Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Company He'd Like To Keep: Mitt Romney's Income and Tax Rates In Presidential Context

  An interesting chart from Laura Clawson at Daily Kos Labor

This scatter plot gives valuable context to Mitt Romney's high income and low tax rates: The addition of Romney to a scatter plot of the income levels of the last five presidents (during their years in office) requires the graph to be more than twice as tall as it otherwise would have needed to be.

Graph showing income and tax rates for presidents from Reagan to Obama and for Mitt Romney, with Romney the lowest tax rate and by far the highest income.

The office of president pays an income most of us would love to have for even four or eight years, the George Bushes H.W. and W. come from old money, and Barack Obama has substantial book sales income, but compared with Mitt Romney's investment income, all of them, with the exception of Obama in 2007 and 2009, are just sort of creeping along at the bottom of the plot looking pathetic. Romney's low year was nearly four times Obama's high year. The median American income wouldn't really even show up on this graph—it would just look like the bottom had a black border.

Then there's taxes. Romney's higher tax rate is still lower than anyone else's lowest rate. Because it's investment income. The presidents had to work for at least a decent chunk of their income, so they paid more. And it's pretty safe to assume that these years represent the high-water mark of Mitt Romney's effective tax rate. Otherwise, he would have disclosed past years of tax returns.

For most of us, Mitt Romney's wealth is like that science project you did in grade school, the model of the solar system that there was absolutely no way to render to scale, because the sun is so much bigger than the planets and the distances are so great that even to make the faintest stab at rendering it to scale wouldn't fit in your classroom. Rich people can have great policy positions, of course, but even when he tries to fake it, Romney can't convincingly pretend that he sees the concerns and the fates of people down there at that invisible-on-this-graph median income as any closer to him than the sun is to Pluto in size or distance.