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Tax Return Hypocrisy

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Mitt Romney (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Mitt Romney renewed interest in his tax returns this week, estimating to a reporter that he paid a 13% tax rate. The Obama campaign jumped on this opportunity as a new chance to dog Romney on an issue that helped to slow his summer momentum.

While political pundits almost all agree that the Romney camp could have handled the tax return issue better, the fact that the issue is becoming a focal point of the campaign points out the hypocrisy all of us are guilty of regarding how we look at taxes and candidates.

As voters, we expect our elected leaders to reveal their tax returns and somehow to have not used the legal loopholes that rich Republicans and rich Democrats use to pay less money to the federal government.

The reason this is hypocrisy is because there are few if any of us voters that would pass up a legal tax loophole if it were presented to us. In fact, we go to tax accounting services based on how much money they can legally get back for us, in other words, based on how many legal loopholes they can find for us to use ourselves.

Yet, when a politician is revealed to have used the expanded loopholes available to people with a great deal of money, we as voters somehow see this as cheating or at the very least, unworthy of our vote.

With the attention now being on Mitt Romney, some Democrats are claiming that if his returns show that he didn’t pay much in taxes, then it proves that he would protect these tax protections for the rich.

That may very well be true.

However, if these tax loopholes for the very rich were only protected by Republicans, why were they not shut down completely in 2008 when Democrats held the majority in the Senate and the House?

Also, if we are to believe that only one party wants to protect the tax loopholes that the rich enjoy, are we also to believe that every rich Democratic funder enjoys paying every dime they possibly can in taxes and ignores the loopholes available to them as well?

I believe that the idea of playing the rich as villains who cheat the middle class by using tax loopholes is a very clever strategy that is rarely tested with economic common sense.

It is easy to campaign on the idea that rich people should pay more money than the middle and lower class when you are trying to appeal to the middle and lower class. However, does anyone find it likely that this is the very first line used to campaign at fundraisers that charge $3500 a plate or more?

I am not pointing this out as a way to defend Mitt Romney’s decision to not share his tax returns. I am merely trying to point out how hypocritical we can be as voters when it comes to what we expect out of our elected leaders and ourselves.

If we are to be truly honest with ourselves, we need to understand that we are asking our elected leaders to be people that we do not want to be ourselves. Would any of us honestly pass up a legal option to pay less taxes? Would any of us not consider someone who did as a chump?

We can judge candidates on a wide variety of qualities. And frankly, we can still judge them for how much taxes they pay. But we owe it to ourselves to be honest about how we decide who gets our vote. That honesty may be uncomfortable, but it is preferable to being a hypocrite.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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