It's the kind of story too often pushed out into the weekend news void: Romney would rank among richest presidents ever. Writer Connie Cass does something that gets done too little; she puts Romney's wealth in context.
—How does Romney stand next to a regular Joe?
He's roughly 1,800 times richer.
The typical U.S. household was worth $120,300 in 2007, according to the Census Bureau's most recent data, although that number is sure to have dropped since the recession. A typical family's income is $50,000.
Calculations from 24/7 Wall St. of the peak lifetime wealth (or peak so far) of Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama add up to a total $118 million — while Romney reports assets of up to $250 million.
There are lots of interesting numbers and comparisons in the article. Even though, allowing for inflation, Romney would be up in the top 4 richest presidents (Washington is still Number 1), the bigger picture is striking.
Of course, an unbelievable boatload of bucks is just one way to think of Romney's net worth, and the 44 U.S. presidents make up a pretty small pond for him to swim in. Put alongside America's 400 or so billionaires, Romney wouldn't make a ripple.
So here's a look where Romney's riches rank — among the most flush Americans, the White House contenders, and the rest of us:
—Within the 1 percent:
"Romney is small potatoes compared with the ultra-wealthy," said Jeffrey Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies the nation's elites.
After all, even in the rarefied world of the top 1 percent, there's a big difference between life at the top and at the bottom.
A household needs to bring in roughly $400,000 per year to make the cut. Romney and his wife, Ann, have been making 50 times that — more than $20 million a year. In 2009, only 8,274 federal tax filers had income above $10 million. Romney is solidly within that elite 0.006 percent of all U.S. taxpayers.
Meanwhile, WHO is really getting taxed to death - and WHO is making out like bandits?
Read the entire AP piece - the numbers are interesting. And if that isn't enough fun for you to contemplate, an article in the New York Times shows what happens when someone figures out what tax rate they actually pay. Reading how the tax code works for Romney and those like him while the rest of us are getting bled dry, well you begin to understand why the Occupy movement could be considered a model of restraint compared with the inequality out there.
James B. Stewart runs the numbers, and he's not happy with the results.
So with all the focus on tax rates, I sat down with my 2010 returns, calculator in hand. I’m still reeling from the results.
I paid 24 percent of my adjusted gross income in federal taxes and 37 percent in combined federal, state and local income taxes. I paid 49 percent of my taxable income in federal income tax, and 74 percent of my taxable income in combined federal, state and local income taxes. My totals include federal payroll and self-employment taxes.
When I reported the results to a few prominent tax experts, they were initially incredulous. “That’s very, very high,” said Robert Willens, a tax lawyer. “Congratulations.”
Stewart was shocked because of what he noted in the paragraphs immediately above the ones just block quoted:
After all, Debbie Bosanek, Warren Buffett’s secretary, earned a seat in the limelight next to the first lady, Michelle Obama, at the State of the Union address for paying what ABC News reported was a tax rate of 35.8 percent. It isn’t clear what Ms. Bosanek meant by 35.8 percent — whether that’s her marginal federal tax rate or total tax rate, or whether she included the Nebraska state income tax.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax returns that showed he paid federal income tax of just over $3 million, 13.9 percent of his adjusted gross income of $21.7 million, or 17.5 percent of his taxable income of $17.1 million.
Stewart goes on to look at how the tax code is badly skewed against the majority of Americans, but no one is talking about the kind of real reform needed across the whole code, not just a Buffet Rule tax on the high end (though that would be a start.)
It's worth pointing out a few more things. For one, the tax rates reported for Romney are based on very little information - returns from earlier years before he started his latest run for the White House could have been even more damning. While it's only speculation until more returns are released, it's not impossible that Romney could have paid even less in taxes in prior years. For another, we've already learned how the next generation of Romneys has enjoyed the benefits of special loopholes. (Via Kevin Drum)
The High Cost of Inequality
You know, when Republicans gas about how unfair the "Death Tax" on inherited wealth is, they might do well to remember history. The French had a really, really bad inequality problem at one time, and they came up with up with a "Death Tax" imposed by guillotine...
One of the things that having money enables is being able to afford ways to protect that money from taxes. Romney can afford the best tax advice, make investments not available to the rest of us, and he doesn't even need to do it himself - he can pay people to do it for him. (And there are plenty of millionaires in Congress happy to work in tax breaks for people with that kind of money.) Romney's the classic rich layabout - he jokes about being unemployed, and he's not really kidding; his money is out there making more of itself for him, doing all the work.
Considering the stakes, it's not hard to see why the 1% has worked so hard at corrupting our political system. They have a lot to defend, and the resources to do it. But while they're obsessed with increasing their wealth, they're crippling our ability to cope with other threats: climate change; energy; infrastructure collapse, job destruction, education failure, healthcare, exhaustion of natural resources, global unrest.... Pennywise and pound foolish, they're cutting their own throats and ours along with them. (Digby has a run down on just a few of the threats. Yikes!)
The way things are going, the existence of a privileged investor class enjoying its own set of rules is a luxury our society can not afford.