Despite America being a country founded on equality for all citizens, there are certain privileges granted to an elite and restricted group based on either birth or as a condition of wealth. There is a difference between privilege and a right, whereas privilege is conditional and granted after birth, a right is an inherent, irrevocable prerogative allegedly held by all Americans and granted by the Constitution. There are Americans though, who consider their privileges a right over and above the rest of the population and more times than not, it is their wealth that gives them special rights and privileges most Americans will never enjoy. For the past week, Willard Romney has faced criticism for demeaning 47% of the population because they are too poor to pay income taxes, and it may be the first time a candidate for president has written off half the population as parasites, but because Willard is privileged, he apparently feels he has the right to demean half of America.
For the past few months, Romney has withstood mounting calls to release more than one year of a completed tax return and an estimate for 2011, and after he finally released his return for 2011, his reticence to release more begins to make sense. According to Romney’s 2011 return, he paid $1.95 million in income tax for $13,696,951 last year for a whopping 14.1% tax rate. The average federal income tax rate for the middle 20% of households is approximately 16% in 2010. However, Romney’s privileged tax rate does not stop there, because he only paid 0.2% of his income in payroll taxes, while most Americans pay about 15% of their earnings in payroll taxes and much more if they are self-employed.
One of the reasons Romney’s tax rate is lower than Americans who actually work for a living is because his earnings are considered capital gains and interest on investments. First, most Americans do not earn enough to make capital investments or invest their money because they spend their entire income on daily living expenses just to get by. The wealthy, however, may spend as little as 5% percent of their income, regardless how lavishly they live, so they obviously have more to invest and subsequently have more investment and capital gains that are taxed at 15%. It is a long-standing goal of Republicans to abolish the capital gains tax so privileged people like Willard Romney can avoid paying any income taxes at all.
President Obama has proposed raising the capital gains tax from 15-20 percent, and raising the tax rate for the wealthy from 35-38%, but Republicans claim raising taxes on the rich will prevent them from creating jobs. After 11 years of a lower tax rate, the wealthy have not created jobs and still, Republicans stick by their fallacious “trickle down” theory in hopes of convincing ignorant Americans to oppose increasing the wealthy’s tax rate by a measly 3%.
What makes Romney’s tax return even more offensive to Americans is that he purposely left off charitable contributions so the he did not look too privileged to the American people. By voluntarily forfeiting about $1.8 million in charitable deductions, Romney artificially inflated the tax rate he disclosed to the public to “conform to the Governor’s statement in August…that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.” However, a prescient question is will Romney file an amended return and include the $1.8 million that will bring his tax rate closer to 10% after the election when his tax returns are a non-issue, and did he manipulate previous tax returns to avoid paying his fair share? Unfortunately, until Romney releases at least ten more years’ worth of tax returns like his father, there is no way to know. Romney required potential vice presidential candidates to submit fully 10 years of tax returns during vetting, and he submitted 23 years’ worth of tax returns to John McCain in 2008. Romney refuses to release any more tax returns and through his wife has said, “we’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life.”
The American people understand Romney’s financial condition without releasing more tax returns, and it is a privileged situation the great majority of Americans who work for a living will never realize. The abject arrogance of Mrs. Willard calling Americans “you people” is nearly as despicable as her husband claiming 47% of Americans are parasites. Why does Romney pay a rate lower than a school teacher or plumber who actually contributes to society and spends all their income contributing to the economy and pay a higher tax rate? It is simply because he was privileged to be born into wealth, and used other people’s money to leverage companies with debt on the way to bankrupting them and eliminating Americans’ jobs and retirement benefits while reaping millions to hide in offshore accounts to avoid paying income tax.
The fact that Romney manipulated his charitable contribution deduction to fulfill his bogus “commitment to the public” that his tax rate should not drop below 13% percent belies his assertion that the richest Americans should not be paying an exceptionally low tax rate, and it leads one to wonder why he opposes the President’s “Buffett Rule?” Romney also needs to reveal why he stashes large sums of money in a Swiss bank and myriad offshore accounts unless it is to avoid taxes. What Americans should be most outraged at is the 0.2% he pays in payroll taxes when every working American earning less than $106,800 annually pays approximately 15%, and much more if they are self-employed. At less than one percent, Romney puts himself in the same category as the parasitic 47% of Americans he demeaned as government moochers.
Romney’s 2011 tax return did little to convince Americans that he is anything but a privileged rich boy who has enough wealth to manipulate what he contributes to America. The truth is that Romney and his wealthy elite class are the parasites on America and it goes well beyond the wealthiest one percent. Willard Romney’s earnings put him in the top one percent of the top one percent, and because of his wealth he gets to game the system by hiding his money in highly questionable offshore IRAs and tax havens in the Cayman Islands for one simple reason; to avoid paying his fair share which is at least 15% for capital gains and he still paid less than that. When Willard amends his 2011 federal income tax return and includes all of his charitable contributions after the November election, his rate will drop to approximately 10% that is closer to the figure he pays his church for admittance into the temple, and at least 8% lower than a school teacher, fire fighter, or police officer whose jobs he promises to eliminate to make room for more tax cuts for himself.
It is the people like Willard Romney who belie the credo that Americans are all equal and have the same opportunity to succeed. The fire fighter, school teach, plumber, or construction worker barely earning a lower middle class income spend every penny they earn contributing to America’s economy, and the working poor who earn too little to pay income taxes pay 15 times what Romney does in payroll taxes and he considers them parasites. Willard Romney is the parasite on the government because despite the dirty millions he earned crushing companies and eliminating jobs, he hides his money offshore and manipulates the tax code to contribute as little as possible to the country that has allowed him to cheat investors, commit fraud on the courts, and label the poorest Americans parasites because they are too poor to pay income tax. At least they have an honest reason for not contributing more and it is out in the open unlike Romney’s hidden offshore accounts and missing tax returns the people still demand he release.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.