobs, the way Romney became wealthy was to make other people poorer — manipulating the financial markets and tax code, off-shoring jobs, cutting wages and benefits, laying off people, driving companies into bankruptcy while still getting huge fees from them. He also ripped off the rest of us taxpayers through the outrageous carried interest loophole, through loading up companies with debt and then writing it off, and through taking advantage of the taxpayer-backed Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation’s obligation to pay off pensions when Bain’s companies went bankrupt. I guess it is not surprising that having made most of his money that way, he decided to keep so much of that money invested in secret overseas accounts.
No wonder Mitt Romney wants to keep this discussion confined strictly to “quiet rooms”. I would too if I had stashed so many of the millions I made from off-shoring jobs and all these other revolting business practices into secret off-shore accounts. But it is time for America to have this discussion — and not just in quiet rooms.
By: Mike Lux, The Huffington Post, July 3, 2012
Greg Sargent reports on the decision of five Republican governors to screw impoverished and working people out of the health care they are supposed to get from Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As Sargent explains:
Iowa governor Terry Branstad has now become the fifth GOP governor to vow that his state will not opt in to the Medicaid expansion in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. He joins the ranks of Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Florida’s Rick Scott, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.It’s worth keeping a running tally of how many people could go without insurance that would otherwise be covered under Obamacare if these GOP governors make good on their threat.
The latest rough total: Nearly one and a half million people.
…And counting. Sargent rolls out the breakdown estimates for the five states, with Florida leading the pack with more than 683,000 citizens at risk by Governor Scott’s threat. Sargent adds,
Of course, it’s still unclear whether these governors will go through with their threats. David Dayen and Ed Kilgore have both been making good cases that they will. As Dayen and Kilgore both note, some of these GOP governors are relying on objections to the cost of the program to the states — even though the federal government covers 100% of the program for the first three years and it remains a good deal beyond — to mask ideological reasons for opting out…Dayen rightly notes that the media will probably fail to sufficiently untangle the cover stories these governors are using.
If there is a silver lining behind the shameful threats of the five Republican governors, it is that there is a good chance that their actions will provoke mass demonstrations in at least some of their states, hopefully right in front of the gubernatorial mansions, where possible. And wouldn’t it be justice, if those demonstrations were lead by people with serious health problems, bringing along their oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, dialysis machines and other health care devices, joined by nurses and hospital workers in uniforms for exactly the kind of photo ops these governors don’t want?
Perhaps the key player in mobilizing mass demonstrations against the Republican Medicaid-bashers would be the nurses unions, which did such an outstanding job of making former Governor Schwarzenegger eat crow in CA over staffing ratios in hospitals.
In a way, the five governors are daring sick and needy people to protest against being targeted for health hardships. Given the large numbers of those threatened in these states, it’s an arrogant dare they may regret very soon — as well as on November 6.
By: J. P. Green, Democratic Strategist, July 3, 2012
In his latest ‘Public Opinion Snapshot,’ TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira has some very bad news for outsourcing pioneer Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans who have been so blase about it. “The public is very, very concerned about outsourcing and wants action to mitigate the damage from the practice,” notes Teixeira, explaining:
Let’s start with how heavily the public believes outsourcing contributes to our ongoing economic problems. In a September 2010 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 86 percent agreed (including 68 percent who strongly agreed) that U.S. companies outsourcing work to foreign countries is one of the reasons for our struggling economy and unemployment. This was ranked the highest of eight reasons tested in the survey.Similarly, in a December 2010 Allstate/National Journal survey, 67 percent thought outsourcing played a major role in high unemployment, compared to just 28 percent who thought it played a minor role and 4 percent who thought it played no role at all.
And Americans believe somethjing can — and should — be done about it, continues Teixeira:
Not surprisingly, the public wants something done about this problem. In the August 2010 edition of the same survey, 70 percent thought it was either extremely (39 percent) or very (31 percent) important to reduce the number of jobs being outsourced in order to help the U.S. economy recover from the recession.Even more impressive, in the March 2011 Pew Mobility survey, “Keep jobs in America” was ranked first out of 16 possible steps government could take to make sure people don’t fall behind economically. Ninety percent deemed it either one of the most effective steps (59 percent) or a very effective step (31 percent) the government could take.
