Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say so.

16 Aug
August 16, 2012

Can we stand back and pause a short minute to take in the spectacle of a man who wants to be President of The United States, who wants us to seriously regard him as a paragon of the American civic ideal, declaiming proudly and in public that he has paid his taxes at a third of the rate normally associated with gentlemen of his economic benefit.

Stunning.

Am I supposed to congratulate this man?  Thank him for his good citizenship?  Compliment him for being clever enough to arm himself with enough tax lawyers so that he could legally minimize his obligations?

Thirteen percent.  The last time I paid taxes at that rate, I believe I might still have been in college.  If not, it was my first couple years as a newspaper reporter.  Since then, the paychecks have been just fine, thanks, and I don’t see any reason not to pay at the rate appropriate to my earnings, given that I’m writing the check to the same government that provided the economic environment that allowed for such incomes.

I can’t get over the absurdity of this moment, honestly:  Hey, I never paid less than thirteen percent.  I swear.  And no, you can’t examine my tax returns in any more detail.  But I promise you all, my fellow American citizens, I never once slipped to single digits.  I’m just not that kind of guy.

God.

This republic is just about over, isn’t it?

 

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  1. Jonathan says:

    Not that I disagree with your sentiment here, I definitely think 13% for a man of his wealth and earnings is a ridiculously low figure. But is utilizing his wealth and position to minimize his taxes not the American way? My old marketing professor and I used to have this argument about money and politics quite often. He would say, “If you have amassed enough wealth to influence a politician, then you should have that right. That is how this country works.” I would respond with, “That is not how it should be, that only leads to corruption and the inevitable downfall of everyone.” He blew my mind one day with this: “I never said that is how it should be, but you are still young and naive enough to think there’s anything you can do to change it.”

    To take a quote from your brilliance, Mr Simon, “The game is out there, and it’s either play, or get played.”

    Reply
    • Mark says:

      But “the game”, in this case the tax avoidance game, is only available to to the wealthy in the first place. The average Joe is not in a position to benefit from that wonderful capital gains tax, at least not in a meaningful way. The wealthy can live entirely off their capital gains and therefore have a 15% “income tax rate”. The rest of us may see some capital gains, but certainly not enough to live off of (otherwise you’d be in the same boat as Mitt!) so we have our wages and salaries and suffer the comparatively high real income tax rates.

      Reply
  2. Jerry Weinstein says:

    David,

    Saw you at the Guggenheim/BMW Lab last year, where I chimed in during the Q/A. Really moving speech about the bankrupting of our cities…

    To the matter at hand. Don’t despair. Folks ARE noticing. This is the wrong election to proudly run as a 1%er and that’s precisely what Romney is doing.

    Sir, I’m working on a project to help the $40 million Americans who are underbanked. If you’d like to know more, do reach out to me. No pressure. 🙂

    Thanks for fighting the good fight – on the page, and as a public figure. If we triumph – and you will – your voice will be one of the reasons.

    Cheers,
    Jerry AKA cynicalidealist

    Reply
  3. Scott T. says:

    Holy crap, David Simon has a blog! I had no idea.

    So entertaining to hear the right wing rallying cry go from “Down with Confiscatory Taxation!” to “hey, it’s perfectly legal.”

    Reply
  4. Jeffrey Meyer says:

    The whole controversy about Romney’s tax rate is, in my opinion, wrongheaded. So what if he paid an effective rate of 13% on his personal federal tax return. That is only a small part of the federal taxes he will have paid on his income. He will have paid quite a bit of federal taxes at the corporate level before the income even hit is personal tax return. This is a false controversy.

    Let me explain using an example based on the averages of companies in the S&P 500. The S&P 500 has a mean PE Ratio of 15.5, a mean dividend rate of 5.45%, and a mean effective tax rate of 32.8%. (See http://www.realtaxpolicy.com/archives/936 for the tax rate. Please note that the 32.8% tax rate is for federal, state, local and foreign income taxes combined. It is not a perfect comparison but it is the best I could find). If you assume that all of Romney’s wealth was invested in stocks that matched the S&P 500 then the total income from his investments would resemble the following:

    At the corporate level:
    $96.0 Total pretax income at corporate level.
    Corporate income tax @ 32.8% effective rate
    $65.5 After tax corporate income
    Dividend
    $11.0 Money retained at corporate level for reinvestment

    At the individual level:
    $54.5 Dividend
    Personal federal income tax at 13% rate (Dividends at 15% minus minimal deductions.)
    $47.4 Disposable income

    So, in order to obtain $47.4 of disposable income, Romney would’ve had to gross $96.0. Once you carve out the $11 of cash that was retained at the corporate level, his effective rate would be at least 40%. I know I’m mixing apples and oranges a bit because of other taxes that are in the 32.8%. But, I hope you can see that looking at Romney’s individual tax return alone does not give an accurate picture of the total federal income taxes that are produced as a result of his income generation.

    Reply
    • Péter Wolf says:

      Actually for what you’re saying to be considered one would have to make a fair comparison. A factory worker has company level taxes on the company wealth he produces for his employer, he just never has the chance to see the total gross profit he creates. So there’s no telling how much his personal salary/ wage would increase if his employer company wouldn’t have to pay taxes on company levels. That would be a fair comparison. Just because you own a company does not mean that the profit it makes is your money it’s also the employees money (even if they can’t access it directly) just as the company’s income is partially theirs (and them accessing it is getting paid. So the taxes the company pays are also partially theirs.

      Reply
      • Jeffrey Meyer says:

        I disagree. An employee is paid a wage and various other benefits in exchange for his labor. That is his full compensation. He has no legal claim or rights to profits of the corporation. The owner has the full legal claim and rights to profits of the corporation. That is the law. It is also common-sense.

        If I own a business as a sole proprietorship, I report the profits of the business on my Form 1040 Schedule C. I am taxed as if they are all mine. They ARE all mine. If instead the same business is incorporated as a C Corp and I own 100% of the stock, I report the profits of the business on a corporate tax return. Being the sole owner, I pay the taxes of the corporation out of the corporate checkbook. I am the only human being with any ownership rights to that money. It is mine via my legal ownership of the corporation’s stock. Further, if the Corporation pays me a dividend, I pay tax on the dividend at a personal tax return level.

        It is very simple really.

        Reply
        • Péter Wolf says:

          The problem is you stuck on law and not an economical view point. If the company spends some of its budget on a new coffee maker that benefits the employees (and indirectly the owners by the better moral of the employees).

          If a corporation would have less tax to pay then part of the plus profit would be funneled into wages and salaries. (Because of the motions of the market, not going into details but of course all rival companies would have to pay less taxes and they would invest some of the savings in better workers buy offereing higher payments and would try to keep their good workers from other companies stealing them by raising their payments) eventually to that effect where the average wage/salary of that specific job is raised.
          Or the more obvious way to see it, if the company saves money it can hire more employees making unemployment in the associated fields a little lower which in effect get the employer a slightly better position at negotiating wage and salary.

          Of course deviances from this can occur, but even in a highly unemployed society this tendencies appear.

          Reply
          • Jeffrey Meyer says:

            I see that lower taxes are good for everyones prosperity. But that has nothing to do with with whom, economically, is responsible for the corporation’s overall existence and activity and, following thereon, it’s profits and taxes.

            The corporation is created by the savings and at the initiative of the investor. It carries on from year to year because the owner wills it to be so. Otherwise, the owner would wind up the corporation and take his money back home. The employees don’t create it. They have no power over its continued existence. If they want to quit working there they can; yet it goes on. If the owner decides to terminate it, they lose their jobs whether they want to or not.

            Your view of the world is wishful. It is not reality. You choose to imagine that employees are partners in the business even though they contribute no capital. They have no risk of capital loss. Instead, they exchange daily labor for wages. Wages are a first call on the companies resources. They are the highest priority in bankruptcy. They are paid from the corporation’s capital (the investor’s savings) whether there is profit or not. Economically speaking, employees are not partners.

            I’m sorry Mr. Wolf, but wishing it to be so does not make it so.

            By the way, I liked your Symphony.

            Reply
            • Péter Wolf says:

              I don’t think we could convince each other, and I wouldn’t wish to run in circles. But only consider this: if the company goes into dept, the shareholders and the owners are not responsible with their personal savings and earnings (well, only for a very limited portion of the dept that is independent from the actual amount of the dept so we could just write that down as a ‘cost of ownership’). So if dept is not their personal dept, how could the company’s profit theirs?

              Also, thanks for the intent, but I’m not Péter Wolf the composer. (I’m not related to him either).

