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More Fun Than a Goat

“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…

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  • Richard S

    “The people they allegedly represent”?! They do represent us. Whether they do a good or bad job of it is another question.

  • Richard F. Miller

    In Pelosi’s case, there may be excellent reasons not to release her returns, a judgment perhaps seconded by her counsel.

    Unlike the silly season narrative string on Romney (did he or didn’t he resign from Bain in 2000?) Pelosi’s schedule of short and long term capital gains might reveal the extent of her insider trading.

    As most readers know, this is the essence of “fraud upon the market” theory. The Capital HIll streetwalkers may have exempted themselves from Rule 10b-5 of the ’34 Exchange Act (and their johns in the Swarmstream Media have no interest in imperiling their male and female escorts from the Hill), but I wonder whether Pelosi and others of her ilk would be personally liable for common law fraud or even action under state Blue Sky rules.

  • SPQR

    I think a lot of the reason she will not give out her returns is because then the public would get to see that she is one of the richest members of Congress. She is almost at the level of Romney, and other members of her party, for example, John Kerry (married to Theresa Heinz of the Ketchup Heinz) are far more wealthy than Romney. Plus, as Richard F. Miller said, they may incriminate themselves in the eyes of the public by proving how much they take advantage of not being subject to insider trading restrictions.

  • Foobarista

    Well, yah. Congress wants the same exemption to apply to rhetoric that is applied to itself when it comes to annoying rules like SEC regulations, insider trading, and all those other things that happen to be enforced by Executive Branch agencies.

    The fig-leaf Congress hides behind is that being accountable to Executive Branch agencies could cause separation-of-powers issues, but this only makes sense if you’re a rich Congresscritter lining your pockets with cash from insider information while thumping the tub about what a tool of the evil rich Romney happens to be.

    Unfortunately for narrative management, even the poodles and lapdogs in the media will wonder if demanding a tax return from The Other Guy while you don’t provide your own is rather, er, unbalanced.

  • Robert Winkler Burke

    Reminds me of this poem…

    The Ten-Trillionaire Televangelist
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #4 of In That Day Teachings

    One day a televangelist appeared on the scene,
    He was handsome, charismatic, lean, not mean.

    He said, Hello World! Give me your tithes!
    He broadcast a wild show, it was quite a ride.

    To one hundred-forty nations his show was sent,
    From one hundred-forty nations came tithes’ ten percent.

    At that time the world’s income was one hundred trillion,
    And, by golly, he received ten-thousand billion!

    Ten-thousand billion was his wonderful income,
    Which was ten trillion, give or take a million.

    As he had more cash than any known government,
    Ambassadors from the US and China were sent.

    Please help us, oh televangelist, they asked of him,
    Would you buy us an aircraft carrier, or moon landing?

    Our nations are broke, said ambassadors of the world,
    Build us a freeway, or school, or tractor for field!

    All the world’s excess cash has gone to you,
    What, oh great man of God, with it will you do?

    The world was quiet that day, waiting to hear,
    What the richest man of God would say sincere.

    But he said, Sorry to inform you, oh ambassadors,
    I spent it all on myself, and perfume for my whores.

    Did you think I’m not subject to the maxim,
    Power corrupts: It did with my tithe taxing!

    Don’t blame me for wasting all the world’s wealth,
    To stop waste, oh world, keep your money yourself!

    But honestly and quite frankly, since the world is so cotton-picking gullible,
    I’ve decided to now become the world’s first quadrillion evangelist lovable!

    But the government said, Well then, since you’ve given us the ax,
    We declare that you’re a business, not church, and owe us great tax!

    But the televangelist took off for new planets in his private starship rocket,
    Proving no one could stop this televangelist on Earth from lining his pocket.

  • cas127

    Minority Leader Rictus’ recent performance brought to mind not so much Belloc, as the original SNL’s Emily Litella:

    “Well, then, never mind…”

  • DonM

    The Crab and Its Mother
    A CRAB said to her son, “Why do you walk so one-sided, my child? It is far more becoming to go straight forward.” The young Crab replied: “Quite true, dear Mother; and if you will show me the straight way, I will promise to walk in it.” The Mother tried in vain, and submitted without remonstrance to the reproof of her child.

