Now that the general election campaign is heating up, something is becoming painfully obvious: Mitt Romney has no history of bringing serious skin to the American game, and yet he wants to be captain of the American team.
Exhibit A is his tax history. This includes not just his personal tax history, but his history of tax shiftiness on behalf of the corporations he’s had a hand in running. On this score, Mitt Romney is “Mr. Shenanigans.” Here, for example, is Peter Canellos and Edward D. Kleinbard, both experts in the field of tax law, discussing Romney’s “Son of Boss” incident when he was head of the auditing committee for Marriot Hotels:
In his key position as head of the [Marriot] board’s audit committee, Romney was required under the securities laws and his fiduciary duties to review the transaction. In fact, it has been publicly reported that Romney was the Marriott Board member most acquainted with the transaction and to whom the other board members turned for advice. This makes sense because aggressive tax-driven financial engineering was a large part of what Romney (and Bain) did for a living. For these reasons, it is fair to hold him accountable for Marriott’s spurious tax reporting.
Romney’s campaign staff has attempted to deflect responsibility, arguing that he relied on Marriott’s tax department and advisers. […]
What emerges from this window into corporate tax compliance behavior is the picture of an executive who was willing to go to the edge, if not beyond, to bend the rules to seek an unfair advantage, and then hide behind the advice of so-called experts to deflect criticism when a scheme backfires.
Under Romney’s direct supervision,
Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including “Son of Boss,” a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter that investment banks and accounting firms marketed to corporations such as Marriott. In this respect, Marriott was in the vanguard of a then-emerging corporate tax shelter bubble that substantially undermined the entire corporate tax system.
Son of Boss and its related shelters represented perhaps the largest tax avoidance scheme in history, costing the U.S. many billions in lost corporate tax revenues.
In light of Mitt Romney’s history at Marriot, it seems pretty obvious why he’s resistant to releasing his personal tax returns: he’s long had a habit of tax avoidance.
Exhibit B for Romney’s “no-skin-in-the-game” problem is his avoidance of service in Vietnam. Instead of participating in the war (or resisting it), Romney served his church as a missionary.
Exhibit C is Romney’s disengagement from the 1960a struggle for black liberation. Exhibt D is Romney’s disengagement from the women’s liberation movement.
Mitt Romney has thus made four existential choices in his life that he wants voters not to notice:
- Taxes. Throughout his life, he chose to maximize his personal fortune and the fortunes of corporate entities at the expense of the common good; that is, he looked for ways for himself and his corporate partners to cheat the spirit, intent–and sometimes even the letter–of American tax laws.
- Vietnam. His missionary work for the Mormon church in the 1960s was more important to him than what was going on in Vietnam.
- Black liberation. His missionary work was more important to him than what was going on in the streets of Mississippi.
- Women’s liberation. His missionary work was more important to him than working with American women to achieve full equality.
These can be summed up this way: neither a soldier nor a protester, Mitt Romney was disengaged from the three great issues of his generation–the Vietnam War, black liberation, and women’s liberation. He lived as if the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement touched him not. When people his age were being drafted, dying in war, resisting the draft, going to jail, marching in the streets, or not paying taxes for a good reason (as acts of conscience), Romney was bicycling around France for over 30 months promoting an overtly racist and patriarchal religion (his missionary work began in 1966). Then, when he entered the corporate world, he set up overseas bank accounts and generally avoided taxes to the furthest extent that he could manage.
In short, Mitt Romney has a history of putting as little skin in the American game as possible. It thus makes sense that the Obama campaign should be hammering him on his tax returns. It points voters to a pattern of behavior in the man that spans a lifetime.
Curiously, below is a Republican Congressman making the argument that taxation is about having skin in the game. The irony is that his very argument, if accepted, must necessarily demonstrate Mitt Romney’s unfitness for the American presidency. I suspect, therefore, that this video will be taken down from YouTube before long. It’s the Obama campaign’s very argument: