There are several reasons why a candidate for the highest office in the land needs to release their tax returns at least for the past several years. President Obama and Hillary Clinton released 7 years of tax returns during the 2008 primaries and Obama has added releasing 3 years of tax returns as POTUS. So the minimum Romney should release to be fair would be 7 years of returns even though 10 or more would be optimal.
Politically it’s almost essential for a POTUS candidate to release several years of tax returns so voters can evaluate a candidate thoroughly and like Romney’s own father stated years ago, a year or two of returns could be a fluke. Politically speaking voters want to see tax returns for several reason starting with it just gives a glimpse into the candidates ability to be transparent. Of course Romney has proven to be an epic fail in this first category.
Just as important politically people want to know if a candidate puts their money where their mouth is so to speak. If a candidate claims to belong to a certain church for example, people want to so if they donate too that church. If a candidate claims to be liberal they want to see if they donate to liberal cause and visa versa. This could be Romney’s biggest Achilles heel in his tax returns because he went from being a self declared “moderate progressive” Republican who supported Planned Parenthood to a hard right wing anti-choice bully. A charitable deduction to a group like Planned Parenthood could even derail Romney’s GOP presidential nomination with the right wing of his party.
It is only speculation but to me it makes sense that hiding past donations to liberal causes is the most likely reason Romney is holding back his returns. Romney is deathly afraid of the lunatic right wing base of his party over everything else. He has shown he will flip flop to the right on any issue to keep them placated. He could give a darn about how liberals or even moderates would view his returns because he would just play that off by saying those voters just ‘envy his wealth’. So if you asked me to make a $10,000 bet I would put my money on this as the biggest reason he does not want to release his returns.
Another and perhaps biggest political factor is voters want to see how candidates would benefit under their tax policy prescriptions that they are proposing. Since Romney is advocating huge tax cuts to the rich and capital gains voters want to know how much more money he will make personally from his policies. Especially juxtaposed to Obama’s policy initiatives to raise taxes on people as rich as himself and Romney this is a huge political liability for Romney. It’s bad enough he paid only and effective rate of $13.9% on $20,000,000 that if he paid less on much more income it could be political suicide.
We already know from what financial information Romney has released, much of it he was forced to release, that he invested heavily overseas. The ironic part of this is he hid that money overseas mostly in the Bush years so you wonder how sincerely he believes in the Bush policies of cutting taxes on the rich and deregulation if he made the decision to ship much of his money offshore anyway. But this is just a tangential argument.
Voters simply want to know how honest their candidates are. Even most Republicans want honesty when it comes to money. A candidate does not even have to do anything against the law in the long run. A candidate like Romney could have changed his address on his tax returns to run for Governor of MA when he initially put UT as his main residency on them (wait that already happened). Or Romney could have participated in certain tax amnesty programs.
Releasing taxes is especially important for Romney as stated in the title because his whole claim that he will be a better president than Obama is based on his business record. That record simply cannot be seen completely evaluated by the voters until Romney releases several years of returns. Romney himself is holding back one of the crucial puzzle pieces voters need to evaluate him as a savvy business leader. So if Romney sticks to his stubborn refusal to release more tax returns the voters have every right to dog him every day about them.