If the Republicans thought that Romney’s profiteering from outsourcing was not going to be much of an issue, they are in denial. As Teixeira concludes, “These data suggest conservatives’ attempts to portray outsourcing as no big deal and nothing to worry about are doomed to fail. The public is in no mood for happy talk on this one.”
By: Democratic Strategist Staff, July 3, 2012
In a sane climate, Mitt Romney would be running for president on his one big success as a politician: achieving something close to universal private health insurance coverage as governor of Massachusetts. Romneycare cut costs, improved health care outcomes and is quite popular there.
Alas, President Obama’s election has driven many Republicans so crazy that the putative nominee makes an unconvincing show of despising his own brainchild.
Has there ever been a more unconvincing faker in American politics? Romney acts as if he thinks voters are morons. But then, right-wing hysteria over the Supreme Court’s upholding “Obamacare” shows he could be correct.
Mandating health insurance wasn’t Romney’s own idea. The conservative Heritage Foundation saw it as a way to realize the practical and moral benefits of a socialized, government-run health care system like Canada’s through private, for-profit insurance companies — the best of both worlds.
Romney even wrote a 2009 USA Today column advising President Obama about the mandate’s advantages: “Using tax penalties, as we did [in Massachusetts], or tax credits, as others have proposed,” he wrote, “encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”
The president put it this way in reacting to the Supreme Court’s validating Obamacare: “People who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so.”
So is it a tax, or is it a penalty?
The correct answer is “who cares?” Provide your family with the security of a decent health insurance policy and you don’t need to pay it.
Tyranny? Oh, grow up. The government can already make you sign up for Social Security, educate your children, vaccinate your dog, send you to fight a war in Afghanistan, limit how many fish you can catch, and put you in prison and seize your property for growing pot.
Furthermore, Justice Roberts is right. The U.S. government encourages all kinds of virtuous behavior through the tax code. You can get married, or pay higher taxes. Buy a house, have children, invest in a retirement account, even raise cattle (my personal favorite) or pay higher taxes.
And buying health insurance is an intolerable offense against liberty?
Ask Rush Limbaugh who pays for his Viagra. Answer: his employer-provided health insurance company. Only impoverished people, deadbeats and fools go without it.
And guess what? You’re already paying for their medical expenses when time and chance happens to them. As it happens to everybody, even right-wing Supreme Court justices who think it’s clever to compare an inessential food like broccoli to a universal human need like health care.
You can eat your vegetables or not; it’s entirely up to you.
But you can’t not get sick or hurt. And moral considerations aside, the rest of us can’t risk letting you lie down and die on the road. After all, it might be communicable. So there’s no non-participation in the health care system. Even if they drag you in feet-first, there you are.
And somebody’s got to pay for it.
It follows that the minority’s distinction between “activity” and “inactivity” with regard to health insurance is not merely specious legalistic jargon. Frankly, it’s downright adolescent.
Justice Scalia may increasingly resemble a small, volcanic Caribbean nation — eat your vegetables, Tony — but even he is not an island. We’re all in this together.
Previous to Obamacare, the United States has had the most inefficient health care finance in the advanced world, spending by far the highest percentage of its GDP on health care while getting worse results. Most western countries spend a fraction of what we do on health care and their citizens are demonstrably healthier.
Ending the perennial war between hospital bureaucrats and number crunchers at insurance companies and government agencies over who’s going to pay for indigent care should begin to change that.
Meanwhile, now that Obamacare has passed constitutional muster, it’s time for the wise and judicious American public to get off their lazy keisters, ignore the hysteria and learn what’s in the law and what’s not.
I recently took a brief online quiz sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation. I hope you won’t think I’m bragging by saying I got a perfect score. It’s my job to know the basics. Apparently, most Americans don’t. The percentage of citizens ignorant of even the new law’s most basic provisions was shocking.
