This afternoon, during an event with the press, Romney answered questions about his taxes with a declaration that he has never paid less than 13 percent:
He says that, for the most recent year, he paid 13.6 percent in taxes. There’s an obvious problem here: Unless Romney answers calls for more tax returns—which have come from Democrats as well as top supporters—it’s impossible to prove that he’s paid that tax rate.
And even if it's true, 13.6 percent is an astoundingly low rate for someone whose annual income was $21 million in 2011. For comparison’s sake, the middle fifth of taxpayers pay an effective tax rate of 15.5 percent. Overall, Romney pays a lower rate than nearly 60 percent of Americans.
Just because he can disprove Harry Reid’s allegations—and, so far, he can’t—doesn’t mean that the public will respond well to a multi-millionaire who pays low taxes and supports a budget that would lower his rate to just under 1 percent.
Romney’s continued refusal to release his tax returns speaks to his broader contempt for transparency. When told his budget numbers don’t add up, he refused to give more detail. When asked which programs or agencies he would cut, he defers the answer. And when questioned about the men and women who collect huge sums for his campaign, he won’t give names, bucking the openness of John McCain and George W. Bush. It’s an unprecedented approach to campaigning, and it doesn’t bode well for the conduct of a Romney administration.