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(The usual disclaimer: The deal with the syndicator means this column is delayed here for a week after newspaper release)

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It is as certain as anything gets in politics: The Friday Evening Dump means the dumper is trying to hide odorous garbage, when all the dumpees’ attention is focused on weekend pursuits. True to form, Mitt Romney and his obfuscating team rolled out Romney2011 tax returns late in the day Friday. The idea, as usual, was to make it really hard for us to thoroughly report in time for the evening newscasts on whatever lurks in the piles of documents. By the time reporters and professionals have combed through the material, it’s an old story.
Then, Mitt and the gang can claim to the few who are interested that he was forthcoming about his finances, even though he has not been. Expert after expert can point out that the two years of returns Mitt and Ann have grudgingly disclosed reveal very little about how they took advantage of tax tricks available only to the superwealthy -- legal subterfuges that allow them to pay a much smaller share than ordinary people.
This is the latest attempt to deflect controversy over their refusal to follow normal candidate protocol and let the world see 10 or 12 years’ worth of tax records. Are there embarrassments buried in them that would reinforce the image of the Romneys as among those sheltered by their privilege from the normal obligations of us riffraff?
Apparently, Mitt Romney worries about that, telling “60 Minutes” that furnishing all the information would merely hand opportunities to the Democrats’ oppo-research people. It begs the question, of course: What’s he hiding?
Even the 2011 tidbit offers tantalizing clues within its 800 pages. For instance, there was the item that listed $3.5 million in income “from sources outside the United States.” Those “sources” would reside in countries like Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and the Cayman Islands, tax havens not available to less-prosperous simple folk.


The filthy rich retain lawyers and CPAs who can channel their finances through a labyrinth of deductions. They reduce the final bill for those who could and should pay more. The system is convoluted by the design of the moneyed ones who can afford to bribe the lawmakers. They, in turn, create a code that benefits only the self-selected few.
But it can get confusing even to those who benefit, certainly to a candidate who has a habit of blurting out stuff he regrets. Add to the Romney legend a remark he made in August as he tried to finesse the tax issue. He claimed he had never paid less than 13 percent in the past 10 years.
Fast-forward to the 2011 returns and the bizarre revelation that he understated his charitable deductions. Why? Because taking the full amount meant Romney would have ended up owing less than 13 percent. So he had to eat his write-offs and pay more than he might.
We don’t know if his wife is speaking to him after that blunder, but his opponents certainly are reminding everyone about his other quote from August: “I don’t pay more than legally due, and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due, I don’t think I'd be qualified to become president.”
Well, his latest disclosure shows he “paid more than legally due.” Has he offered even more ammunition to the Democrats, who relentlessly question whether he’s “qualified to become president”? Whatever, that gem was merely another slip of the tongue. The important issue is that he and his ilk insist they should pay even less in taxes. A fundamental argument in this campaign is whether those living really large, the Republicans’ mislabeled “job creators,” should be coddled even more. The answer will come from the voters, tallied Nov. 6 and announced in the Election Night Dump.

© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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