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July 26. 2012 12:15AM

Romney's taxes: Why do they matter?

Mitt Romney is a rich man. Like everyone, rich or poor, he has done everything legally available to him to minimize the tax bite. There are very few people standing in line waiting for the opportunity to overpay their taxes.

It is very clear, from the current debate over revealing more of his tax documents, that Romney knows the steps he has taken to minimize his tax bite, while legal, will subject him to still more fire from President Obama and his supporters. That is a given. No doubt, Romney is right. In fact, his wife, Ann, made that very clear when asked why he would not reveal additional years: “Because there are so many things that will be open again for more attack … and that’s really just the answer.”

Well, yes — and no. Maintaining the secrecy creates the impression, justly or not, that there is something there to hide. No escaping that reality. The impression is there. And it will cost Romney votes he cannot afford to lose. Those voters might not cast their ballots for Obama, but not voting can be just as damaging. And yes, for using the tax dodges and loopholes legally available to him, he might lose votes as well.

But there is no place for secrecy or, indeed, privacy in a Presidential campaign. If you want the job, you have to subject yourself to the scrutiny.

You have to be prepared to stand and explain, indeed, justify, your actions. If they are legal, then so be it.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this entire controversy is the one NOT being discussed much: How did Romney get himself into this position in the first place? He has been running for office for a long time. His presidential aspirations predate the tax returns in question.

What could he possibly have been thinking when he failed to ensure that everything contained in those documents was above reproach? Or was he simply not thinking at all? Surely he could not have arrogantly believed that he could withstand any storm that developed by bluffing his way through it? If so, it hasn’t worked.

If Romney intends to win, he is going to have to make the tax forms public. This storm won’t go away. It will distract from his policy debate with Obama — and it will distract from Obama’s failures, providing the incumbent with the smokescreen he is attempting to create.

Romney needs to end this. He needs to end this by revealing the tax documents, explaining them, explaining the legality behind his actions, and then he needs to move on.

This campaign is not about his wealth. And it is not about the amount he has paid, or not paid, in taxes. It is about vastly different views of America — and America’s future.

Unfortunately, as long as some voters believe there is something the presumptive Republican nominee is attempting to hide, the true debate takes a back seat. It’s time to get the inevitable over with. Release the tax returns, explain them, take the heat, and move on.


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