Romney Taxes: Romeny's effective tax rate, charitable giving, and more from the Slatest PM.

Slatest PM: The Mitt-Romney-2011-Taxes Edition

Slatest PM: The Mitt-Romney-2011-Taxes Edition

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Sept. 21 2012 5:10 PM

Slatest PM: The Mitt-Romney-2011-Taxes Edition

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Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

RETURN OF THE TAXES: Apparently worried that his campaign was running the risk of going a full day without making any headlines this week, Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax returns this afternoon. (In the process, of course, he managed to change the topic somewhat from the now-viral video of one of his private fundraising dinners.)

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THE NUMBERS: According to the campaign, Mitt and his wife paid roughly $1.9 million in taxes last year on about $13.7 million in "mostly investment income." That was good enough for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. The Romneys donated more than $4 million to charity last year (or about 30 percent of their income) but only deducted $2.25 million of that charitable giving to keep their effective tax rate above the 13-percent minimum that he talked about back in August.

ANALYSIS: Matthew Yglesias: "The main reason Romney's effective rate is so low is that the American tax code contains a lot of preferences for investment income over labor income. That's something that strikes many people as unfair on its face, and particularly unfair since it often means very low rates for extremely rich people like Rommey. And Rommey himself as a rich guy who's also a member of the political party seen as favoring the rich, and who's been recorded as whining that the working poor are undertaxed is perhaps not an ideal messenger for a defense of this policy. But this is definitely an issue where the conservative position is in line with what most experts think is the right course, and Democrats are outside the mainstream."

AWKWARD: National Journal: "Mitt Romney paid the Internal Revenue Service somewhere in the ballpark of $250,000 more than he legally needed to last year, solely for political consistency purposes. For comparison purposes, that’s about as much money as an American earning the median income will pay in federal taxes – at current rates – over the next 45 years combined."

MINI-FLASHBACK: "I don't pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president," Romney said in an interview with ABC News back in July. "I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires."

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WEISBERG'S TAKE: "[A]s much as it reveals the absurdities of Mitt Romney, his voluntary overpayment underscores the absurdities of the current tax system. Romney owes so little because of the tax code’s favoritism toward the rich. Whereas the top rate on salary, wages, and tips is 35 percent, the top rate on interest, dividends, and long-term capital gains is only 15 percent. This is economically inefficient, because it encourages businesses and individuals to structure their affairs to take advantage of the differential. It is also instinctively unfair, because it privileges a hedge-fund manager’s carried interest over a factory worker’s wages."

1990-2009: Romney still isn't releasing the older tax returns that Democrats have repeatedly pressured him to, but his campaign did publish a statement from a Romney trustee promising that during a 20-year stretch that ended in 2009, "the lowest annual effective federal personal tax rate [paid by the Romneys] was 13.66%."

A MISTAKE: Here's how Alex Castellanos, an ex-Romney strategist from 2008 who has had mixed things to say about the current campaign, summed up the decision to release a summary (via Politico):

"At first I thought this was an April Fool's Joke," Castellanos said. "But it isn't April. I can't imagine that David Axelrod will now say, I'm glad Mitt put this issue behind him. This will drag Mitt's taxes back into the debate. And there's not many days left. I just can't imagine why they would do this. There are 40 days left and you have now made more of them about Mitt's taxes.... you don't serve a life sentence and then confess afterward."

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HAPPY FRIDAY and welcome to the Slatest PM. You made it; we all did. Follow the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or fill your host's inbox with whatever is on your mind at josh.voorhees@slate.com.

THE SCENE IN ISLAMABAD: The Associated Press: "Pakistan's 'Day of Love for the Prophet' turned into a deadly day of gunfire, tear gas and arson. Thousands angered by an anti-Muslim film ignored pleas for peaceful rallies and rampaged in several Pakistani cities Friday in battles with police that killed 19 people and touched off criticism of a government decision to declare a national holiday to proclaim devotion for the Prophet Muhammad."

THE SCENE IN BENGHAZI: The AP again: "Around 30,000 Libyans marched through the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday in an unprecedented protest to demand the disbanding of powerful militias in the wake of last week's attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans."

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BOO BIRDS: The Wall Street Journal: "Paul Ryan on Friday faced a skeptical crowd of retirees who booed the vice-presidential candidate's promises to repeal the health-care overhaul law and chided the Republican's plans for revamping Medicare. ... President Barack Obama addressed the powerful senior-citizens group via satellite Friday morning, receiving an enthusiastic reception and a standing ovation from many in attendance."

PROBABLY NOT THE PULL-QUOTE SHE WANTED: "Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring," Ann Romney, in an interview with Radio Iowa last night, told conservatives who have been critical of her husband's campaign. "This is hard and, you know, it’s an important thing that we’re doing right now and it’s an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country."

YEAH, ABOUT THAT: Remember when we told you that Chick-fil-A had promised a Chicago alderman that it would no longer donate money to groups fighting to block same-sex marriage? Well, while that may be technically true, it appears as though there is a giant loophole in the chicken chain's new unconfirmed policy that allows it to funnel large amounts of cash to its CEO's "biblical" cause anyway.

YOU WON'T BELIEVE US, BUT: A new survey from Gallup suggests that six in 10 Americans have little or no trust in the mass media to deliver the news "fully, accurately and fairly," a record number since the polling outfit began tracking the trend.

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