              Reply
              • Jeffrey Meyer says:

                I am sincerely interested in understanding your point of view. I understand that every constructive thing I do which is beneficial to others is also beneficial to me – and vice versa. So, I guess in that sense you could say that there are other ‘stakeholders’ in my activities. Some of those other stakeholders are effected by my activities by choice and others not by choice. I suspect it is by this theory that you suggest they are co-owners in my activity. From there, I imagine that you take the logical step that they should be credited with a monetized share of the profit or loss from my activity.

                Am I correct that this is your thinking?

                Reply
                • Péter Wolf says:

                  Alright, I’ll try. (Also as a fair ‘warning’ English is not my first language so me not being able to express my point of view clearly might be rooted there.)

                  Of course the “everything connected in effect and if society benefits everyone benefits, therefore creating something good for society (without negative side effects) is good for me, too” logic holds, but this wasn’t what I was trying to explain at all.

                  From the company’s perspective a workers wage is on the minus side just as well as corporate taxes, if one would decrease there would be more room for the other to increase while the company would maintain the same balance. Of course no company would selflessly raise wages if the taxes were lower for it, but the other aspects of the (job)market would force them to partially do so. (E.g. A smart company does not like money stocked up, because economically speaking that’s a waist, if other limitations don’t apply it’s almost better to invest in something, usually more things (see: market portfolio), one of those things can and probably will be spent on advertising, replacement of tools, improvement of work environment, improvement on the motivation, moral and fluctuation[improvement as lowering it] of the workforce and for these last points the best tool is obviously the salary raise.)

                  So the main logic is that the workers’ wage is by proxy dependent on the amount his company pays for taxes. Just as well as your investment return is dependent on your (as owned by you) company’s tax payments.

                  Reply
              • Jeffrey Meyer says:

                Also, in answer to your question: “So if debt is not their personal debt, how could the company’s profit be theirs?” It is by virtue of contract law. The various parties to the transaction agreed among themselves in advance how benefits, risks, and liabilities would be shared. To me, it is a question of whether you believe humans own the choices they make. I believe they do.

                Reply
                • Péter Wolf says:

                  Actually most of the shareholders do not make the choice for the company they own but a group of not owner manager and executive staff makes those choices and while their contracts can contain clauses defining some monetized responsibility to the (other) shareholders, this is not the same as being responsible for one of the company’s loans to a bank with your personal wealth. (See Bank crisis, not one banker was responsible for his choices with his personal money directly. There had to be investigations whether those choices were caused by breaking the law which can be fined but that’s a whole other story.)

                  The value of the company you solely own a 100% of is not your money, either. You can’t interchange it, you can only sell shares and stocks to convert them into money. The profit this company makes is not your money. You can convert it into money by selling the now worth-more shares or by paying dividends. But this is not a simple change this a conversion which has a price showing precisely that your company’s money is not yours but in fact your company’s money. You don’t have direct access to it and you don’t have direct responsibility for it.

                  I will admit thought that me saying the worker owning part of his company was maybe the wrong way of explaining my point that the company’s upd and downs will reflect in his wealth (both in terms of wages and work environment). So their fates somewhat tied together.

                  Reply
            • Pilastr Agonistes says:

              Another oversimplification favoring the capitalist: “The corporation is created by the savings and at the initiative of the investor. ”

              That’s seldom the case, Romney amassed his wealth thru leveraged buyouts in which he risked none of his personal assets. Meanwhile “initiative” is hardly the domain of management. The laborer or skilled worker shows as much initiative if not more. Likewise, labor takes risks by investing their time and education dollars to develop skills in a particular field, with no guarantee there will be work or fair compensation on the other side. The have’s love to ignore this as an investment because the laborer invests in an industry and a local community rather than a legal entity.

              As stated below, these legal entities exist primarily as firewalls protecting owners and managers personal wealth from the losses and liabilities of that company. Skilled workers and laborers of course have no such protections, and since Reagan took to busting unions, efforts to organize have been snuffed with the predictable decades of wage stagnation that ensued.

              Reply
    • Pilastr Agonistes says:

      Wait, say what? You want to credit the human Mitt Romney for taxes paid by any corporate entity in which he held stock? Ha! You don’t get to have it both ways, stockholders are indemnified from the financial and legal liabilities of the corporation because they are separate entities. I believe that’s the whole point of granting non-human entities “personhood” otherwise no one would risk attaching their personal wealth to that of risk-driven corporations. So if you want to gorge on the corporations are people cake, your mouth is far too full to claim taxes paid by those separate entities should count as taxes Mitt personally paid.

      In otherwords, although the law currently grants that corporations are people, their name isn’t Mitt Romney. “Legion” may be more like it.

      You also fail to distinguish between corporate profits, personal income and personal wealth. You “assume all of Romney’s wealth was invested in stocks” but he doesn’t pay any tax on that wealth, only on profits realized during the year from that wealth. Get it? To be clearer still, that means Romney only pays the tax when he sells his stock to someone else at a profit at which point only the part of that sale that is pure profit gets taxed (not the total investment) and that profit is taxed at mere 15% capital gains rate, the same rate he’s suppose to pay on dividends he may receive as income.

      No one has asked Romney to discuss or divulge anything but his personal income tax. The taxes paid by any corporation he may or may not have held stock in or worked for has no bearing whatsoever on the topic.

      Reply
      • Jeffrey Meyer says:

        The courts have ruled that speech is protected regardless of the source. That has nothing to do with property ownership rights.

        Your second comment about taxation of wealth versus income is misapplied to my argument. If Mr. Romney’s wealth was invested in C Corp stocks as I’ve described, he would pay tax on a personal tax return in one or two ways depending on the circumstances. First, he would pay tax on any dividends he receives at a 15% rate. Dividends are commonly thought of as distributions of the company’s accumulated profits. That common understanding is not necessarily so. The dividends could aggregate to more or less than accumulated profits, but it is a useful common understanding. If Mr. Romney, starts the corporation, holds the stock during the corporations entire life, and then liquidates the corporation. He will have paid taxes on all the corporation’s profits at C Corp rates within the corporation and at the 15% dividend rate when the corporation’s after-tax profits are distributed to him as dividends either during the corporation’s life or at liquidation. If Mr. Romney, buys the stock of an existing corporation, holds it awhile, and then sells the stock. He will pay taxes on the dividends he receives while holding the stock and on the net gain or loss he receives on the change in price of the stock, both at a 15% rate. If you were to look at a single share of stock in the corporation over the whole life of the corporation, as it is sold from one investor to the next, and as dividends are paid, you would find that the aggregate net gain on the stock is exactly equal to the sum of all dividends it paid minus the original book value of the share (ie the capital originally injected into the corp in exchange for the share.) In other words, all capital gains of the share over time are offset by all capital losses of the share over time. Over the full cycle, the taxman gets to keep only taxes on the actual profits generated by the operation of the business.

        Romney’s share of corporate taxes are absolutely relevant to anyone who is fair-minded and has a clear understanding of property rights. If you’re just looking for a ‘gotcha’ you’ll ignore it.

        Reply
        • Pilastr Agonistes says:

          Thanks for repeating exactly what I already said, now for the hard work of answering my point that his wealth and his income are not, as your example had it, the same thing. Your assertion that Romney’s taxation “at a corporate level” is, by your own explanation, meaningless, as is your attempt to conflate his wealth with his annual income which is adequately represented on a personal income tax return, no need to refer to corporate taxes whatsoever.

          Exploding someone’s basic assertions isn’t usually considered a “gotcha”. Let’s try direction the discussion toward how someone so wealthy ends up with an effective tax rate every year for a decade that is below the capital gains rate, and below all but the first tier rate for personal income tax. Please, don’t repeat yourself, help us all understand this conundrum. It can’t be legally nebulous off-shore tax sheltering can it? A refusal to report or repatriate profits? Please do take us beyond “gotchas” to engage in earnest discussion.

          Reply
          • Jeffrey Meyer says:

            The reason his effective tax rate is less than the capital gains rate is because he has some deductions. I don’t know what deductions he took but there must be some. Examples would be home mortgage interest, the personal exemption, charitable contributions, etc. If his entire adjusted gross income was made up of capital gain or dividend items taxable at 15% and he had even $1 of exemptions on page 2 of the 1040, then his effective tax rate as a percentage of AGI would be less than 15%.

            In regard to your first paragraph, I disagree. I’m not sure how exactly to highlight our difference. I could form my business venture as either a C Corp or a pass-through entity like an S Corp or an LLC. All three provide me limited liability. The taxation outcome is different in all three. The LLC is better if I want to take all the profit home with me. The C Corp is better if I want to leave as much money as possible in the business so it can grow. I own 100% of the business no matter which tax scheme I choose.

