Jay Ambrose, former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers, makes a spirited attempt, in a recent column ("The Media Maul Mitt Again," Sept. 26), to defend Mitt Romney's tax kerfuffle.
He begins, in righteous umbrage, by defining Mr. Romney as a latter-day Andrew Carnegie, both in scope and magnanimity. While it would be churlish to demean Mr. Romney in the endeavor of charitable giving, the more cynical among us might note that the word charity is something of a catch-all term. Only 10 percent of all contributions, for example, go to the needy. The greatest allotment, some 30 percent, is allocated to "faith-based" organizations, to be used as they see fit (often toward political and social/cultural ends).
To whatever degree Mr. Romney is a virtuous man, he is to be lauded. And to whatever degree he is simply meeting the tithing obligation of his Mormon faith (not to mention the tax benefits that come with charitable giving), only he can know.
In any case, Mr. Romney's charitable inclination is a subject irrelevant to his tax obligations.
The second part of Mr. Ambrose's defense refers to Mr. Romney's capital gains income. He cites a PricewaterhouseCoopers report showing, somewhat vaguely, that Mr. Romney "has been paying federal income taxes over the years." He further observes that, since capital gains involve taxing corporate income twice, Mr. Romney pays, in effect, more than his tax forms would indicate. However, that report did not give dollar amounts of either income or taxes, and it only referred to adjusted gross income, rather than total income, which can be substantially higher. The wealthy often use tax shelters to reduce their gross income and hence the tax bite.
Usually one must submit to watching Fox News to encounter this level of arrant disinformation and misdirection.
Still, after all the smoke has cleared, the nagging question lies poignantly in mid-air: "Mr. Romney, just what is in those tax forms that you and your strategists find so potentially damaging to your campaign?"
JAMES R. LEJEUNE