Almost exactly a year ago today, at a stump speech in Iowa that didn’t go so well, Mitt Romney minted what is still the most famous catch phrase of his campaign:
Today, in an interview with Bloomberg Businesweek, a reporter presses Romney on the issue of his tax returns, which have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks as both Democrats and Republicans have called for Romney to release his last five years’ worth of returns and Romney has refused. The reporter uses a metaphor he thinks Romney will understand: “Let’s frame the issue around your tax returns in a slightly different way. If you’re an investor and you’re looking at a company, and that company says that its great strength is wise management and fiscal know-how, wouldn’t you want to see the previous, say, five years’ worth of its financials?”
To which Romney replies:
“I’m not a business.”
You see the irony? Amazing, right?
Actually, he’s right—he is not a business. He’s a guy. A damn rich guy, but a guy nonetheless. The due diligence expectations for corporations up for acquisition are different than those for individuals running for office. Sometimes people might be curious to see more than the two years’ returns required of elected officials, as people were with McCain in ’08, and as Romney points out, it is his prerogative to politely decline as McCain did in ’08.
Where he’s wrong is that “corporations are people.” They’re not. Last year his justification for this was saying, “everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.” It doesn’t. Corporate balance sheets have skyrocketed since the recession while personal wealth has plummeted. Businesses aren’t people and vice versa—they shouldn’t be taxed and treated as such.
Check out the whole interview at Businessweek—it’s hilarious how squirrely Romney gets when asked about his taxes. He actually tries to bail but an aide reminds him he’d agreed to a longer interview, so he stays on the line and squirms it out. Below, revisit the great “corporations are people” speech.