            Why is it that if I choose an LLC and pay all the tax at a personal level you are willing to give me credit for paying my fair share of taxes but if I choose a C Corp and pay some tax at the personal level and some tax at the corporate level (and possible pay more tax overall) you are not willing to give me credit for paying my fair share?

            Reply
            • Pilastr Agonistes says:

              I see, so you’re propping up an esoteric straw man example of one person choosing to “incorporate” by declaring themselves CEO, President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and sole shareholder for purposes of creating a firewall between their personal assets and the liabilities the activities of their business might incur? I can’t imagine why you’d want to get behind this definition, except to pose Romney as the John Galt ubermensch benefactor of society’s unadoring rabble. Pardon me for not leaping to your esoteric interpretation of what humans commonly refer to as “corporations.” I’m not sure how your one-man corporation has any bearing on Romney as our actual topic of discussion.

              As for his exemptions, since mortgage interest deductions are capped at $1M in mortgage debt, and can apply to no more than two homes, the best Romney could do is to defer tax payment on $60k of of his self-reported $42.5M annual income, in other words no chance of reducing his effective tax rate by more than a fraction of one percent. Same goes for personal exemptions.

              So his charitable contributions would have to be at least $5.5M or 13% of his total annual income each year to bring his effective rate down two points. That seems generous, doesn’t it? But it’s all calculated on the presumption that his income is 100% long-term capital gains like dividends and sale of stocks… oh, and that favorite loophole of money managers “carried interest” compensation where they insist on being paid in stock rather than ordinary salary in order too… dodge their tax obligations.

              We need to add one more pin to your bubble, the average corporate tax rate you cited was for S&P500. In your Randian example of a one-person corporation, Romney would pay himself in stock, which would then be an expense offsetting the taxable profits of the corporation. So far from paying the 35% tax rate, that money is taxed at 15% less personal and charitable deductions.

              Reply
              • Pilastr Agonistes says:

                Scratching the surface on Romney’s past dealings gives a fascinating perspective on the question “Who is John Galt?”

                excerpted from http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/54703943-82/romney-tax-marriott-bain.html.csp

                “• Romney’s apparent disdain for tax obligations is clear from his role in Marriott International’s abusive tax shelter activities. From 1993 to 1998, Romney was head of the audit committee of the Marriott board of directors, with responsibilities that included tax planning. The so-called “Son of Boss” tax shelter helped Marriott sell $81 million of mortgage notes, reporting a $71 million “tax loss.” Romney was an insider with perspective on the motivation and lack of substance in the transaction, fully understanding the tax avoidance game. Romney reportedly was the board member most familiar with the transaction.

                This shelter, used by Marriott and others, represented one of the largest tax-avoidance schemes in history, costing the U.S. billions in lost tax revenues. In 2008, the U.S. Federal Court of Claims ruled against Marriott, which appealed and lost again. The appeals court sided with the Department of Justice, calling Marriott’s transactions “fictitious,” “artificial,” “spectral,” an “illusion” and a “scheme.”

                See also
                http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/08/investigating-mitt-romney-offshore-accounts

                Reply
              • Jeffrey Meyer says:

                In your first paragraph you recognize the logic of my position but then dismiss it as esoteric or unusual. You think of massive publicly traded corporations, I guess. Most businesses are smaller, not publicly traded, and their stock is closely held by a small group. They operate exactly as I described. The massive, publicly traded corps are the exception. Further, the same logic holds whether a person owns 100% of a small corp or a small percentage of a large corp.

                I agree with your second paragraph that the mortgage interest deduction would be small relative to his income. On a small note, Romney’s income was around $21 million per year in the two years he reported not $40 million.

                It is not uncommon for christians to donate 10% or more of their gross income to charity. It is called a tithe. You seem to dismiss it as too generous to be true.

                As for carried interest: I don’t know much about it. But I’m not sure that it matters here. His tithe alone is enough to account for the difference in effective tax rates. My object is not to know exactly how he does it, it is just to point out that it is reasonable that he could achieve it.

                Reply
                • Pilastr Agonistes says:

                  Small corporations are different from what you posit which is a one-man corporation. That is indeed esoteric and irrelevant to the question of Romney.

                  You misunderstood my comment about the generosity of tithing. I don’t doubt it, I follow it with “But” which means you need to read the sentences together rather than separately. Combined you get this:

                  “That seems generous, doesn’t it? But it’s all calculated on the presumption that his income is 100% long-term capital gains like dividends and sale of stocks… oh, and that favorite loophole of money managers “carried interest””

                  By your own admission you don’t understand carried interest. That explains a lot since that single concept debunks your belief that corporations large and small pay a third of their profits in taxes. What they do instead is pay out profits to their shareholders (often themselves) and executives as stock rather than ordinary cash. This move shelters them from half of their tax obligation. So you’re average S&P500 tax rate is a simple misdirect, a lie.

                  None of these sleight of hand tax tricks are available to working class Americans. None of them. Instead they are nickle and dimed, the prices they pay are inflated by a retail culture that requires them to finance every purchase, handing banks both fees and interest on their every purchase while their wages stagnate and their unions are disbanded. This is fact.

                  Reply
  5. Kevin P. says:

    Dear Mr. Simon:

    I love your work. This is totally a nitpicky side issue, but you should read this:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I’ll give you some background.

      When writing a dramatic script, I was trained — by the great Tom Fontana no less — to double space at the end of every sentence of action and/or dialogue. Gives the actor a better shot on focusing on each singular moment and phrase. Given that scriptwork is what I work on far more often than prose, there isn’t much hope that I’m going to adjust easily.

      Reply
      • Kevin Stevens says:

        The double space thing took me years to break. It’s left over from typewriters and their monospaced font. Computer fonts handle it nicely.

        In defense of still double spacing, I would add that it gives the writer a mental pause at the end of the sentence.

        And now, back to our discussion of the immorality of regressive taxation.

        Reply
  6. E. Buki says:

    There are many numbers of reasons to criticize Candidate Romney. I happen to think this particular issue is of little concequense. There are any number of ways one contributes to society, and government is only one aspect to contribute to. The US government is not the United States. It is not the people living in the Ohio River Valley, the trees growing in the Sierra Nevadas, nor the waters of the Great Cooly Damn. The government is an institution of Americans with far greater issues then the amount of money it takes from any of us. Now, I understand that Romney is running to be executive of the Federal government, and I have my doubts that I will be voting for him. The question I have, if you would rather vote for a man who paid large sums of his earning as tax, though that amount is a small percentage of his earnings, or for a man who paid more of his earnings in taxes but ordered and had executed the extra-judicial murder of an American citizen? When the President had Anwar al-Aulaqi killed in a drone attack in Yemen, he ignored the requirements set before him by the Constitution. Yes, I think al-Aulaqi was an enemy of the US and I don’t have an issue with him being dead. My issue is simply, are you bothered more that one candidate for President failed to pay as much in taxes as we might like, or that the incumbent has broken his word to defend and protect the law of this land? Like I said, there are bigger and more troubling trends then percentages of earnings taxed.

    Reply
    • Nick Malone says:

      For me, the issue is less the specifics of the tax rate Mr. Romney actually paid, or the fiscal gymnastics he conducted to arrive at that rate – and more the simple ideology one must subscribe to in order to think minimizing your contributions to the government that offered you the opportunity to amass such wealth is a justifiable action. There’s echoes of this same ideology in almost everything Mr. Romney has done as both a public figure and a private businessman.

      I refer to this as the “fuck y’all, I got mine” ideology, but I imagine republicans have a different name for it.

      Reply
      • E. Buki says:

        The notion that the government affords us our opportunities does not resonate with me. The government is not this country. It is an institution of this country. Put another way, a President is not my president like a monarch is one’s king. The president is only the head of one branch of the US government. I think it particularly illiberal to think of the government as the sum of a nation and it’s people. So, while it makes all the sense in the world to me that wealthy citizens can contribute, at least as large a percentage of their income to the running of our government (and I’ve seen studies that show our economy would grow even with a substantial increase in tax rates for the highest brackets) it is wrong to think that the measure of a citizen’s contribution to his nation is even remotely represented by how much they have been made to give to the government.

        I don’t know how to quantify this concept but if an emergency room surgeon were to fail to meet his tax obligation, I would still consider their competence at their job to be a greater contribution to society then the contributions of a tax paying venture capitalist or community organizer. Yet, in the face of all these tax issues, the current president should be drowning in criticism for his use of extra-judicial killing. You all know, the GOP won’t criticize him because they want that power when they inevitably hold the WH, and Dems won’t do it because the whole tenor of our political dialog follows a partisan melody.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          I see clearly that the idea of republic government — that this government, flawed though it may be, must be of the people and by the people if we are to long endure — doesn’t resonate with you. I can only suggest that you are unfit for citizenship in a republic. The Athenians would have scorned you for your views. The Spartans would have left you exposed on a hillside to die an ignominious death.

