John McCain and Mitt Romney share a secret. It's 23 years of Mitt's tax returns.
Mitt gave them to McCain in 2008 when McCain, then the GOP presidential nominee, was vetting VP candidates.
This time around, Mitt has won the GOP nomination, but now he's hiding those 23 years of returns from the American people. He handed them to McCain in exchange for a VP bid. But Mitt is denying that information to the American people when he's asking them for something more important -- the presidency.
Mitt, a quarter billionaire, disclosed his federal payments to fellow one percenter McCain, who owns so many houses he couldn't count them. To America's middle class riffraff, Mitt has divulged significantly less -- a partial return for 2010 and a promise of the 2011 return when he finishes it.
Ann Romney told ABC reporter Robin Roberts last week that the riffraff need far less to determine who will be their President than McCain did to pick a VP. Here's what Ann said:
We have given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life.
You people. That would be the uppity riffraff who dare to question the rich Romneys.
Mitt has explained all this before. He'll tell voters what's good for them. And what's good for them is part of one year's return and maybe another year later. That'll do it. Here's how he put it to CNN:
People always want to get more. We're putting out what's required plus more. Those are the two years that people will have, and that's all that's necessary for people to understand something about my finances.
That's all that's necessary. Got it? Mitt told you. Now go home and shut up about it.
Mitt might do better with middle class voters if he got down off his high-steppin' dressage horse. But if he did that, he might never get taxpayers to repay him the $77,000 he lost on that horse. That $77,000 loss, an amount larger than most Americans earn in a year, was revealed in the partial return Romney did release. No wonder he's reluctant to disclose more.
Ann Romney described Mitt's refusal to give additional years this way on ABC:
There are so many things that will be open again for more attack. And you just want to give more material for more attack. And that's really -- that's just the answer.
The answer, Ann Romney said, is that there are so many things in those secret returns that would provoke criticism. And the quarter billionaire running for president don't countenance no criticism from riffraff.
Ann's fear is validated by the revelation of foreign accounts and inexplicable retirement funds contained in the one partial return Romney released so far.
It's incomplete because attachments weren't included. When a taxpayer has foreign accounts, as Romney does, the IRS requires the filer to include specific documentation about them. Romney didn't release those for his account in Switzerland.
That documentation and additional years of returns would give taxpayers important information. It would, for example, reveal whether Romney reported the income from his Swiss account on earlier tax returns. That is significant because Romney appears to have closed the account a year after the IRS gave wealthy Americans partial tax amnesty for coming clean on their previously-unreported foreign accounts. Romney's earlier returns might indicate whether he was among the 34,000 who took advantage of the program to avoid prosecution.
Additional returns might also explain how Romney's IRA got so extraordinarily massive. Although IRA contributions were restricted to $30,000 a year, Romney's account is worth as much as $102 million. That's way more than a lifetime of $30,000 payments. It suggests lowballing the value of contributed assets to circumvent the $30,000 limit. The advantage of such undervaluing is that an IRA account can grow tax-free. So the more wealth in it, the fewer taxes paid.
Romney has assured the American people he's diligent about his income taxes, saying:
I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more.
This sentiment appeases government-hating Tea Partiers. They don't want to pay taxes to educate the next generation of citizens, to prevent another 9-11, or to prop up the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games with $1.3 billion in federal dollars. Oh, whoops. It was Romney, wasn't it, who wanted all those tax dollars after he took over planning for the 2002 games.
When Romney's father George sought the Republican nomination in 1968, he gave a reporter a dozen years of tax information. He set the standard, disclosing more than any candidate before. George Romney derided releasing less, saying:
One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.
That's what his son has done so far, released a partial return for one year. Even Romney's fellow one percenter McCain released two years, which is far less than the norm. President Obama disclosed seven years; George W. Bush and Al Gore, nine; John Kerry, 20; Bob Dole, 30.
I don't think you want a candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.
Maybe not. But Americans definitely don't want a president who paid less taxes than he owed. With Mitt refusing reasonable disclosure, Americans don't know for sure whether he skirted taxes altogether some years. Well, one American does, Mitt's country club pal John McCain.
What Americans do know for sure, though, is that cheaters always have something to hide.