    Example is more powerful than precept.

    Aesop’s fables.

  • gahrie

    John Kerry (married to Theresa Heinz of the Ketchup Heinz)

    Just to be pedantic, Theresa technically isn’t “of” the Ketchup Heinz…she married into that clan.

  • Tonic Dog

    I don’t care about their returns. I want to know their stock purchases *the minute they make them!* (Or an hour before theirs are allowed to go through.) Give US the inside track that they have.

    No legit way that 90% of Congress is showing 50+% returns on their portfolio year after year. (Disclaimer: I forget the actual percentage but it’s well into double digits)

  • Howard Bowman, MD

    Well, I don’t know. I have had some experience with goats, living for a time on a small Caribbean island overrun with them.

    They can be quite funny.

    OTOH, Nancy has (so far) managed to avoid urinating on my shoes, as our local goat Oreo did one day.

    So, perhaps she is more fun than a goat.

    In the mean time, would anyone like some …. ‘double-tanned’ topsiders?

  • koblog

    Did I miss the Occupy Wall Street protesters holding up signs reading, “Eat The Rich!” festooned with pictures of Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, John “Windsurfer” Kerry, Dear Leader Obama, Timmy “Turbotax” Geithner, George “Italian villa” Clooney, Cher, John Stewart, billionaires Al “Mansion on California cliffs” Gore, George Soros and Warren Buffet, Bill Maher, Barbra Streisand and a host of other very rich fellow travelers that get free passes on their millions?

  • SukieTawdry

    I imagine the wealthier the elected official, the more rife the tax return with conflicts of interest.

  • Anthony E. Parent

    And I wonder…just how many congresspersons have offshore accounts that are not properly disclosed.

    In 2002 only 20% of taxpayers with an FBAR filing obligation actually filed one. I wonder what the compliance rate of Congress was then? I wonder what it is now. I really wish they would release their returns…and FBARs.

    Just this week, the 4th circuit made a very unprincipled decision elevating lack of knowledge and reliance on tax professionals to ‘wilfullness’ (read here: ) I wonder what the compliance rate of federal judges and justices is while we are at it.

  • J R Yankovic

    Regardless of your particular dog in this fight (talk about making hapless canines look ridiculous), some fabulous writing. Nice to see Via Meadia feeling its oats again. Nice also to know that our venerable American tradition of polarizing – and mutual demonization of – geese and ganders is alive and well. No doubt it continues to reinforce the extraordinary awe in which we are held by friends, competitors and enemies alike.

  • fred

    Don’t Pelosi and Feinstein both have investor husbands who have made millions doing business with the govt, or industries related to the committees they serve upon?
    In the corporate world, thats considered a conflict of interest, and you are expected to recuse yourself. The SEC has pretty strict rules on insider trading, too, as I recall…

    Transparency for All! Sounds like a good Tea Party platform…that even the Occupy nitwits could understand…

  • L.Davis

    Being a hypocrite is mandatory for membership in the Democratic Progressive party. Making demands on those who oppose you, and refusing to do same is part of the ‘game’. Projecting blame, while it is they who are at fault is necessary for them. It is a means to an end. “The end justifies the means” We all have to decide what the ‘ends’ means for our families and country. The Congressman who yelled out ‘liar’ during the ‘State of the Union address by the President was correct. Remember: that’s how the prez rolls.

    “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” – Daniel Webster (1782-1852

  • bandit

    one of the nice things about lawyers is that with enough of them you can pretty much do what you want.

    Maybe you want to rewrite that?

  • Warren Bonesteel

    The author has only stated the obvious.

    When the [the going gets tough], both parties stink. (iow, politicians can’t be trusted.)

  • Jim.


    Care to offer a rebuttal, from the other side of this argument?

