A good deal already has been written about Mitt Romney’s categorical refusal to release his tax statements. The conventional wisdom is that Romney’s refusal arises out of his desire to avoid telling the American public that he makes millions every year – in part because he still collects a paycheck from Bain Capital, a company he left 12 years ago – but thanks to the “carried interest” loophole and the capital gains tax rate, he pays a lower federal income tax than do most working and middle class Americans.
If Romney does indeed turn out to be the Republican nominee, it’ll be interesting to see how much hay the Democrats can make of this. I would hope that at a time more and more Americans are becoming concerned with the inherent unfairness of our economic system, the answer to that would be “a lot of hay.” Personally, I think the Democrats should run political ad after political ad after political ad calling on Romney to do what every other presidential candidate has always done, each ad strongly suggesting that Romney doesn’t want to admit that – as a member of the 1% -- he is trying to hide from the American public just how skewed in his favor our current system is.
Of course, Obama himself shouldn’t run these ads. The last thing Obama needs is to have Romney finally produce his tax returns and have them show something other than that Romney is taking advantage of a tax break. It’d be like what Obama did to Donald Trump with his long-form birth certificate, except in reverse.
No, the ads should be run either by the Democratic Party or – even better – by an anonymous Super PAC. So long as Obama himself cannot be tied to the charges, then it won’t make any difference whether the charges can be disproved. And politically speaking, the damage would already have been done. Accuse Romney over and over again of being a plutocrat who wants to enshrine the plutocracy, and low-information voters will come to internalize that message. If it goes on long enough then no amount of information afterward will actually be able to correct that impression.
Clarification: I don’t think that what I am suggesting here amounts to the same kind of outright falsehoods in which the Romney campaign itself already is engaged. I certainly would not suggest that Obama lower himself to Romney’s own stygian depths in order to win an election.
And I do think there is a vast difference between asserting something that you believe to be true and that almost certainly is true (even if you don’t have absolutely conclusive evidence to back up that assertion), and flat-out making statement after statement that you know to be false – which is what Romney is doing.