          In a more tolerant America, we merely leave you to vent your selfish and dishonorable sociopathy on blogsites. So you’re not doing too badly given how regressive and undemocratic your stated views happen to be.

          Reply
          • E. Buki says:

            Sure, I’m undemocratic in the same way the Bill of Rights are undemocratic, and they certainly are that. I don’t have a problem with the citizenship of this country setting various tax rates in all sorts of levels that I may disagree with or not. I am a proponent of consensus and frankly, I have no idea how I miscommunicated my views enough to lead you to think I believe that this government aught not be of the people. If my belief that the government is not the nation, and only one institution of it, could have been known to the Spartens in my infancy then I am more impressed with their precognition then their methods for social control. And hey, if such precognition exists then perhaps so does time travel and you might send yourself back to their training yards and see how you’d manage with a sword in hand or if you’d be the slave working the fields outside of Sparta’s walls. As for Athens, let’s just say that the movement to establish the Bill of Rights was in part a result of studying Plato and the recognition of the excesses of a Republic.

            It is strange to me that you have a problem with a citizen of this republic following his duty as established by the representative democracy that established that tax rate he paid and meanwhile, the actual law that provides due process before the government can penalize a citizen has been broken by the encumbant.

            Honestly, I think you misunderstood at least some of my point and I hope I’ve clarified mine. Either way, both Athens and Sparta (and Rome for that matter, although I think they were more similar to us then the Greek examples) have never been an ideal to emulate so much as systems to selectively borrow from. I’m quite happy to forgo the hemlock.

            Reply
  7. LCovert says:

    These are the things I would like to have available to the public before Barak Obama is even eligible to run for President again.
    List of lobbyist that were met outside the white-house.
    Illinois State Bar Association records
    Medical records
    Passport
    Property Records
    University of Chicago scholarly articles
    Harvard Law Review articles
    Harvard Law School records
    Columbia thesis “Soviet Nuclear Disarmament”
    Columbia University records
    Occidental College records
    Selective Service Records
    Punahou School records
    Obama kindergarten records.

    Barak Obama has all of the above sealed. Why?

    Reply
    • Jerkface McGee says:

      Oh jeebus. F**K off troll.

      Reply
      • David Simon says:

        Keep it civil around here. I thought it was a ridiculous post as well, but I reserve my fuck-you salvos in response to ad hominem invective only. You should too. Given that this gent wasn’t himself characterizing anyone to make his point, pull back on the name-calling.

        Reply
      • beedogs says:

        I’m going with Occam’s razor on this one and categorizing the post you responded to as expertly-crafted satire.

        Reply
    • Jerkface McGee says:

      wait ok, the kindergarten thing. You’re clearly not serious. carry on then!

      Reply
    • Rick says:

      You care to know these things. Why?

      Mitt Romney’s tax records will show just how serious he is about tax reform. Not that we really need any confirmation that he doesn’t care to close any loopholes after his announcement. You don’t get that tax rate without cutting every corner you can.

      It’s funny you mention lobbyists – you know that his campaign refuses donations from them, right? And Romney’s racked up about $2,000,000 in donations from lobbyists so far.

      If any of that stuff had anything to do with policy or would show us anything that we don’t already know after four years of his presidency, it might, MIGHT be relevant. But the bottom line is, presidential candidates are expected to submit tax records. All of them have except for Mitt Romney.

      Reply
    • Ivan Pope says:

      Yes, I sure would like to see his Kindergarten records. I’m sure they would reveal him as a communist Kenyan sympathiser born outside of the USA. Sure.

      Reply
  8. TheraP says:

    How I would LOVE to see Mitt Romney FORCED to debate you!

    Kudos. Blessings. You’ve made my day!

    Reply
  9. Chris Lites says:

    Whether you think Mitt Romney does his due obligation within the constraints of the law doesn’t speak to David’s point. He pays, by his own admission, a very low tax rate. He pays what a single person earning 40K a year pays. Simple math can be applied here. If not math, then history. The wealthy had a much higher tax rate in the 1950s under a Republican president. The overall prosperity of the nation was considerably higher as well.

    If you aren’t multimillionaire, it’s an odd proposition to support Mitt’s tax habits. I gather that most people here, besides David, are not in said tax bracket. That being the case, I’m curious why you feel the need to defend his contribution to the American tax pool? Do you expect you will become millionaires yourselves? Or do you hold some sort of Objectivist pseudo-philosophy in which the elite must be the paternal watchers of the preterite? Surely you’d no doubt consider yourselves among the elect?

    At the very least, do you not have some suspicion of a man who claims he has proof of a thing he asks you to believe without seeing his proof? That rather sounds less like politics and more like religion to me. I suppose Mitt does know a fair bit about that.

    Reply
  10. Ginger says:

    Aaron: You just called someone stupid and you do not know how to spell misleading. Interesting.

    As for Romney, do you suppose this is what he’s hiding?

    http://www.mmdnewswire.com/romney-hiding-bain-abortion-profits-116358.html

    Reply
  11. Mick says:

    David take it up with Bill Clinton… He is the one who first lowered the capital gains tax. Romney is not employed thus his income is only eared in the form of Capital Gains. By the way, when both Clinton and Bush lowered Capital Gains tax in their respective administrations they increased collections to the Federal treasury from this tax. The policy you are advocating is just stupid. In addition to lowering revenue generation, it would disincentivize people from investing capital into new projects, entertainment industry or otherwise. Furthermore where is the honor is paying more money than is required by law to a bloated Federal Government so it can be spent by politicians to buy votes! It’s kind of like giving someone with lung cancer another pack of Marlboros.

    Reply
  12. Owen Good says:

    Yep.

    Reply
  13. Margaret Ganong says:

    Thanks for saying this. It is truly appalling. Almost as appalling is his arrogant and obvious annoyance at having to disclose anything at all.

    Reply
  14. Benbo Benskie says:

    In defense of Mitt… no I’m just kidding. Just about over, just about done for, just about cooked, just about toasty enough for some margarine to spread easy.

    Reply
  15. Aaron says:

    I can’t believe you actually get paid to write so miss leading information. Not once do you point out that the number is not income tax. Although I highly doubt you are intelligent enough to have a lucrative stock portfolio.

    Reply
  16. Spearhafoc says:

    Seriously, David, it saddens me that you express such a strong opinion on a matter you know very little about. If you want to stop working and live off your dividends and interest that are taxed right now, per the tax code, at 15%, then like any other American you are perfectly free to do that….legally and 100% right down the line with the IRS tax code. Throw in a few of the deductions you probably already get and you can see without too much difficulty that effective rate could go down to 13%.

    Last year, (tax year 2010) Romney gave $2.7 million to charity. You may have a philosophical difference with him about his money going to taxes as opposed to charity, but he didn’t have to give that money to anybody, but he did. What you seem to be arguing is that he didn’t pay it to the IRS. You’re in effect dismayed that after his tax accountant went through his taxes, after deducting what he could and what he suggested, which is his job, you’re bummed that Romney didn’t just up and write another check to the IRS as if it was his favorite charity.

    Suppose you don’t really care what he gave to charity. Fine, I understand that, you don’t like him so you’re probably not going to care what charity he gave his money to. But what you seem to be bummed about is that he didn’t voluntarily give another few million to the IRS instead of to his favorite charity. And in that case, you’re saying the government is a better distributor of money. Again, fine, but Mitt made the money, it’s his, he earned it. Can’t you at least allow for someone with a different opinion than you to give his money where he prefers to give it, to his favorite charity as opposed to the IRS? Especially when he’s already paid what he was supposed to?

    Honestly, it sounds like you’re whining just for the sake of whining without understanding the current tax code.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I understand the tax code perfectly well.

      I’m not talking about the fucking tax code. I’m talking about citizenship. Remember citizenship?

      Apparently not.

      Reply
      • angienc says:

        Citizenship? There is no patriotic duty to pay *more* than the law demands. Remember Judge Learned Hand:

        “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as
        possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the
        treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.
        Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister
        in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone
        does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any
        public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

        Apparently not.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          This isn’t about duty, or obligation. You’re not getting it. Sorry.

          Reply
          • Mick says:

            David, your the one who doesn’t get it… Money in the hands of an investor like Mitt Romney will do far more good for our fellow citizens than it will in the hands of a bloated inefficient and often corrupt federal government. Funny I don’t recall seeing any blog entries about John Kerry not paying his fair share on on the money he married into (twice). How about the money the Kennedy family has been in enjoying tax free for decades that Joesph P Kennedy made off insider trading and liquor bootlegging during prohibition?

