Seven things about the Harry Reid/Mitt Romney tax controversy:
- Though I raised the possibility that Mitt Romney is refusing to release his taxes because doing so would show he had paid zero net federal income taxes in at least one year way back in January, I’d be quite surprised if he had paid no taxes for ten years.
- I doubt Harry Reid really believes Romney paid no federal income taxes for ten years, either, so his comments on the topic are likely at least a bit disingenuous. (I don’t find it hard to believe that someone who claimed to have knowledge told Reid Romney had paid no taxes, just that Reid believes this to be true.)
- Politicians who make disingenuous claims generally deserve to be criticized.
- The way PolitiFact chose to criticize Reid is, unsurprisingly, stupid. PolitiFact says that because Reid has not proven his claim, he is a “pants-on-fire” liar. By this standard, Romney -- who has said there was not a year in which he paid less than 13 percent taxes, but has not proven the claim, is also a pants-on-fire liar. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for PolitiFact to tell you that.) Also by this standard: PolitiFact, which has said Reid is lying but has not proven he is lying, is itself a bunch of pants-on-fire liars. Like I said: Dumb. PolitiFact has three basic problems: Their work is often lazy, dumb, or both; they apply frequently-misleading labels like “mostly true” and “pants-on-fire” to everything in a triumph of gimmickry and marketing over clarity and substance; and they’re remarkably thin-skinned, sanctimonious, and unresponsive to substantive criticisms of their errors of fact and logic for an organization that presents itself as guardians of truth.
- Still, PolitiFact’s incompetence doesn’t excuse Reid’s actions. If people want to criticize Reid fairly and accurately, have at it.
- But I won’t. Harry Reid has (I suspect) made disingenuous statements, but he has done so in an effort to draw attention to Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his taxes as other presidential candidates have regularly done. Romney’s is the greater sin, and focusing criticism on Reid only makes it more likely that Romney is able to get away with his historic lack of transparency. Romney is a striking example of how the tax code is rigged in favor of the wealthy, but he refuses to release his taxes to show how he has benefited from this. Romney advocates tax and spending policies would greatly benefit the wealthy at the expense of the vast majority of Americans, yet he refuses to release his taxes to show how he personally would profit from those policies. In that context, hand-wringing over Harry Reid’s mischief seems at best a misallocation of resources and at worst has the result of enabling Romney’s stonewalling.
- That Romney has made it this far without releasing his taxes should be an embarrassment to the political media. They’ll say there’s nothing more they could’ve done to force him to do so, which is absolute nonsense. If Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his taxes was front-page news every day, and led every evening newscast -- if reporters hounded Romney over the documents with one tenth the enthusiasm they brought to their pursuit of Bill Clinton over a land deal in which he lost money -- then, perhaps they could say they’ve done all they could. But they haven’t, and so Harry Reid is trying to force the issue.