August 27, 2012

Some of my favorite historical figures (and what I think they might have driven if modern vehicles were availble back then.)

Lincoln -- I think President Lincoln would drive a Honda Pilot. He would need a lot of leg room, and also room for his brood of boys. But I bet he would buy a cute little Volkswagen Beetle for Mary Lincoln to zip around in D.C. on the weekends.

Henry VIII -- In his prime I think King Henry would have driven something sporty and fast, like a Porsche Carrera GT (convertible, naturally). But somewhere between the death of Jane Seymour and that whole Anne of Cleves debacle, I think he would have added a Hummer to his fleet. Much easier to get in and out of with that damned leg ulcer.

Mary I -- Oh Bloody Mary. So pious, so proper, so...bland. Except when it came to executions. Nothing bland about burning people at the stake. Anyhoo, I think Queen Mary would probably have driven a Toyota Prius.

Elizabeth I -- King Henry's younger daughter might have driven something a little more flashy. Maybe a Lotus of some kind? An Elise S would probably suit her. After all, she never had kids so there would have been plenty of room for Her Majesty and Robert Dudley. C'mon, Gloriana, we all know you two had a thing going on.

John Smith -- 1965 Ford Mustang. Probably a fastback. Or, a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. Classic "bad boy" cars.

Napoleon -- Mazda Miata. Hands down. Either that or a vehicle on the other end of the spectrum (size wise): A Ford Excursion.

August 16, 2012

The man behind the tax returns

I finally realized that this blog is a much more appropriate space for my musings than Facebook. Of course I still see the draw of the status update, but sometimes I wonder if they should have a character limit like Twitter. Anyway.

There are some things I've been wanting to say about Romney, and I hope you don't mind if I do it here.

Romney is bad for our country. Could be really bad. Hopefully, we'll never find out.

I'm very lucky to work where I do, and to have access to the knowledge my wicked smaht coworkers share with our readers everyday. I've learned so much about taxes and still learn new stuff everyday. With knowledge comes power. And yes, taxes are a complicated issue, but the more you read about them the more you start to understand (some) of it. I'm not going to plagiarize the talented authors of the articles and reports I'm reading at work, and I'm not going to give away the intellectual property of my company, but I'd be ecstatic... to talk about this offline with anybody interested. I'll also direct you to a website where you can see presidential tax returns (including from some presidential candidates) and other pieces of fascinating tax history. The website, established by my employer in 1995, is
What I'm learning about Romney makes me want to climb a tall building and shout stuff from the roof.

Romney was a partner and the managing director of company called Bain Capital, which is a leveraged buyout fund (LBO). Smarter people than me have written about LBOs and their business practices, concluding that they are motivated by tax savings and can make a lot of money that way.  Bain is a particularly secretive LBO and doesn't make much information publicly available. Just the financial statements that are legally required. Sound familiar?

There is speculation that Romney doesn't want us to know that he has millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts. He says that he doesn't pay more in taxes than he is legally required to. (Did he learn that from Bain, or vice versa?) His assertions that he's doing nothing illegal are puzzling because nobody has accused him of breaking the law when it comes to his taxes. We merely want to know more about his financial situations and what tools he has used to lower his tax rate. It's fair game. We have the right to know more about the man who wants us to vote him into the highest office you can seek in the United States.

There is nothing illegal about taking advantage of the myriad tax deductions, credits, and "loopholes" available in the tax code. But there are undoubtedly more opportunities for ultra-rich people to lower their tax burden in ways that may be legal but are slightly sketchy.

Romney is one of those ultra-rich people. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said Romney hasn't paid taxes in the last 10 years. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet that's not quite true, but I'd also wager he hasn't paid much (relative to what he has made). His wife Ann made a statement yesterday that no more returns will be released. She says they're not releasing returns because "the more we release, the more we are attacked." Sounds like the Romneys need to develop thicker skins if they believe they belong in the White House. U.S. presidents are subject to some of the harshest criticisms. Gotta be able to take the "attacks."
Romney was apparently in the running to be McCain's running mate. As part of the vetting process he gave McCain's people 30 years of tax returns. So why won't he release them? I think this is a bad thing for him to take a stance on. There is something in their tax returns they don't want us to know about. In 2010, Romney paid taxes at a 13.9 percent tax rate. For comparison's sake, Obama paid taxes at a rate of 23 or 24 percent in 2010.

In an effort to distract the public from Romney's refusal to release more of his tax returns, his supporters have been requesting Obama's school transcripts. (Why? Because the birth certificate issue worked out so well for Obama haters?) It's hard to believe that some think school transcripts are on par with tax returns.

They aren't. Release the returns Mitt. Or don't. But I think a candidate who is already keeping secrets from the public has no business in the White House.