How does Mitt Romney’s extreme wealth make him different from the rest of us? This is the provocative question that Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explores in the New York Times today in a column that will likely cause Romney serious agitation.
The meaning and relevancy of Romney’s wealth is an issue that has emerged as a central question in this presidential campaign. Romney has only exacerbated the issue by refusing to release any of his tax returns before 2010, leading many to suspect that he has something to hide in the web of offshore bank accounts and tax havens that Romney has availed himself of over the years, just as many other spectacularly wealthy people in this country do to shelter as much of their riches from the U.S. government as possible. Now that Mitt Romney is essentially auditioning to become the leader of that government, he doesn’t think it’s fair or relevant to ask him why he was trying his damnedest to evade that government’s tax laws.
Romney is banking on the sure-to-lose proposition that he should be the one to decide what parts of his background are relevant to the voters and to the job of president, rather than releasing the information and letting the country and the voters decide for themselves.
As for Krugman, he thinks the questions are exceedingly fair and relevant.
“Like everyone else following the news, I’ve been awe-struck by the way questions about Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he founded, and his refusal to release tax returns have so obviously caught the Romney campaign off guard,” Krugman writes. “Shouldn’t a very wealthy man running for president—and running specifically on the premise that his business success makes him qualified for office—have expected the nature of that success to become an issue? Shouldn’t it have been obvious that refusing to release tax returns from before 2010 would raise all kinds of suspicions?”
“By the way, while we don’t know what Mr. Romney is hiding in earlier returns, the fact that he is still stonewalling despite calls by Republicans as well as Democrats to come clean suggests that it could be something seriously damaging,” he continues.
“Anyway, what’s now apparent is that the campaign was completely unprepared for the obvious questions, and it has reacted to the Obama campaign’s decision to ask those questions with a hysteria that surely must be coming from the top. Clearly, Mitt Romney believed that he could run for president while remaining safe inside the plutocratic bubble and is both shocked and angry at the discovery that the rules that apply to others also apply to people like him.”