…and I imagine that this will be one in a very long series.
Romney said today that he never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate over the last decade, implying that Harry Reid’s assertion that he paid nothing is false.
But of course that is meaningless unless we know against what the 13 percent is charged, otherwise known as a denominator problem.
If Romney’s income (mostly from capital gains) was, say, $10 million a year, but $9 million of it is in a tax shelter in the Cayman Islands, Romney could pay $130,000 on the $1 million and call it $13%. But in fact, he would be paying on his real income only 1.3%. That’s much closer to what Paul Ryan’s tax plan wants him to pay, i.e. 0.82%.
Now, there are a lot of measures about what the denominator for someone’s tax rate actually is — gross income, adjusted gross income, taxable income, etc. But there is an easy way to solve this and have an honest debate about it: release his actual tax returns.
And if he won’t do that, there is no reason — as in, none — to trust him on anything else he says.
UPDATE: My former colleague Victor Fleischer — no liberal he — makes essentially the same point, although a lot better than I do, namely: “Romney’s claim could be literally true but misleading — which means that Romney is full of bulls**t, but not a dirty liar.” As they say, read the whole thing. So I stand corrected: Romney is teaching us how to bulls**t with statistics. Not sure that helps out the Galtian Defenders of Plutocracy, but there you are.