Mitt Romney is facing mounting pressure to release his income tax returns, particularly after fumbling a question about his taxes during Thursday's GOP debate — the audience booed — while Newt Gingrich smugly pointed out that he'd already disclosed his own returns. The release of Romney's documents could cost him votes, largely due to anger over money held in offshore tax havens, the low tax rate he pays on his investments, and the sheer magnitude of his quarter-billion-dollar fortune. Romney says he'll make the forms public in April, but he's not sure how many years worth of returns he'll disclose. There's no law that says presidential candidates have to do this, although most (including Romney's father) have volunteered the information dating back to the Watergate era. Is this really something the public has the right to see?
No. This is pure voyeurism: Politicians should and do disclose their financial holdings, says Ed Morrissey at The Fiscal Times, so the public can make sure they "don't abuse their power to favor their own pocketbooks over the interests of taxpayers." But tax returns don't offer any protection against corruption — only "a voyeuristic peek into the private lives of candidates." Candidates should resist the prying and keep their IRS records private, because giving in fuels the "politics of envy."
"Romney voyeurs: Digging for tax return porn"
But it's such a small thing to ask: "We're talking about the presidency here," says Gail Collins at The New York Times. Candidates want voters to bestow upon them "the power to wage war, blow up the planet, ruin the economy. I think we kind of have the right to pry." In Romney's case, we're talking about a man "who wants to determine the future of our tax code." It's fair to ask "how he made the current one work for himself."
"Can I see your tax return?"
And voters do have a right to know: Romney should release his tax returns, "and he should do so now," says National Review in an editorial. "If there is something troubling — or at least politically exploitable — in Romney's returns," GOP voters deserve to know before they pick their nominee. Romney doesn't think his wealth and how he manages it has any bearing on his worthiness for office, but that's not his call to make.
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