  • richard40

    As usual dems like Pelosi love to apply standards to others that they would never apply to themselves.

    And while we are talking about transparency, when will we see Obamas academic records.

  • Gary from Jersey

    Here’s a clue about Nancy Pelosi: She was forced to resign from a house subcommittee that oversaw Army procurements after having been discovered to have voted THREE TIMES to award lucrative contracts to her husband. For what? Operating large programs at Walter Read Medical Center. And what happened? The hospital was excoriated in 2009 for poor patient care and a raft of other problems. But Pelosi kept the money.

  • thibaud

    @ Jim – “this argument”? You mean there was a coherent and original _argument_ put forth above? I don’t see one.

    Again, I feel your pain. Romney is the worst possible candidate the GOP could have chosen.

    Except for all the other GOP candidates.

    As to this rather embarrassing attempt to change the subject – keep in mind, Romney is likely to get crushed this fall – it’s really very strange. If these weird smirks ‘n’ sneers are offered as a kind of defense of Romney, they really ought to be directed at Romney’s opponent, don’t you think? I mean, Pelosi’s seat is 100% safe, and she isn’t even running against Romney anyway.

    So wouldn’t it make more sense, if Prof. Flapdoodle is trying to help out Romney, to direct his snark at Romney’s opponent?

    But that would tax his rather meager appetite for fact-based research, not only because Obama unlike Romney didn’t make his (small) fortune through financial engineering and tax-avoidance schemes.

    Perhaps there’s an attempt at original reasoning here (though I wouldn’t call it a proper argument, given that it’s unsupported by the historical record):

    “…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.”

    Funny, but I seem to recall – perhaps Meade is too young, or else he’s just willfully ignoring the record – the man who preceded Gerald Ford as Nixon’s Vice President pleading no contest to tax evasion.

    This came after that GOP worthy was, per Wikipedia, “investigated by the US Attorney’s office in Baltimore on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy.”

    Oh, and GHW BUsh’s Treasurer of the US under Bush pere, Catalina Vasquez, was sent to prison for tax evasion. As was that GOP congressman from California, the guy who was sentenced to EIGHT YEARS IN PRISON for tax evasion.

    Once again, the Rev. Flapdoodle comical attempts to reposition a basic issue for his amen choir has led him to mangle the facts.

    I feel sorry for the GOP, saddled as it is with a complete embarrassment like Romney.

    What is Willful WIllard going to say next?

    Will he tell his Israeli hosts how incompetent they are?

    Is he going to make Polish jokes in Warsaw?

    Will he swing by Liechtenstein and Cyprus to check on his numbered accounts?

  • thibaud

    A GOP VIce President and a GOP Treasurer of the US, both sentenced to prison for tax evasion.

    And our host assures us that tax evasion’s not a problem for the GOP. Good thing for Romney that he’s not getting advice from these quarters.

    Back in the real world, the GOP establishment is starting to freak out. They know that Romney’s a disaster.

    But wasn’t it obvious, in 2012 America, that it was a really dumb idea to put forward a financial engineer and past expert manipulator of the tax code?

    What were the GOP delegates thinking?

    Actually, we know what they were thinking after they saw one clown after another – Perry! Bachman! Newt! Cain! Santorum!! –


    I feel your pain, Jim.

    This is like 2004 all over again.

    Only now it’s the GOP’s turn to be Swiss-boated.

  • thibaud

    It’s painful to watch. Poor GOP.

    I feel your pain, Dr. Krauthammer.

    “All [Romney] has to do [on his foreign trip] is show up and say wonderful stuff about his hosts and imply we’ll be strong allies…

    “… all Romney has to do is say nothing. It’s like a guy in a 100-meter dash. All he has to do is finish. He doesn’t have to win. And instead he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”

    /end excerpt.

    Actually, most Americans get it. A carried-interest scammer and taxcode-gamester doth not a president make.

    Romney is an absolute disaster as a candidate.

    The next three months will be excruciating for the GOP faithful.

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