Clippings: Romney not just one of the guys

Knowing that presidential candidate Mitt Romney would release his income tax returns this week, I was prepared to write a column pointing out that the Massachusetts Republican was not one of us. We all knew he was rich, but how rich?
Then I saw the numbers and it gave me pause. Sure, “Willard” (as it says on his 1040 tax return) Romney is a millionaire several times over. But the numbers I’m talking about are the ones provided by other candidates.
Romney’s No. 1 opponent for the GOP nomination, Newt Gingrich (“Newton” is the first name on the 1040), is, of course, also a millionaire. In 2010 he reported $3,142,066 in income. The current president, Barack Obama (his real first name as reported on his 1040, if you can believe that) is also a millionaire. His 2010 adjusted gross income: $1,728,096.
Of course, Romney probably has been a multi-millionaire longer than either Gingrich or Obama. He retired from Bain Capital, the venture capital firm he helped found, in 1999; and one would think he probably had a pretty good nest egg at the time. Gingrich likely didn’t start making serious dough until after he resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999. Obama didn’t post his first million-dollar year until 2005.
Barack and Michele Obama have released their joint tax returns back to 2000. They reported $275,123 in income in 2001, when Barack was an attorney and state senator and Michele was a hospital administrator. That was a high-water mark after which their income declined for three years until 2005, when their reported income popped up to $1,670,995. The big jump was in part to an increase in wages as Barack became a U.S. senator; but the biggest change was a $1,141,495 in business income, presumably from sales of his book.
Over the period 2006-2010, they reported total income of $15,476,402 (Barack wrote another very popular book).
Oh, and for the record, Romney reported income of $21,661,344 in 2010 — none of it from wages or salary.
So one of these three men is almost certainly going to win the presidential election this year, and in 12 months we will still have a millionaire in the White House. One question is just how out of touch will these millionaires be from the rest of us — the rest of us who made $44,619? (That figure is what The New York Times reports was the median gross adjusted income for American in 2010.)
A stroll through the top three’s tax returns gives some clue about what a rarified world they live in. Because Romney was the last hold out on releasing his taxes, let’s look at his the closest.
First, it is a lot longer than Obama’s (91 pages) or Gingrich’s (46 pages). The main tax return for Romney and his wife is 203 pages long. Plus he released more returns for his trusts. No surprise, Romney made a fortune of over $190 million in the finance industry; his tax returns are filled with complicated legal and taxation jargon. There’s one form called “Flow Through Tip Credit;” when I see Mitt I’ll ask him what that’s for. There’s another called “Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement,” which discloses very little.
So here’s one way the rich are different — they have very long tax returns. Romney’s is substantially more different than even the petty single- or double-digit millionaires.
And although it is longer and very difficult to understand, it does actually provide some interesting information. It’s such a rich brocade that if you start pulling on any thread you’re bound to come up with some surprising connections.
For instance, on page 139, something labeled “Supplement to Schedule A,” the Romneys take an investment expense deduction for cash contributions of $43 and $16 to the Solamere Founders Fund. The fund is an investment vehicle created by a company (founded by son Tagg Romney and Mitt Romney campaign finance chairman Spencer Zwick) that manages money for many Romney supporters.
Among those supporters of Romney who also invests in the Solamere investment company is a fellow from Connecticut named L. Scott Frantz. Alert readers may recall that a Clippings column in October 2010 noted, by sheer luck, that this same L. Scott Frantz had donated $1,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of Vermont Republican Brian Dubie. Frantz has hosted fund-raisers for Romney at his waterfront home in Greenwich, Conn. He also has 10 acres and a dwelling in Warren, Vt., and apparently some property in the West Indies.
Now I’m not bringing this up to incite class warfare (actually, that’s a patented Republican trick, saying you’re not doing exactly what you ARE doing) but only to point out that Romney really does run in a different world than most of us, and this is just one example. His tax return shows that he has paid more Social Security tax for his personal assistants than someone like me pays in a year. He paid $325,394 in real estate taxes in 2009. He paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign taxes year after year in the last decade. He hobnobs with the super wealthy.
Mitt Romney earned no salary and wages in 2010. That doesn’t mean he didn’t work hard to earn the money, and from the size and complexity of his tax return I would guess he is working very hard to keep it. But it does make one wonder how he can connect emotionally with that vast majority of Americans, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck.

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