Paying Uncle Sam: Campaign Talking Point
The candidates and media have squabbled over tax returns for months now. Gingrich keenly released his tax returns during a GOP debate while pointing his finger at Romney to do the same. The issue of taxes and investments memorably dominated much of the discussion during a CNN Florida debate (granted, other debate conversation revolved around militarily liberating Cuba and colonizing the moon).
The Republicans (supposedly) trumpet free enterprise and all things that can legally catalyze wealth. Going from rags to riches is all-American, and earned wealth is something that should be respected — not demonized. Yet Santorum, who earned his blue-collar stripes as a coal miner lawyer, has positioned himself as the viable, every-man alternative to Romney. Both Gingrich and Santorum juxtapose their salaried earnings and higher tax rates to those of Romney. Clearly, both Santorum and Gingrich have contributed much to our society and created numerous jobs since they ended their political stints — that’s exactly what a post-insider consultant does for America. There’s no talking point here for the candidates. Gingrich and Santorum earn income from salary; Romney earns income from capital gains. Both Gingrich and Santorum brag about giving to Uncle Sam at a higher tax rate but both desire to bring that rate down (way) below 30%. And if government is so wasteful with its spending and czars and agencies, why would a red-blooded American tout his financial decisions to throw more money away to such inefficiency?
Mitt Romney is supposedly the fool for keeping wealth in trusts, in mutual funds, and in stocks, while Rick Santorum brags “I don’t have investments…I don’t have capital gains.” Potential leaders of our country would (you’d think) manage their personal assets responsibly and try to maximize those assets to the best of their ability. God bless them for (understandably) desiring to grow their earnings — and hopefully having more to give away to charity. So I ask, “Why doesn’t Santorum invest his money?”
The cyncical hilarity of this situation is how disconnected our potential leaders are to the difficulties facing the average American. Sure, Rick Santorum is presidential poor compared to most candidates. And there’s nothing wrong with our candidates being financially successful and even using that success as a positive campaign line. But when Santorum says he doesn’t “have wealth” and when Romney utters that he doesn’t make “very much” (i.e., $375k last year) from speaking fees, how can a voter believe such a candidate’s talking points?
The daily resolve exercised by Americans in their steadfast toiling and their willing sacrifices is so commendable. Our future leaders need to recognize that — or at least stay their tongue to make us think they do.