Michael Graetz, writing in the New York Times this week, claims to have a pretty good idea what Mitt Romney is hiding about his taxes: he has probably valued the assets he gave to his children at ZERO. Here’s Graetz:
[Valuing assets] at zero for gift tax purposes was common advice given to clients like Mr. Romney in the 1990s and early 2000s.
If detected, undervaluing large gifts to one’s children could provoke large penalties from the I.R.S. These are the kinds of tax penalties that even multinational corporations try to avoid because they fear how the public would react to the adverse publicity that would inevitably follow.
To settle these questions, Mr. Romney should release his gift tax returns, or other documents showing how he valued his transfers to his family’s trust and to his I.R.A., and at least three additional years of income tax returns.
Mitt Romney, of course, won’t do even the minimum that Michael Graetz advises because he is not a decent man. He conned his way into the Republican nomination and he is poised to con his way into the highest office of the land. He clearly holds the electorate in contempt, and if he wins then that contempt (to echo Carl Sagan in another context) will be justified.
He should be nowhere near the presidency. Here’s a bit more from Graetz on Romney’s Individual Retirement Account (I.R.A):
[I]t is quite a trick to turn [I.R.A] contributions that are limited to $30,000 to $50,000 a year into the $20 million to $101 million he now has there.
Actually, it’s no trick at all. One need only lie about the value of the assets you’ve placed in the account and cross your fingers that you’re not audited. This suggests to me that Romney is a gambler. He’s hoping to slip into the American presidency in the same way that he slipped money into his I.R.A and trust accounts: he’s banking that he’ll escape scrutiny just long enough to secure his ends.
Of course, it is the average taxpayer who will make up the tens of millions of dollars Romney has so clearly dodged. And it will be our collective political culture, not Romney, who will ultimately pay for his current conniving and cynicism. Whether Romney wins or loses, the message has already been sent: to come within shouting distance of the highest office in America, one need only lie and finesse shamelessly. One needn’t have a conscience or core values at all, only a will to power. As we speak, some dark soul is absorbing the lesson of Mitt Romney’s candidacy. May Romney himself at least get no further, and, on losing in November, may he be forgotten.