The political debate continues to be dominated by questions involving GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his financial history, more particularly his refusal to release any tax information other than his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 taxes.
The decision to withhold the information has begun to perplex even conservative pundits such as William Kristol (”It’s crazy”) to George Will (”He must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them).” In many cases, unflattering comparisons are being drawn between Romney and his father, George, who as a candidate for the GOP nomination in 1968 began the modern practice of tax disclosure by releasing 12 years of his returns.
While that debate rages, I thought it might be interesting to study what we know of the two Romneys not for what it might tell us about their character, openness, etc., but about the time and place in which each man lived.
Take a look at the thumbnail financial descriptions posted on the right. The younger Romney, as a passive, non-working investor now drawing upon his success at Bain Capital, collected income in 2010 amounting to 439 times the median household income of his fellow Americans.
His father, during a 12-year period in which he mainly worked as chairman and president of American Motors, earned an average annual income that was 44 times that of the median household income of his fellow Americans. Adjusted for inflation, his average income of $247,743 in 1965 dollars would be $1.7 million today.
In the ’50s and ’60s, a period considered the economic heyday of a free and capitalist post-war America, George Romney paid 37 percent of his income in federal taxes.
By 2010, Romney’s son paid a total of 13.9 percent of his income in federal taxes, this in an America that is supposedly well on its way to becoming a socialist state, with a confiscatory federal government intent on stealing the wealth of its highest earners.
Reality, in other words, directly contradicts mythology, but with little apparent effect. The fact that the “socialist” meme not only survives but thrives despite its obvious absurdity is, I would argue, testimony to the perception-altering power of propaganda. Or as the elder Romney might put it, a case of brainwashing.
– Jay Bookman