            Reply
            • Mark says:

              And here we have the GOP economic plan in just a few short words: “Money in the hands of an investor will do far more good…than in the hands of the federal gov’t.” You “investors” will soon be buildings walls around your castles.

              Reply
              • Mick says:

                Yes Mark… Investors and entrepreneurs built our country. It’s called capitalism. The federal government is funded by growth in the private sector not vice versa. Sorry you don’t get this very basic principle about the country you live in. We are not a centrally planned state like the brutal totalitarian states you seem to admire. I suggest you live in Cuba where all money is funneled through the federal government for about a year and tell me how you like that system. As a Florida resident I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone risk their life and float across shark infested seas to get to Mr. Castro’s workers paradise where there is free healthcare for all.

                Reply
                • Kevin Stevens says:

                  Of course, the only two choices are completely unfettered capitalism and communism. Nothing in between can be considered.

                  You want to live in a country where the government isn’t in the business of regulation and tax enforcement? Welcome to Afghanistan, enjoy your stay.

                  Reply
                  • David Simon says:

                    Whhhaaat?

                    There are only two choices? Unfettered capitalism and communism? Really? REALLY? Who told you that? Seriously. What ignorant moron, devoid of all economic and socioeconomic theory, not to mention Twentieth Century history, would postulate such an absurdity.

                    What was the New Deal? Unfettered capitalism? Communism?

                    Did you just crawl out into the world from the inside of a Budweiser keg? WTF? You’re trolling, right? That was sarcasm? Okay, I’m back on the path then.

                    Reply
            • Kevin Stevens says:

              That would be a fine argument, if there were evidence to back it up. The last thirty years have shown this to be a failed policy. How many more years of data do you need before you would start to rethink your assumptions?

              Reply
      • Citizen says:

        I think the charities to which he donated his earnings provide goods and services to other citizens. Sort of a community effort, don’t you think? Part of being a good citizen?

        Okay, you’ve got me. He prioritized his own values in deciding which people, which communities were worthy (and competent) to receive and use his funds. He’s a bad, bad selfish man and a bad citizen for trusting his own judgment in disbursing the funds instead of that true arbiter of true-citizen behavior, the government.

        Oh. While everyone else is looking at the trees, can we talk about what the minimum, moral effective tax rate would be? You seem to have some first principles that tell you that 13% is under the minimum, but I just see a bunch of people saying that it’s either fine, or that it’s not enough. How about some process?

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          As stated earlier for the benefit of another respondent who has lost sight of the fundamental difference between a citizen’s required obligations in a republic and an individual’s willingness to give meaningfully to causes of conscience:

          You seem to be deeply confused about what charity is.

          Charity is freely giving succor to those in need. You seem to equate it with an alternative opinion to paying one’s taxes, which is
          a basic responsibility of citizenship in a democracy.

          Many of the people who — because of the inequities in the federal tax code — are taxed at significantly higher rates than Mr. Romney also give to charity, despite their proportionally larger tax liability. Many of them, indeed, give just as or more significantly than Mr. Romney, as a proportion of their total income.

          You are entitled to pay no tax on money that you give to charity. But that is no way relevant to the issue of tax inequality we are discussing here. What money you do not give to charity, you must pay tax on. The fact that millions and millions of Americans less fortunate than Mr. Romney — some of which are also charitable givers, and some of whom may be giving as large a proportional share of their earnings — are obliged to endure significantly higher tax rates because they work for a living, rather than invest — this is the issue. It is the only issue.

          Charitable giving has exactly zero to do with that issue. And indeed, if you think that charitable giving should in any way offer more than a direct deduction for the money given, that it should instead somehow become a substitute for one’s overall tax liability, you’ve actually insulted the very idea of charity. It’s no longer giving, is it? It’s now merely an opting out of one’s responsibilities as a citizen.

          Not to mention the fact that much of the essential work of government — defense, law enforcement, interstate transportation systems, border patrol, etc. — can’t be sustained by charitable giving. Government is government. Charity is charity. The former is required of all of us, in proportion to our earnings, if this is going to remain a republic. It is a fundamental responsibility of citizenship. The latter is honorable, voluntary and humane behavior that is between an individual and conscience.

          That you have conflated the two to make a political argument is rather embarrassing, frankly.

          Reply
    • Zac says:

      You can’t just say he gave $2.7M to charity and leave it at that. Where did that charity go? Almost exclusively to the Mormon church. I’m sure they use some of that money to help the less fortunate, but most likely a lot of it goes to funding in-house improvements and administration. http://www.businessinsider.com/mitt-romneys-charitable-donations-mormon-church-2012-7

      Reply
      • Mick says:

        @Zac Do you ever take a step back and ponder how truly silly your argument is??? Are you seriously claiming that Mitt Romney giving money to his church is a character flaw?? It’s his money. He earned it. He can give to who whomever he want for what ever purpose he wants. If the recipient of his charity is a registered 501(c)(3) he can claim a legitimate deduction. If President Obama wants to run attack ads that Gov Romney gives money to his church or gives a speech where he proposes eliminating exemptions for religious organization in tax code… go for it!! Pretty sure that neither would play very well outside Santa Barbara or Greenwich Village.

        Reply
    • Ginger says:

      You are equating paying tax with donating to a charity? Does the charity help build roads, bridges, rail lines, other infrastructure, schools, to pay police officers and firefighters?

      You are not throwing your money away when you pay tax to the IRS. You are giving back some of your hard-earned cash to help pay for the services and infrastructure that you and your family use and benefit from every day.

      Other countries get this. Other citizens in industrialized nations understand this simple fact. Why don’t Americans?

      Reply
      • Péter Wolf says:

        “Other countries get this.”

        No they don’t. Being in (or near) power and being wealthy are usually in correlation everywhere therefore it’s a world wide pandemic that those with higher income get away with lower taxes paid (using every legal or non-legal loophole in the system) than the “average Joe”. Also, mostly that higher class is the one that decided where tax money should go (…and in what legal and not-so-legal blackholes should part of this money “disappear”). That, in consequence causes lower (and middle) class citizens to very much doubt whether (all 100% of) their tax money serves a common purpose. (Not a purpose they agree on, but any _common_ purpose.) Also this gives them justification, too, to look for their much more limited and much more risky ways of cheating (or legally tempering) with their taxes.

        Humanity has yet to evolve to the level of having a true sense of community. (Not to mention a community with people living on other continents or historic enemies, etc.)
        On that point I would even slightly disagree with Mr. David Simon. I don’t think we (as humanity) were never there. Maybe in some perspectives we were closer at some points in the past, but this wavelike effect was always a dynamic of our cultural evolution. We take two steps forward and then we take one backwards then forward again, slightly changing direction as well in the mean time.

        Reply
  17. bob mcdade says:

    Mitt Romney once played a corrupt senator in a film that starred Steven Seagal.

    Reply
  18. Bill Andersoot says:

    One wonders if he paid those taxes annually or in one lump sum (as in Swiss bank amnesty). Because that would be one reason to continue hiding your returns.

    Reply
  19. postpj says:

    Why should he pay taxes on something he didn’t build?

    Reply
  20. EsotericWombat says:

    You know, I’d be fine with some people being ludicrously wealthy if they didn’t all seem to think that they deserved it. That the fact of their wealth means that they must necessarily be better than those who aren’t as fantastically wealthy as them. That the fractal inequality of the American system represents a natural aristocracy, whose wealth and privilege must be preserved, lest the Republic fall.

    Our mainstream political discourse lacks the language to speak to the problem of fractal inequality. It’s true that both candidates for President are in the 1%, but that doesn’t actually mean a whole lot. In terms of income and access to power (if we are to forget, briefly, that one of these men is already President), the Mitt Romneys of this world are to the Barack Obamas of this world what the Barack Obamas are to the rest of us. From the perspective of the social climber, each inner circle of wealth he gains admittance to brings new power and possibilities, but what they notice more than that is that there’s an inner inner circle that they now stand just outside of, admittance into which becomes their new obsession. And it goes on like that.

    And if they’re hellbent on making it into the next circle of power, as defined primarily by the size of one’s bank account? Well, they’re going to do every damned thing possible to hold onto every cent they have. And because they spend most of their time with other rich people, they’re going to become accustomed to bragging about their low tax rates. The notion that they’re somehow shirking their responsibility to the country whose military defends their property doesn’t occur to them; they’re already fulfilling their responsibility to others by being rich, magical Job Creators.

    The pathology is actually quite easy to understand. It’s just kind of hard to address in terms of the national political discourse, because it would take some masterclass shoehorning to fit it all into a sound byte.

