Archive - Jan 2012

January 26th

Politics Are Global, Math Is Apparently Local

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Memo to Mitt Romney: OK, LET'S GET THIS STARTED.

I've been holding back on Romney for most of the primary season on the grounds that, as the likely nominee, there'll be plenty of time to make fun of him in the general. And so far, that's been working out pretty well. I mean, Santorum and Gingrich are still in the race, talking about rape babies and moon bases, so there's plenty of material to mine while keeping my powder dry for Mittens.

But yesterday, Mitt Romney committed the most flagrant foul against reality in the entire campaign so far. And I think we all know how powerful an indictment THAT is. We've already seen Michele Bachmann claim that the HPV vaccine causes retardation and Herman Cain saying that Obama was orchestrating Occupy Wall Street. But Mitt's whopper dwarfs those, and as a result, we'll be able to use its progress like a barium enema to trace just how sick our political system is.

You see, Mitt Romney has a problem. He's known for a long time that he has a problem. That problem? He's a rich asshole. Really rich, and really an asshole. How rich? Mitt Romney's money makes more money in two hours than you probably make in a year. If Mitt Romney's money only made money one day a year, his annual salary would STILL make him part of the one percent. He's rich by the standards of other politicians. He's rich by the standards of other Republican politicans. Mitt Romney is a rich asshole.

And this is a bad, bad year to be a rich asshole. Say what you will about the hippies of the Occupy movement and their drum circles, but they've focused the attention that has been sorely lacking for the past two decades back on rich assholes. Negative attention. This is why Mitt Romney spent a lot of time and effort trying to hide the fact that he was rich. It's why he told people he was "unemployed", and refused to release his tax returns. The act wasn't all that convincing, because, well, MITT ROMNEY, but he tried, and so most people were content to ignore his Scrooge McDuckian levels of wealth-hoarding.

And that's why the tax returns were such a big deal. Now, everyone knows that Mitt Romney is a rich asshole - a rich asshole with offshore bank accounts and an effective tax rate of under 14%. Effective tax rate, by the way, is what you pay in taxes, in total, divided by what you make, in total. It's what you end up losing once all the various levels of government take their cut. For most of us, our effective tax rate clocks in at around a third. Mitt loses around an eighth.

This is bad math for Romney. Bad, bad math. And how does a Republican fight bad math? Worse math. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Well, actually, I released two years of taxes and I think the average is almost 15 percent. And then also, on top of that, I gave another more 15 percent to charity. When you add it together with all of the taxes and the charity, particularly in the last year, I think it reaches almost 40 percent that I gave back to the community. One of the reasons why we have a lower tax rate on capital gains is because capital gains are also being taxed at the corporate level. So as businesses earn profits, that’s taxed at 35 percent, then as they distribute those profits as dividends, that’s taxed at 15 percent more. So, all total, the tax rate is really closer to 45 or 50 percent." - Romney, on Univision.

I'm pretty sure Romney floated this trial pinata on Univision because he thought nobody would notice, and even Mitt could barely manage to say it with a straight face. Let's break it down.

First, charity doesn't count. I'm not even going to get into the fact that most of the "charity" wasn't even real charity, it was a mandatory intra-Mormon bank transfer. Doesn't even matter, except to score Mitt a few more asshole points. You don't get to count charity as part of your "tax rate". Also, if you paid thirteen, or even "almost 15" with your fuzzy-ass two-year average math where the second year is your "I'm running for president, guys" tax preparation strategy, and you add that "almost 15" to "another more 15%" that you gave to charity, what you end up with is not "almost 40", it's "less than 30". So even if Mormon tithing counted as taxes, your effective rate would STILL be below average.

And then there's the bogus "capital gains are taxed twice" argument. Not only is Mitt Romney repeating this bullshit, he's not even repeating the most common, slightly more plausible sounding version of it, which is that money that was invested was taxed as income, so the money earned as a result of that investment is "double-taxed". Of course, the money being taxed is new, never-before taxed money, and also Romney's primary source of income, so that's bullshit. Also, every time I pay sales tax on something I buy with my after-tax income, is that more horrific DOUBLE TAXATION?

But that's not even what Romney's saying. Romney's saying that someone else paid taxes on their money, then gave him some of what was left, so the corporate tax they paid counts as his taxes. Which makes Mitt's math as follows:

  • Take his effective tax rate of 13%.
  • Round it up to 15%.
  • Add the 15% he's given to charity, to get a total of 40%.
  • Take the corporate tax rate of 35%, which isn't an effective rate, it's a base rate before deductions and loopholes and all the various things corporations like GE and Bank of America use to get out of paying any of those corporate taxes.
  • Determine, in his head, what portion of those completely fake 35% corporate taxes should apply to his own personal effective tax rate.
  • Add that amount to the 40% above to reach "40 to 50 percent"
  • Assume everyone will round up to the last thing they heard, giving him a staggering effective tax rate of FIFTY PERCENT.

That, as Michele Bachmann would say, is some fucking chootispah. But remember what I said about the barium enema? Stop trying to block out the mental image of Mitt Romney, Barium Enema and barium with me here. The real question is not "Did Mitt Romney pull completely bogus numbers out of his ass to seem like less of a rich asshole?" We've covered that, we all know the answer.

No, the question is, how many pundits, talking heads, "conservative spokespeople", radio hosts, yes-men, and establishment Republicans scared shitless of a Gingrich nomination will repeat this bogus figure as if it were fact. Because that's their job. To take outlandish statements completely devoid of fact, and repeat them over and over in slightly less ridiculous-sounding ways so that eventually, the reptile brains that might have been woken from their slumber by the fact that Mitt Romney is a rich asshole are soothed back to sleep.

That's why it's called the "echo chamber". And if the "echo chamber" backs Mitt up on his 50% effective tax rate, then you might as well just move to the coasts so that you'll be the first one breathing seawater when the global warming flooding kicks into high. Because the audacity of hope* will have been curb-stomped by a whole other type of audacity.

*Not that the "audacity of hope" wasn't some primo bullshit, don't get me wrong. But you know what I mean.