The focus on Romney’s tax returns seems to have caught him off guard, and he hasn’t done well at recent debates. Mitt appears to be on the defensive, and his attempts to side-step the issue made him sound awkward and uncomfortable. His problem now is that the longer he waits to release his tax returns, the more it looks like he has something to hide.
We all know Mitt Romney is rich. We also know he paid a much lower tax rate than most of us—whether it was due to capital gains or carried interest, a loophole in the tax code that lets VCs and hedge funds claim profits as long term capital gains at 15% instead of ordinary income at 35%. Now the mainstream media is spreading rumors that Mitt has money stashed in off shore bank accounts.
At this point, the accusations and innuendos won’t stop until Romney actually releases his tax returns. Holding out to avoid attacks because he’s wealthy won’t even postpone the inevitable—it will just stoke the fires and increase apprehension among voters. It’s not going to get any better if he wins the nomination, because Obama has a $1 billion war chest to attack him over the very same issue.
Instead of apologizing for his wealth, Romney should release his tax returns immediately and come back swinging, much like Newt did with the ABC expose. Instead of apologizing for making money, Mitt should defend the American dream, stressing that America is the land of opportunity where anyone can be successful with hard work. That’s what free enterprise is all about, and nobody should have to apologize for being successful.
You don’t see the media attacking Larry Page and Sergey Brin because Google made them billionaires, or Mark Zuckerberg because Facebook made him ridiculously wealthy. Romney shouldn’t be apologizing for his wealth—he should be stressing the opportunity every person in America has to pursue their dreams.
There’s still time for Mitt to get out in front of the wealth and class warfare issue, but he can’t do that by hiding from it. Bad news does not get better with age. He needs to stand up, take credit for his success and turn the issue to his advantage. Otherwise, he’s losing ground on an issue that should only be an Obama talking point.