Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

September 14, 2012

Where are the tax returns? Romney seems to have a wealth of secrets

Despite all evidence to the contrary, polls have consistently shown that some Republicans don’t believe President Barack Obama was born in this country. Apparently, mere proof does not sway their opinion.

It does not matter to them that the White House broke down last year and produced Obama’s birth certificate to put a stop to the nonsense. The nonsense continues or has taken other absurd forms.

The most fanatical birther holdouts are today’s equivalent of the Japanese soldiers on Pacific islands in 1945 who did not believe World War II had ended and refused to surrender. Similarly, the remnant imperial army of birthers still lurks in the jungle thickets of American misinformation, receiving instructions via talk radio.

Last month, Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, revived the giddy romance of the birthers’ obsession by making a little joke while visiting his home state of Michigan with his wife Ann: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

That is true. However, it raises another thought: The American people know Romney’s birthplace but not where some of his money was born and raised. As birth certificates are not officially issued for money, the only way to find out might be to see his tax returns for the past dozen years.

The Republican candidate already has conceded that tax returns are useful public information by issuing one full return for 2010 and an estimate for 2011. By contrast, Obama has released a dozen years of returns.

What does Mitt Romney have to hide? That he is rich? The American people probably could stand the shock. This secretive behavior only raises suspicions, especially as Romney lived in France as a younger man. France! Where same-sex couples and others indulge in existentialism without shame!

What would the American people think if it turns out that Romney was a crumb who had invested heavily in the croissant and baguette industry here or abroad?

Or could he have put funds into offshore French possessions such as Martinique and St. Barts? While both islands are exclusive domains of the wealthy, the shocking truth is that local women are so poor there they can’t afford tops to their bikinis.

Did he make money by taking over a bidet company because its sales were in the toilet? Did any of his investments lead to the firing of beret-wearing workers and the installation of computerized bidet machines to flood the market with anti-American plumbing conveniences? I make no accusations, because when it comes to bidets (and such) the American people have nothing to go on.

So make all your tax returns public, Mr. Romney! Don’t assume we the people will turn into “oui” the people, agreeing to settle for less than full financial disclosure.

Those tax returns may be the closest we will come to birth certificates for your money. Come clean, be franc, or else you will find a new obsessive group in the land: the mirthers, styled after the birthers but with a better class of fanatic. One joke deserves another.

I know what Romney supporters think is fair: that Obama should make public his college transcripts. The reasons they give are a hodgepodge of creative suspicions, including that he wasn’t a good student, or he was given favorable treatment, or even that he had applied as a foreign student. (Aha! All roads lead back to birther central.)

Indeed, some birthers, realizing that they were embarrassing themselves beyond their own risible standards, seem to have swapped the Obama-born-in-Kenya obsession with the Obama-phony-student obsession.

Enlightened cynics may wonder why the first black president should also be the first president to have his academic credentials challenged in this way. Coincidence? Or just the novel phenomenon of those who forever complain about others playing the race card now taking an ace from the back of the deck?

Whatever the motive, the logic assumes that tax returns are parallel in importance to college transcripts. They are not.

If I had to produce my college transcripts from the University of Hard Knocks, where, as you know, I graduated with a degree of concussion, nothing new would be learned about me than what is known already — to wit, a good man with a glass of beer but not great with an algebra problem.

But tax returns have the potential to reveal far more. Money talks, but with what accent in Mitt Romney’s case? Where was most of his money born? Kenya? France? Inquiring mirther minds want to know.

Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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