Given Mitt Romney’s new round of shallow, scattershot attacks against President Obama’s disciplined foreign policies, it’s reasonable to assume that Romney thinks his first-debate bounce frees him from detailing his own foreign policy ideas. It doesn’t. Romney’s experience in international foreign relations, moreover, is mainly limited to his scores of off-shore banking accounts, and the fiscal tactics he has long used to avoid U.S. taxes in ways that typically benefit only the super-rich.
Romney clearly wants to avoid drawing attention to his narrow but genuine expertise in off-shore banking in tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland and Luxembourg, among others. Indeed, he has staunchly refused to reveal his tax records prior to the last two years. And while those records confirmed that he paid barely a 14 percent tax rate, they were essentially sanitized to avoid heavier criticism in his presidential campaign.
Regardless, aggressive media scrutiny of Romney’s use of off-shore banks to route investments by Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney founded and headed for 15 years and still continues to draw income from, has tracked a range of prospectuses and foreign regulatory filings involving many of the 137 entities known to have been established in the Caymans by Bain and its affiliate, Sankaty Advisors. As analyzed by experts on complex tax-avoidance investments and shell corporations, these documents sketch how Romney maneuvered capital and attracted additional investments to avoid taxes and build his $250 million fortune.
Romney has responded that his financial dealing through Bain did not provide him “one dollar of reduction in taxes.” That, of course, is a term of art. If he and his platoon of lawyers and accountants manipulated investments and arranged deals in a way that avoids a tax liability, there’s no tax to reduce.
Romney is deceptively clever in this regard. After falsely claiming in the presidential debate last week that his tax plan would not cost $5 trillion over 10 years, for example, he went on to say that if he lowered taxes for everyone by 20 percent, his tax plan “would not reduce the share of taxes” owed by the super-wealthy. In this context, his flat-rate “share” is hugely deceptive. The actual dollar differences for a new 20 percent cut on billionaires’ taxes would be astronomical for the super wealthy, but just a few hundred for ordinary workers.
His foreign banking stratagem is just as deceptive. That’s why his word can’t be trusted on tax avoidance, his proposed tax cut plan, and his conveniently empty-handed approach to complex foreign policy issues.