    Reply
  21. C. Smith says:

    I prefer to look at this in a “glass half full’ kinda way. I’m fine with everyone knowing he paid 13%. I actually wish he’d gotten a few refunds! Anything to focus the attention on the fact that the tax code is a colossal mess. People (and businesses) don’t need to pay more, they just need to pay what they’re supposed to pay and end the legal shell games that save businesses and the uber-rich billions of dollars.

    Reply
  22. Wigi Tozzi says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more…

    Reply
  23. Brian Brems says:

    David,
    Big Wire fan, and excited for the return of Treme in a few weeks. I couldn’t help but feel the same thing when I read this pronouncement this morning. To me, it’s a shame that a man can be proud of manipulating his money in such a way as to deny his government and his neighbors (not the ones in the gated communities) valuable tax revenue that helps make all our lives better. To gloat about paying nothing less than 13% taxes shows how insidious this ‘starve-the-beast’ attitude is.

    Reply
  24. Norm Wilner says:

    One small correction: Romney wasn’t “clever” enough to hire all those tax lawyers; he was simply wealthy enough. You don’t have to be smart to outwit the tax man; you just have to be able to spend the money on smart people.

    Otherwise, I agree with everything you’ve said. And thank you, forever, for “Homicide” and “The Wire”.

    Reply
  25. Nic says:

    I’d feel a lot less optimistic about the state of this country if the guy were already president. Fortunately, he’s not, and it increasingly looks like a long shot. Even conservative support for him has been mad quiet.

    Reply
  26. Jeremiah Lewis says:

    Thought experiment:
    You have the assets of Romney. Or, let’s do one better, you have the assets of Warren Buffett, a man ostensibly wealthier than Romney and a supporter of the Obama ideal of making the wealthy “pay their fair share.” With me so far?

    Presumably, much if not most if not all your “income” is tied up in investments. Hmm, exactly like Romney and Buffett.

    Why WOULD you pay more than your legally obligated share if you didn’t have to? After all, even Warren Buffett, who stands behind the president, doesn’t volunteer to pay more than he currently does. In other words, what about this scenario is wrong, the man or the system?

    Agreed, that his tax rate is a third or half of what you or I pay is egregious. Is it his fault? Then why do you look with scorn upon him? Now, if you have a solution that would amend these injustices, let’s hear it! But enough bitching about the man’s legally paid tax rate. I’m no fan of Romney, but he’s doing what every other fucking millionaire does with his or her money. What, he gets the ire of the people because he runs for President? Okay, fine, but pin him on something substantive, not something that’s built into the system.

    I daresay you’d have the same lawyers if you were in the same boat. So enjoy the view, but don’t think it’s because you have the moral high ground. You just have a big horse.

    BTW, just finished watching The Wire. Fantastic.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      In the period in question, this nation has fought two overseas wars, putting its young men in harm’s way. Never mind all the domestic need, never mind the domestic vulnerabilities, how about thinking about all those unarmored Humvees and all of the soldiers and Marines who losts limbs to IEDs because, as a certain Defense Secretary noted, you fight the war with the army you have at the time. Is there no way that this very, very affluent American could see the citizenship involved in sending in a tax payment commensurate with his economic benefits?

      No, sorry, brother. I’m with Warren Buffet. The people at the top — and I am one of them, apparently, Hollywood prevailing in the life of a newspaper reporter as it has, improbably — need to pay more to assert for the health of this society. I am not looking for tax shelters. Fuck tax shelters. I want to do my appropriate part. I know others feel the same. And none of is so presumptive as to want any goddamn thing in return. Certainly not something as lofty as the Presidency. It’s what we fucking owe.

      And forgive me because I hate to be unduly harsh to you personally, but seriously, brother, fuck you for presuming what I would and wouldn’t do. I’m sitting on a pile of HBO cash and I’ve never paid a tax lawyer or hunted an overseas bank account or skirted to the edge of tax shelter in my life. I never will.

      And the day they simplify the tax code to have all us kicking in what we should, I’ll be delighted to toss all the receipts and deductions, and write a check like every other American. Romney’s personal greed and selfishness is on display here. And it’s embarrassing, standing as it does as a foil to his extraordinary ambitions. If he were capable of shame, he would feel it. Deeply.

      Reply
      • Spearhafoc says:

        David, if you’re sincere about that, and sincere about paying what is your fair share, or what Obama is saying is your fair share in a 39.6% top tax rate, you are free to send in that extra amount. Here’s the address:

        You can write a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and in the memo section, notate that it’s a Gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. Mail your check to:

        Attn Dept G
        Bureau of the Public Debt
        P. O. Box 2188
        Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

        There is nothing shameful about a wealthy person hiring a tax lawyer with the onerous and complicated tax code we have. There is nothing shameful about an overseas bank account, and having one to lower one’s tax burden is not in any way a ‘free lunch’. “Skirting to the edge of a tax shelter” is a non-starter, it’s either legal or it’s not. If it’s not, then he’s in violation. None of us know that. We can say that about anyone’s taxes when we don’t know what’s in them. Just because you haven’t availed yourself of those perfectly legal options, and they’re legal for a reason, doesn’t mean you should pat yourself on the back for forgoing them.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          I know the game. We all know the game.

          But the game is an affront to the idea of citizenship, to the fundamental responsibilities of participating in a republic. That’s my point.

          I understand the practical purposes of a tax lawyer. We all do. But the morality of a tax code that allows for support of the American collective to be so cynically disproportionate to the means and abilities of citizens? Are you asking me to regard this with anything more than contempt? And as for Mr. Romney, he isn’t simply asking as a private citizen to avail himself of these institutional inequities, is he? No, he is asking for the leadership of the republic, correct? He might have done better by the country he intends to serve in such a capacity, particularly in a time when we were engaged in a couple of overseas conflicts.

          No, sorry. I’m not talking about legality here. I concede that there is nothing illegal in the differentials by which Mr. Romney was able to withhold his proportional support of the society he wishes to lead. I’m interested in morality. Simple fucking morality. And citizenship. Remember citizenship?

          Reply
          • Firebrand says:

            No, David, I don’t think he remembers citizenship. Or morality. Hence his attitude.

            Reply
          • EsotericWombat says:

            Actually, there may be illegality involved. Or at least, past illegality. Some of those off-shore tax havens didn’t show up on his past disclosure forms, which means that he may have kept them secret, which is a felony. A felony that was so popular among people as rich as Romney and which the IRS had no hope of prosecuting people for that they offered people amnesty if they declared their holdings. If this happened, it would be written all over the tax returns that Mr. Romney has refused to release thus far.

            Reply
            • Spearhafoc says:

              Esoteric-

              I could say you may have committed a felony on your past tax returns. I could say that about anybody’s tax returns I don’t have access to. You have no evidence, no clues and nothing concrete at all to make that charge other than malicious, irresponsible and idle speculation.

              Reply
              • EsotericWombat says:

                I do have a clue. There are offshore tax havens that appeared in the tax returns he released this year that didn’t appear on the financial disclosure forms that he had to release as a candidate for governor of Massachusetts. That’s more than enough to arouse suspicion given his evasiveness on the issue of what he pays in taxes, which is uncharacteristic for a Presidential candidate and inconsistent with both what he was willing to show the McCain campaign and with what he expected to see from those he was vetting for Vice President

                Let alone that most people with tax shelters like his hide them from the IRS. That’s pretty much the point of them. Or that Mitt Romney has said outright that there’s something in those returns that would hurt him, and there is very little that could hurt him politically as much as his handling of the controversy has.

                Given that from where your username link leads you seem to be a-OK with accusing the Southern Poverty Law Center of complicity in attempted mass murder, I’m disinclined to give a shit about what you consider to be malicious, irresponsible and idle speculation.

                Reply
        • David Simon says:

          Quoting from another response I made on this same thread. Your reliance on the ad hominem is simplistic, unthinking and doesn’t address the fundamental issue in any way shape or form:

          “There is no actual hypocrisy in Warren Buffett or anyone else calculating his or her existing tax obligation based on the flawed and inequitable metrics we now employ, yet at the same time arguing for reform and indeed, in doing so, knowing that such reform will come at real personal cost to them. That is not only not hypocritical, it’s damned ethical.

          Yet here we have, again, the spectacle of Mr. Romney benefiting from the existing inequities in our tax code, and pledging himself not to reform, but to the very status quo that has him doing less than his proportional share for the republic he desires to lead. That isn’t hypocritical either. It’s just not quite moral.

