Everyone is still digging through the details of Mitt Romney’s 500 page tax-document from 2010. And although Mitt Romney has no responsibility for it, the big picture is damning to him. His tax return reveals that he lives in an entirely different world.
1) Very few American households create tax forms the length of a Tom Wolfe novel.
2) Romney’s effective tax-rate may not be all that much lower or higher than most households, it still sounds pretty low to the average person looking at what’s withheld from their wages.
3) Although many more Americans have something in the market, almost none of them can imagine an IRA with $100 million in it. That’s strange even to most rich people.
4) Tithing to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Romney gives a serious amount of money to his church. And although lots of people give something, a tithe is a commitment most Americans actually can’t understand making. This detail makes Romney seem conspicuously religious in a way that most Americans, even most Evangelicals are not.
5) The big buzzy words out of this release (sure to be used by Gingrich) are “Cayman Islands” and “tax shelter” and “Swiss bank account.”
Those last details are the killer for Romney. They are the kind of details a screenwriter would use to characterise a Bond villain. They are the financial tools that only the elite get to use.
Most presidents have had a net worth that seems astronomically high to the average American. George Washington and John Adams were fabulously wealthy for their day – but their wealth was from the land, from family, or a profession. Most voters then (especially with the restricted franchise) could at least understand how that wealth was acquired.
But today, Romney and the financial elite out of which he sprang, seem to live and work and earn by entirely different rules. And often, these rules seem unfair.
And in a democratic political system in which voters try to find some kind of cultural affiliation with their candidates, this could be deadly for Romney. His life experience is very different from most Americans, and even among financial elites, Romney stands out for his religiosity. He has been set apart by his circumstances, his faith, and, it should be said, by his virtues.
That’s not an electoral asset.