Mitt Romney has so far refused to release information on his taxes. There is a good reason why he hasn’t. If those documents see the light of day, it will become immediately apparent that Romney is a poster child for precisely what is wrong with the American economy..
Paul Krugman writes that you don’t have to go back thirty years to see what has happened. The last twenty years provides plenty of evidence to support the notion that the game is rigged:
Since 1992, the I.R.S. has been releasing income and tax data for the 400 highest-income filers. In 2008, the most recent year available, these filers paid only 18.1 percent of their income in federal income taxes; in 2007, they paid only 16.6 percent. When you bear in mind that the rich pay little either in payroll taxes or in state and local taxes — major burdens on middle-class families — this implies that the top 400 filers faced lower taxes than many ordinary workers.
The main reason the rich pay so little is that most of their income takes the form of capital gains, which are taxed at a maximum rate of 15 percent, far below the maximum on wages and salaries. So the question is whether capital gains — three-quarters of which go to the top 1 percent of the income distribution — warrant such special treatment.
The problem with such special treatment is that it acts like a vacuum cleaner, sucking all the wealth to the top of the economic pyramid. The bottom eventually collapses, bringing down the whole house of cards — and leaving in its wake the Great Depression and the Great Recession.
Some argue that special treatment of capital gains creates jobs. The argument that Romney’s Republican opponents are making is that it destroys jobs, while creating profits for investors. But they can’t have it both ways. And that is the bind they are in.