          To bring up Warren Buffett as if he’s engaged in any hypocrisy, when in fact that man stands ready to pay more to his society at the moment that our government asks, is to think it through on the crudest, simplest terms. Living in Baltimore and having covered crime for many years, I am a proponent of gun control. That said, it would not be hypocritical for me, living in Baltimore, to own a gun. I am ready to cede my weapon at the first moment that society comes to its senses; until then, this is the world I inhabit. Get it?

          In sum, I didn’t rip Mr. Romney for not voluntarily paying more. I ripped him for paying less than his rightful — if not legal share — and then maintaining that this outcome was just fine with him and should be equally fine with the millions and millions of less fortunate countrymen who have had to pick up the slack for him. The combination of the two is what makes a man hypocritical, and in light of Mr. Romney’s ambitions, unfit for the office he seeks.”

          Reply
      • Jeremiah Lewis says:

        Wait, if you’re with Warren Buffett, then shouldn’t both of you be shelling out your extras to, I dunno, the Treasury? Buffett certainly isn’t doing that. Hell, Buffett should start by having Berkshire Hathaway pay its damn corporate back taxes that it still owes the IRS. Then he can finish by writing a check, voluntarily, to make up for that percentage that he feels he and other wealthy ‘murcans should be paying. That certainly would make him, and you, pleasantly above the fray, or at least you’d both be putting your money where your mouth is. As Spearhafoc notes, there’s options for you, brother 😉

        However, let’s just face it: virtue is unfortunately not its own reward, at least not in politics. The Wire so clearly demonstrates this, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that political figures, by and large, are not paragons of virtue, and even when they attempt to be good, they are inevitably corrupted or distracted by the next election cycle, the higher office. It’s vicious and it’s horrible, but it’s fucking reality. For you to expect your political candidates on both sides of the aisles to act any better than their self-serving natures will allow is pie-in-the-sky naivete. And you’re not naive. You are impassioned and it’s admirable. But if you want people to change, you must incentivize them. Start with overhauling this ridiculous tax code that allows the wealthy to horde and shelter their money and get away with paying 13% per annum. Legislate a new body of laws that will strip the loopholes from the system. Then and only then will you begin to see millionaires and billionaires putting their “fair share” into the pot.

        Thanks for replying, BTW. Excellent to have a conversation with a guy I hold in high regard.

        Reply
        • Cami says:

          You can point at Warren Buffet all you want, but he isn’t running for President, is he? Compare apples to apples.

          Reply
        • David Simon says:

          Did you think The Wire was arguing for less virtue in politics, or anywhere else? Really?

          And there is no actual hypocrisy in Warren Buffett or anyone else calculating his or her existing tax obligation based on the flawed and inequitable metrics we now employ, yet at the same time arguing for reform and indeed doing so, ethically enough, knowing that such reform will come at real personal cost to them. That is not only not hypocritical, it’s damned ethical.

          Yet here we have, again, the spectacle of Mr. Romney benefiting from the existing inequities in our tax code, and pledging himself not to reform, but to the very status quo that has him doing less than his proportional share for the republic he desires to lead. That isn’t hypocritical either. It’s just not quite moral.

          To bring up Warren Buffett as if he’s engaged in any hypocrisy, when in fact that man stands ready to pay more to his society at the moment that our government asks, is to think it through on the crudest, simplest terms. Living in Baltimore and having covered crime for many years, I am a proponent of gun control. That said, it would not be hypocritical for me, living in Baltimore, to own a gun. I am ready to cede my weapon at the first moment that society comes to its senses; until then, this is the world I inhabit. Get it?

          In sum, I didn’t rip Mr. Romney for not voluntarily paying more. I ripped him for paying less than his rightful — if not legal share — and then maintaining that this outcome was just fine with him and should be equally fine with the millions and millions of less fortunate countrymen who have had to pick up the slack for him. The combination of the two is what makes a man hypocritical, and in light of Mr. Romney’s ambitions, unfit for the office he seeks.

          Reply
      • Mark says:

        Yep, and thank you.

        Reply
    • Jon says:

      > Now, if you have a solution that would amend these injustices, let’s hear it!

      Such as, for example, RAISING THE RATE?

      Oh, wait, that’s off the table, a non-starter, because the rich have convinced the poor that they’re creating jobs with the money that’s in their Swiss and Cayman bank accounts. And I suppose they have. For Swiss and Cayman bank tellers.

      Reply
  27. Uh Huh says:

    But 47% of americans pay no taxes at all. I’m willing to bet most of those 47% are begging for more Obama, too. Which side are you on?

    Reply
    • Spin Doctor says:

      “But 47% of americans pay no taxes at all.”

      Alert: Fox News talking point!

      All Americans pay taxes. Stop watching Fox News or listening to Rush Limbaugh. Payroll taxes? Sales taxes?

      What you meant to say is a certain percentage of people paid little to no federal income taxes. And that’s most likely due to the fact that they didn’t earn enough.

      You can’t point to the most progressive part of our tax system and say it is the only tax that people pay. That’s false. That’s a lie. And when you knowingly repeat it, as you’ve done here, UH HUH is a LIAR.

      Reply
    • Cami says:

      Please stop believing the BS right wing propaganda. Everyone pays taxes in this country. If you shop at a grocery store, you pay taxes. If you purchase clothing, you pay taxes. The only way you would get out of paying taxes is if you never purchased anything, or made any money. And, if what you’re talking about is people who don’t pay Federal Income tax, maybe take a look and realize, they don’t make enough! You cannot even compare someone like Romney to someone who makes $20,000/year. How could you? Someone who makes that much money has a hard time even paying rent for a roof over their head or getting enough to eat. Romney has enough money to support millions of those families. Seriously, people who have your attitude make me completely sick. These are hard working people who make that little money, they work much harder for it than someone who just lets their millions make money for them. So, don’t give me that crap about they worked hard to be millionaires. Since when is luck and being born to the right parents deserving of being so much better than someone else?

      Reply
  28. Greg says:

    I don’t believe that Mr. Romney ever specified that he even paid those taxes to this country. . .

    Reply
  29. Mark says:

    Not bad, but you seem to accept the 13% was valid. You are in show business, you can do better. How about doing a video — youtube — exposing this clearly. A video is worth 100,000 words

    Reply
  30. David Stuart says:

    I, for one, believe that if you are running for public office, your tax returns should be legally required to be released for public examination…

    …and The Wire & Genertion Kill were two of my all-time favorites!

    “Omar coming!”

    -DM Stuart

    Reply
  31. John Clark says:

    That was just perfectly stated. Loved the Wire. I think this may be the more important of your works though.

    Reply
  32. bardgal says:

    I can haz SHARE button plz?

    Reply
  33. Ronny Søberg says:

    The sad thing about it is.. The more taxes he claims to have paid, the less votes he gets.. In the eyes of a lot of republicans, paying no taxes what so ever makes you a demigod. Ooooh’s and Aaaaaah’s are heard.. And hymns of adoration are written in honor of these kinds of people.

    As long as all the republicans think so highly of humans in general, they will not change their minds about taxation. They honestly believe that rich people, if given the oportunity, (that is when taxes are abolished so they can afford to do so….) would share freely of their surplus. Giving out to those in need.
    THIS is the real problem. If this belief was dispelled somehow, the republican ideal would crumble. I’ve tried to bring it up in discussions with republicans and hardcore libertarians many times, but they are just so damned sure about their view of human psychology, their knowledge that greed isn’t really a driving force… Reason just passes them by.

    It’s high time we stop thinking “the best” of everyone. You don’t become a billionaire by sharing your profit with everyone. Anonymous donations don’t exactly trickle in on a regular basis.. You get some money for cancer research when Johnny Moneynuts gets sick, that’s about it. Having to wait until the rich grow old and start dropping dead is probably not the best safety net for the poor..

    Reply
  34. Jennifer R says:

    The amazing thing is the lack of outcry over this. Has the US become a herd of sheep? When I lived in DC I paid roughly 40% in taxes. Seriously. And I was grateful to do it b/c I had a great job. But this is an insult. And who is talking about it?

    Reply
  35. Kelly Carlin says:

    David,

    As my dad used to say…we’re circling the drain…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsFpm4yAoMQ

    Of course, I hope it’s such a slow circling that we can get a bit of traction and change trajectory, but who knows.

    Best,
    Kelly

    Reply
  36. J says:

    I don’t understand what your issue is with Romney’s tax rate. He definitively has played by the rules as set up by the IRS. Is it an issue of fairness for you? You don’t like the tax code? You think everyone should pay the same rate? Your arguments are generally thoughtful and reasoned and am interested to hear why you’re so upset because I don’t follow from this post.

    Reply
  37. Dave Y says:

    I am not a Romney fan, but I would like to see what Obama paid in percentages before his presidential run. Even if Obama did pay a higher percentage, it seems to me that He has been less than open about other issues.

