Mitt Romney’s Tax Returns: Still Waiting for a Straight Answer

In last night’s debate, Mitt Romney was asked by both debate moderators and his fellow candidates whether he would release his tax returns. This being Romney, we didn’t get a straight answer—in fact, the number of Twitter users who thought Romney was dodging his answer was so off the charts that Fox News couldn’t record it.

Today, Romney actually admitted that he pays a different tax rate than the average American, telling reporters in South Carolina, “What’s the effective rate I’ve been paying? It’s probably closer to the 15% rate than anything. My last 10 years, I’ve—my income comes overwhelmingly from some investments made in the past.”

So why is Romney defying tradition—a refusal the New York Times calls “impossible to defend”? What does he not want voters to know?

For one, Romney made millions of dollars laying off workers and bankrupting companies as the head of Bain Capital. The income from his Bain investments is taxed at a far lower rate than the wages of middle-class workers like teachers and police officers. Warren Buffett, for example, famously pays a lower tax rate than his secretary does. But Buffett wants to level this unfair system. Romney does not.

As the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes, “The politics of this are awful for the likely GOP nominee. Working families probably won’t be amused to learn Romney—the guy who got rich laying people off, and has been a professional candidate for the last six years—pays a lower tax rate than they do. They’ll be even less pleased to know Romney, if elected president, will fight to keep it this way, even when he calls for tax increases on those struggling most.”

In 2008, President Obama released eight years’ worth of tax returns well before he received the Democratic nomination. In fact, decades of presidential candidates, including Romney’s father, have made it standard practice. Romney himself once saw the value in transparency: In 1994, when Romney was running for Senate against Ted Kennedy, Romney called on Kennedy to release his own tax returns. (Of course, Romney didn’t even release his own that year.)

Romney needs to release his tax returns now—and more than just a year’s worth. It’s high time Romney played by the same set of rules as every other presidential candidate.

White House Backs Open and Innovative Internet

In response to two online petitions submitted through “We the People,” the White House set out their position this weekend on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), two bills that would drastically curtail open access to the Internet by American consumers:

“Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act, and the Online Protection and Digital Enforcement Act (OPEN). We want to take this opportunity to tell you what the administration will support—and what we will not support. Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet” the White House said in a statement.

Read the full response—including what’s next—on the White House blog.

January 17: News Roundup

Congress reaches the lowest approval rating in nearly 40 years of polling. There’s more at the Washington Post.

Republican Congress presses fresh show-down on payroll tax and Medicare cuts. There’s more at TPM

Gingrich and Santorum launch sustained attack on Romney in last ditch attempt to stop Republican frontrunner in South Carolina. There’s more at the Los Angeles Times.

The Washington Post fact-checks Monday’s GOP debate. There’s more at the Washington Post.

Mitt Romney campaigns with anti-immigrant activist tied to hate groups. There’s more at the ThinkProgress.

Mitt Romney lies about President Obama on jobs. There’s more at TPM.

Mitt Romney lies about his past stand on abortion rights. There’s more at CBS News.

Banks overwhelmingly backing Mitt Romney. There’s more at the Winston-Salem Journal.

The New York Times fact-checks the Mitt Romney waffle on tax returns. There’s more at the New York Times.

Poll shows Mitt Romney on glide path to GOP nomination. There’s more at the Washington Post.

Texas Governor Rick Perry claims  Turkey, a NATO member and top U.S. ally, “may have been” of taken over by Islamic terrorists. There’s more at TPM.

Tea Party remains in chaos in South Carolina. There’s more at the New York Times.

Thanks to Congress, irresponsible tax breaks for corporations are on autopilot without public debate. There’s more at Reuters.

Georgia Republican sponsor of drug-testing for welfare recipients gets arrested for DUI. There’s more at ThinkProgress.

Recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker begins today as organizers “far surpass” the 540, 000 required signatures needed at filing deadline. There’s more at the Washington Post.

Scott Walker accused of over 1000 campaign finance law violations. There’s more at ThinkProgress.

A Washington Post editorial says Bush tax cuts to blame for escalating income inequality. There’s more at the Washington Post.