“More fun than a goat,” is how one of TR’s friends described watching him angle for the Republican Vice Presidential nomination in 1900 without actually admitting he wanted it; the phrase comes to mind as we watch Congressional Democrats trying to keep the heat on about Governor Romney’s tax returns while keeping their own firmly under wraps.This entertaining post from Michael Greenspan (h/t the indefatigable Glenn Reynolds) describes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s painful attempts over three days to explain why Mitt Romney should release many years of his tax returns while she and her many wealthy Democratic colleagues in Congress shouldn’t release any of theirs.
Congressional leaders were defiant Thursday that Capitol Hill lawmakers should not release their tax returns — even as Democrats kept demanding Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney release his.“When I run for president of the United States, you can hold me to that standard,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who refuses to disclose her returns, told reporters during a tense news conference. . . .[S]he reacted testily when asked whether she and members of Congress should abide by such rules.“There are no rules. There are no rules. There’s no rule about releasing his tax return, so what rules are you referring to?” she asked, growing clearly frustrated. Asked about the standard she had cited for a presidential candidate, Pelosi said: “It’s up to the American people. The American people are the judges of that.”After being questioned about why her demand for more transparency from Romney shouldn’t apply to Congress as well, she briefly changed course and said the issue of tax returns was not important.“The tradition that was honored by this same person’s father,” Pelosi said, recalling how George Romney released several years of his tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. “Now I’m not here, this is not important to me, let me say this: What’s important to me are jobs and the rest,” Pelosi said.
The truth of course is that American politicians of both parties are often much wealthier than the people they allegedly represent, and politicians, like most wealthy people, take full advantage of all the tax shelters and deductions their lawyers and accountants can find. The chances are that a great many of our elected representatives invest in companies whose activities would not please the voters back home, engage in various sordid insider trading deals, and send big chunks of their dearly beloved money to various no-tell money motels in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. Most probably don’t commit any crimes; one of the nice things about lawyers is that with enough of them you can pretty much do what you want.Just as the occasional sexual indiscretion is less of an issue for an abortion-supporting, thrice-divorced Democrat than for a Bible-thumping, God and Family Republican, a tax return full of complicated tax avoidance strategies is less of a problem for a Republican free marketeer than for a Democratic Tribune of the Little People. The “tar and feather Mitt Romney as a rich tax cheat” posse got into a lot of trouble as soon as the press started asking top Democrats the obvious question: if he shows us his, will you show us yours?It all reminds me of the wonderful old poem by Hilaire Belloc:
The accursed power which stands on Privilege
(And goes with Women, and Champagne, and Bridge)
Broke – and Democracy resumed her reign:
(Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne).
Plus ça change…