    Reply
    • Paul says:

      Dave, what issues has Obama not been open about, exactly?

      The issue here is patriotism, pure and simple. Look at the differences.

      Obama says he doesn’t pay enough under the tax code. He says it again and again, in almost every speech, that the rich, like him, should pay more under the tax code.

      Romney argues the opposite. He only looks to protect his wealth, country be damned. And he wants to shift more wealth to people like him.

      Does nobody remember the harsh lessons of history?

      Reply
    • Cami says:

      Not to mention the difference between Obama’s wealth and Romney’s is astronomical. Obama is incredibly small potatoes (wealth-wise) compared to Romney, and not only that, Obama actually had to work and earn everything he has. He did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth, he achieved all by hard work and ambition. If that isn’t American, I don’t know what is. And if it is un-American, if it is more American to dodge paying taxes and shelter your wealth in other countries, I would rather not be associated with this country.

      Reply
  38. Dana King says:

    It is if he wins.

    Reply
  39. Steven Vertel says:

    Just looking at all of the stooges coming back to bash you for criticizing Rmoney ON YOUR OWN FUCKING BLOG makes me feel a pit of dread in my stomach. Instead of simply respecting your opinion or perhaps saying “I disagree, but still respect you” they seek to turn the spotlight back on you (or on Obama, who has nothing to do with this particular discussion).

    Pathetic toadies.

    Reply
  40. Ro says:

    After reading your piece Dave, which is on the money, and reading the comments thereafter, it’s pretty clear to see how we are in the state we are in. People are coming in boldly armed with ignorant indignation about what is wrong but completely ignoring the why. Wether it is wrong or not is beside the point. The fact that it simply is not sustainable to maintain a civilized society is.

    Forgetting all of the rhetoric Romney spouts for a second and looking at the state of play, and it’s not hard to see a malignancy in the dogma that has become patriotism in our country. Freedom has become about how little you have to contribute while still having the ability to wildly and mostly inaccurately criticize the government many depend on. Being an American has digressed to being proud of being able to froth at the mouth about how ‘those people’ are the problem, while paying no heed to how your own actions are crippling the community you live in.

    It’s not that Mitt Romney continuously lies, whines about how ‘unfair’ campaigning is or even the little tax he pays. The point is that he is PROUD of these things and has no reservations in representing them. He has absolutely no embarrassment in proclaiming that in the most basic and fundamental way to contribute to society, he is doing the least possible required of him. And for a country as rich in history and resources and diversity as ours, this is simply unacceptable.

    The leader of the free world should not be satisfied with appeasing the lowest common denominator.

    Reply
  41. Cami says:

    Thank you! My sentiments exactly. I truly don’t understand the Republicans at all. They scream and yell about how much they dislike government, yet they’re running for office?? If they really dislike government so much, maybe they should stay out of it. They capitalize on their position in government so much. On the one hand, they say they hate government and there should be small government, while their palms are getting greased by the fat cat corporations that control them as reward for saying it. I think we need a strong government of the people even more now, kick the money out of politics, overturn Citizens United and put stringent campaign finance laws in place and use our tax money to regulate the corporations that are robbing us all blind and destroying our life-giving planet. Just IMHO.

    Reply
  42. Cami says:

    Thank you for writing this, David. I think I’m one of the few people in the country who still hasn’t seen the Wire, but now I’m going to go out and get it immediately. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  43. Stephen Etzine says:

    Great post. Wouldn’t it be interesting if, along with the presidential debate, we had a citizen’s debate, where people of Simon’s views on the one side and intellectuals on the other,had a series of debated before the election.
    On the one hand you could have David Simon, Tom Morello, Bill Moyers, Louis CK versus….
    David Mamet,Ted Nugent, Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller?

    Only problem is, if one of the guys on the right was unavailable, they’d have to call it off.

    Reply
  44. Pilastr Agonistes says:

    For his personal assets Romney relies on the blind trust as plausible deniability for legally nebulous tax shelters. But he still gets to show off his criminal chops from behind the corporate legal firewall, as he did on the Marriott Hotels board of directors. The DOJ busted his illegal scheme, but so what, the corporation took the hit and no one but page 11 of the SLC local paper is bothering to raise it as an issue for his candidacy.

    “Romney’s apparent disdain for tax obligations is clear from his role in Marriott International’s abusive tax shelter activities. From 1993 to 1998, Romney was head of the audit committee of the Marriott board of directors, with responsibilities that included tax planning. The so-called “Son of Boss” tax shelter helped Marriott sell $81 million of mortgage notes, reporting a $71 million “tax loss.” Romney was an insider with perspective on the motivation and lack of substance in the transaction, fully understanding the tax avoidance game. Romney reportedly was the board member most familiar with the transaction.

    “This shelter, used by Marriott and others, represented one of the largest tax-avoidance schemes in history, costing the U.S. billions in lost tax revenues. In 2008, the U.S. Federal Court of Claims ruled against Marriott, which appealed and lost again. The appeals court sided with the Department of Justice, calling Marriott’s transactions “fictitious,” “artificial,” “spectral,” an “illusion” and a “scheme.”

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/54703943-82/romney-tax-marriott-bain.html.csp

    Reply
  45. Jeremiah Lewis says:

    He’s a big boy. He can handle it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who disagrees with Mr. Simon but who still respects him and his opinion.

    And I’m sure you’ve never gone on someone else’s blog to write a comment in respectful opposition to the author.

    Finally, isn’t a toadie a person who sucks up to someone else they fear or admire?

    Reply
  46. Firebrand says:

    You mean like you do with regards to Mitt Romney and the conservative agenda? Ah yes, then you’d be right.

    Reply
  47. Guster21 says:

    He has absolutely no embarrassment in proclaiming that in the most basic and fundamental way to contribute to society, he is doing the least possible required of him.

    If you believed that, RO, then please explain why Romney gives away so much money to charity? Over $7 million in the last two years alone donated by he and his wife to charity. Their money going to the poor, the sick, the elderly and the less fortunate.

    The least possible would be giving zero to charity.

    Seriously, on what grounds are you making that claim?

    Reply
  48. Ro says:

    And as expected, a voice pops up to discuss one statement taken out of context, ignoring the sentiment of the whole. Being contrary does not allow of for comprehension it seems, but ok, for the sake of civil discourse, I’ll bite.

    The ‘grounds’ for these types of ‘claims’ are so easy to find, if you want to. There is a ton of data that completely refute the idea of his ‘charity’, which is in fact a method he simply uses to retain his wealth. And let’s not even get into where the donations are going.

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/04/tax-tips-mitt-romney-april-17
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/mitt-romney-strategy-could-help-maximize-charitable-tax-deductions/2012/01/30/gIQAwYiBqQ_story.html

    Reply
  49. haapi says:

    He gives money to the Mormon church. In fact, he is obligated to do so. That church is run like a business, but benefits from a charity status. That church also puts a lot of money and energy into supporting/slamming certain political and social issues. So we’re not talking about a soup kitchen here.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] 11:19 PMET • Comments TweetDavid Simon, creator of The Wire, is outraged that Mitt Romney bragged about paying just over 13% in taxes.Can we stand back and pause a short minute to take in the spectacle […]

  2. […] television writer and former journalist wrote his comments in a post on his personal blog entitled “Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say so.” In it, he responds to Romney’s comments in front of reporters today in which the candidate […]

  3. […] David Simon | Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he***8217;s proud to say …   […]

  4. […] posted here: David Simon | Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent … Comments […]

  5. […] television writer and former journalist wrote his comments in a post on his personal blog entitled “Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say so.” In it, he responds to Romney’s comments in front of reporters today in which the candidate […]

  6. […] television writer and former journalist wrote his comments in a post on his personal blog entitled “Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say so.” In it, he responds to Romney’s comments in front of reporters today in which the candidate […]

  7. […] politically inclined creator of HBO shows The Wire and Treme blasted the multimillionaire former investment banker on his blog, calling the admission “stunning.” It’s a tax rate a third less than what is […]

  8. […] David Simon less than impressed.The politically inclined creator of HBO shows The Wire and Treme blasted the multi-millionaire former investment banker on his blog, calling the admission “stunning.” It’s a tax rate a third less than what is […]

  9. […] politically inclined creator of HBO shows The Wire and Treme blasted the multi-millionaire former investment banker on his blog, calling the admission "stunning." It’s a tax rate a third less than what is […]

  10. […] David Simon and all the others reacting to Mitt Romney’s estimate of a floor of 13% on his effective tax […]

  11. […] politically inclined creator of HBO shows The Wire and Treme blasted the multi-millionaire former investment banker on his blog, calling the admission “stunning.” It’s a tax rate a third less than what is […]

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