Granted, the White House has done a terrible marketing job. But no, there’s no new government-run insurance company. If you’ve already got a policy you like, keep it. No, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees need not provide insurance; but, yes, they get tax credits if they do. No, undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for help.
Many of you have mistakenly trusted carnival barkers like Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. Now that Obamacare’s the law, ignorance is no longer an excuse.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 4, 2012
Mitt Romney never wanted to release his tax returns. He refused disclosure in 1994 during his unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid, in 2002 when he won election as Governor of Massachusetts, and in his failed 2008 attempt to gain the Republican nomination for President. Last January Romney finally released his 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011 after constant badgering by his Republican primary rivals.
Those documents revealed his offshore bank accounts and his tax rate, just shy of 15 percent, or less than what most middle-class Americans pay, despite his estimated worth of up to $250 million. As the Washington Post reported: “By offering a limited description of his assets, Romney has made it difficult to know precisely where his money is invested, whether it is offshore or in controversial companies, or whether those holdings could affect his policies or present any conflicts of interest.” Now journalist and author Nicholas Shaxson digs deeper in a new investigation published by Vanity Fair.
According to Shaxson, Romney is using every possible loophole to avoid paying more taxes. He takes his payments from Bain Capital as investment income, allowing him to pay at a rate much lower than the 35 percent he would owe if he had earned an “ordinary income” of salaries and wages.
But as Shaxson also points out, nobody even knows how much Romney should pay because nobody knows what his offshore accounts actually hold. He maintains accounts and entities not only in Switzerland, but in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands as well.
Consider the example of Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., a Bermuda-based corporation set up by Romney in 1997. This entity wasn’t even disclosed in financial documents until 2010, and upon examining that return, Shaxon writes: “We have no idea what is in this company, but it could be valuable, meaning that it is possible Romney’s wealth is even greater than previous estimates.” Furthermore, Bain Capital holds at least 138 funds in the Cayman Islands, with Romney having personal interests in at least 12 that are worth as much as $30 million. The Romney campaign has stated that his taxes would not be affected even if he included these interests, but there’s no way to confirm this because everything is hidden behind confidentiality laws.
Equally intriguing are the Romneys’ blind trusts, designed, as Shaxon explains, “to avoid conflicts of interest for those in public office by having politicians’ assets managed by independent trustees.” But in Romney’s case, the blind trusts don’t seem so blind. Their personal lawyer, Bradford Malt, was appointed to be the trustee, and in 2010, the Romneys invested $10 million in Solamere Founders Fund, which was founded by their son Tagg and former campaign fundraiser Spencer Zwick.
Shaxson also asks whether Romney used “blocker corporations” in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere to escape paying taxes on his retirement account, which is estimated to contain as much as $102 million. Offshore blocker corporations are used to avoid the Unrelated Business Income Tax.
The Obama campaign has hit Romney’s financial holdings hard in ads – and even created a world map showing the overseas locations where the Republican candidate holds accounts. Other Democrats have joined this line of attack. In an interview with The Huffington Post, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland asserted, “Why would any person who aspired to be president, as Mitt Romney has for probably much of his life, open a Swiss bank account? What does that say about his political judgment and what does it say about his commitment to the United States of America?”
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin adds that there are only two reasons why one would want to hold a Swiss bank account: “Number one, you believe the Swiss franc is a stronger currency than the United States dollar. And that apparently was the decision the Romney family made during the Bush presidency.”
“And secondly, you want to hide something, you want to conceal something,” he said. “It is impossible for him to explain or defend owning a Swiss bank account.”
With Shaxson’s revealing piece, speculation over Romney’s handling of his money will no doubt continue. If the Romney campaign wants everyone to stop questioning his tax returns and offshore accounts, why not just disclose all of the information, as his father George Romney did during his own 1968 presidential run?
By: Lynn Zhong, The National Memo, July 4, 2012