Despite his long and notorious record of political flip-flops, one thing we can say with certainty about Mitt Romney is that he has unbelievable chutzpah.
With the exception of his 2010 filing, he will not release his income tax records for the last decade, or divulge how much money he has held in possibly untaxed off-shore investments in at least half-a-dozen countries — including the tax shelter havens of the Cayman Islands and Swiss banks. Yet he's calling Senate Majority Harry Reid a liar for saying he hasn't paid any income taxes for all those years on his fortune, which is conservatively estimated at a quarter of a billion dollars.
Why doesn't he just release his tax returns? That's all Reid is challenging him to do. Romney tax returns would prove, or disprove, what Reid says he has learned from unnamed sources.
Tax records not revealed
Yet Romney refuses to show his records. At the same time, he's deliberately chanting the falsehood — an outright lie under the circumstances — that President Obama plans "to gut welfare reform" by eliminating work requirement. That is simply not true. It is a wantonly false description of a procedural change sought since 1996 by both Republican and Democratic governors to provide states some flexibility to adjust for new state work programs, for verifiable family emergencies and to manage new influxes of refugees.
Republican governors in Utah and Nevada more recently requested allowance for such waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services, just as Romney did (along with 28 other Republican governors) when he was governor of Massachusetts in 2005. So make no mistake, Romney knows exactly what Republican governors themselves have sought in the way of waivers from HHS to allow for circumstances that don't meet rigid HHS rules.
Deceitful welfare charge
The HHS memorandum that describes the state waiver that Obama has finally allowed says HHS would only approve waivers "if the state can explain in a compelling fashion why the proposed approach may be a more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement or access to jobs." HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius further said that such waivers must shift 20 percent more people from welfare into jobs that would otherwise be required.
Given these facts and Romney's own experience as a governor interest in obtaining a welfare work-related waiver, it's hard to see how Romney ethically could bring himself to deceitfully claim the waiver conditions allowed by Obama would amount to "gutting" the welfare work requirement. That he is willing to spread such a falsehood says volumes about his character and his willingness to trumpet and spread political lies.
It seems obvious that Romney is becoming desperate to shift the political focus to avoid more controversy over his own refusal to release his income tax statements. This is an unforgivable lapse in a presidential campaign, and it will not go away despite his attempts to change the subject.
Americans have a right to expect presidential candidates to reveal their income tax returns. This has been a part of presidential campaigns for decades. Romney's father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, in fact, turned over 12 years of his tax returns in his own presidential campaign in 1967 to set this standard.
It is critical that Mitt Romney meet the continuing standard initiated by his father. Far too much remains unknown about his financial dealings. His tenure as CEO of the venture capital firm Bain Capital is highly suspect. He led corporate takeovers that made fortunes for Bain's executives by buying businesses, raiding their assets, offshoring many of their jobs, and driving some of them into bankruptcy or pawning off their skeletal remains.
Tax shelter accounts
His tax-shelter accounts and investments in the Caymans, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Ireland, Australia and Germany merit close examination. Indeed, he's still vested in Bain: His own trust reported recently that Romney received a $2 million payment from Bain in unpaid earnings. And he still has a $30 million stake in 12 of the 138 funds organized by Bain in the Caymans, according to a report in Vanity Fair that hasn't been disputed.
Until Romney comes clean on how he made his fortune, ordinary Americans — that is to say, 99 percent of Americans, and excluding the ultra-wealthy top tenth of one percent — can't trust him to act in their interest.
As it is, Wall Street barons and billionaire businessmen like the Koch brothers are already stuffing his campaign account, the superPACs that allow unlimited political donations from the ultra-rich and their corporations, and the nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(4) entities that are abusing their "social welfare" charters by funneling huge anonymous donations into deceitful multimillion-dollar political advertising against Obama.
26 billionaires ante up
A recent report by the Center for Responsive Politics, for example, pointed out that 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million so far this year to superPACs, and that doesn't count the $100 million that casino czar Sheldon Adelson has promised to spend this election cycle to defeat Obama; nor the $400 million that the Koch brothers, owners of an industrial empire, have pledged to spend for the same goal.
The Koch brothers' initiative has already begun. They and several other rich businessmen provided funding for the Americans for Prosperity tea-party superPAC to launch a $25 million, three-week advertising attack against Obama this week that will play in 11 presidential battleground states.
Their support for Romney is understandable. His latest tax plan proposes to "broaden" the tax base by requiring America's middle-class families to pay $2,000 more in federal taxes, while giving the super-wealthy another huge and wholly unjustifed tax cut.
There's a reason why these billionaires are backing Romney. So he must not be allowed to shift focus from his failure to reveal his financial dealings by simply calling Harry Reid a liar, and telling wholesale falsehoods about Obama. If he can get away with this shell game, middle-class Americans will lose heavily.