Start the Clock

Sunday morning George Will spoke for an increasing number of Americans who believe Willard Mitt Romney needs to release more than two years of tax returns.  Consider that moment the start of a running clock that will record how long it will take Team Romney to give in to the pressure that will grow and grow…and grow…to provide this information.

Odds are overwhelming that Team Romney will indeed give in to these forces; I believe this because I see this sort of behavior all the time in organizations that are facing tough issues but resist for internal reasons taking decisive action to address a problem.  The discussion at the senior management meeting goes like this:

Subordinate #1:   “Boss…I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think we should admit we were wrong, fire the guy who screwed up and invite the guy we screwed over to come in for a conversation about how to set things right. If we don’t it now, we’ll get credit for doing the right thing, for acting decisively and on our own term.  Yes, there’ll be a hit in the short term, but overall the story will be over and done in three days.”


Subordinate #2:   “Way too soon!”

Subordinate #3:   “No way should we be accepting responsibility for this.”

Subordinate #4:   “We should wait; there’s a good chance this will blow over without us having to do anything.”

Subordinate #5: (sotto voce):   Wow, that took a lot of balls…or maybe he’s too stupid to realize he just recommended firing the boss’ nephew.”

After the hubbub dies down, the CEO leans forward and says something along the lines of, “OK, does anybody have any real suggestions about how to handle this one? If not, let’s move on to the next item, repricing everyone’s options to reflect the recent stock price drop…”

Flash forward a week, a month, whatever…after the protests, the unceasing media scrutiny, the blog postings, the fake Twitter account, the threatened legal action and the same group of executives gets the CEO memo announcing the departure to “pursue other interests” the guy who screwed up and the press release that contains the brain-numbing phrases like, “After careful review of the circumstances involved and listening to the recollections of a number of first-hand observers, we have concluded that our procedures were not followed in this instance.  For this lapse in our standard, we express our apologies to [WHOEVER] and we promise to redouble our efforts in this area to make sure there is no recurrence of such an event.”

The net result: the organization ends up doing what it should have done a month ago but does so too late to receive any credit for the action.  It has distracted itself, its shareholders and customers for a month and has created the following perception in the minds of key constituents:

“We’re not terrible competent.”

“We deny we’ve screwed up even when the facts might indicate otherwise.”

“But…if you make it make things painful enough…we’ll give in and show that we’re incompetent, arbitrary and craven.”

Too bad for Mitt that he’s already too far down that path on the tax returns.  He could release all of his tax returns at this point and would get scant credit for it.  That said, it’s only going to get worse the longer he waits.  As the saying goes, when you realize you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the first step is to stop digging.

There is, of course, the possibility that Team Mitt will not release the tax returns, but I rate that possibility very low.  The ONLY reason that they won’t be released by the man who has demonstrated he’d do most anything to be president – change positions on a full range of public policy issues, inflame xenophobic sentiment, pander to the most extreme members of his party – is because there’s something truly damning in there.

And, as a matter of public policy (rather than communications tactics), I would like to see Mitt’s returns from the years when he wasn’t running for president (pretty much the last eight years).  I have a sneaking suspicion that pre-candidate Romney’s returns look considerably different from those filed by candidate Ronmey.

– Austin


19 thoughts on “Start the Clock

    1. Erik says:

      Perhaps that’s consensus among people who are low information and otherwise obtuse. We already know the guy has a history of reporting income of $10M – $20M annually. You can’t report income like that and not have a tax obligation. It’s literally impossible.

      The problem remains that he pays personal income taxes all at capital gains rates, and most people think they pay at effective federal rates higher than that (….but in fact they actually don’t).

      That’s what’s hard to explain, merely because is such an unsympathetic position to defend.

      1. PM says:

        Speaking of unsympathetic positions that are hard to explain…

        here is a really good column from someone you consider to be a douchebag, yet i imagine that you would agree completely with its substance:

        I think that Yglesias is right that outsourcing is generally a good thing (economic autarky is a silly position to hold, whether you are talking about jobs or local food), but certainly a hard one to explain in 30 second sound bites–but Mitt is tying himself into knots trying to do the easy/safe thing here, and i simply do not think that it is working. At what point does it make sense for him to pull a Mondale and speak the truth?

        (probably only when he knows he is going to lose…..)

      2. PM says:

        I suppose the point is that if Romney were to really run on his record, and be a pro choice, pro gay marriage, pro obamacare, pro good government moderate Republican (which everything that he has ever done in his life suggests he really is), I’d be an enthusiastic supporter.

        The problem is that he is really an opportunistic Republican, willing to contort himself into something entirely foreign so as to gain power. And that i simply can’t support. How can you possibly trust him?

      3. Erik says:

        I imagine I called him a douchebag at some point, but that was probably because he’s smug. I’m not a fan of over exertive counter-intuitiveness, but I read him often.

        Yes, I agree. Gee, I was probably outsourced 3 or 4 times myself. I now provide the service I provide on an outsourced basis. I’ve prospered under this arrangement, and this is quite typical.

        Thus I’m a bit perplexed the state of the discussion is as if we’re living in a Springsteen song from 1978. Are there really any private sector employees remaining who don’t understand the way outsourcing works and why it happens? I really don’t think there are. Even the Democrats I know grasp it. Thing is if you work, you’ve encountered outsourcing, and you understand you either stay efficient or go out of business.

        It’s a bit of a fake issue, propped up with the help of a journalistic pack that is probably sincerely obtuse. I doubt the issue has real traction, but as a Republican and rapacious capitalist Romney is obligated to display a proper level of concern and empathy.

      4. PM says:

        Sure, most people are economic illiterates. that pretty much goes without saying. But that really isn’t much of an excuse now, is it?

        If you assume that Romney believes in the benefits of outsourcing, then he should attempt to defend the practice, not to run from it. After all, the obligation to defend a practice usually falls to those who support and/or engage in that practice–and Romney clearly falls into that category.

        I think that Romney has blown this issue because he has, for all practical purposes, ceded the point that outsourcing is bad, when he started focusing on the (false) point that he wasn’t responsible for it–trying to say that it was someone else’s fault (whoever was running Bain at the time). If he had tried to point out that outsourcing and foreign investment are opposite sides of the same phenomena, he might have had a chance.

        As smart as he is supposed to be, i am dumbfounded that he was so stupid in his handling of this issue. After all, it can’t have been a surprise to him–it came up in the primaries, as well as in his Senate and Gubernatorial runs.

        Competence? huh.

  1. Joe Loveland says:

    If I were a liberal Super PAC, I’d start sending a nervous looking guy in a dark suit, dark Ray-Bans, Bluetooth headset, and a Romney button to every Romney campaign event. Have him hang out where the bored news videographers are stationed waiting. He would have a high security silver metal briefcase marked “Romney/Bain Corporation Tax Return: 1992-2012. TOP SECRET” handcuffed to himself. When people approach him, he would protect the case, clutching it to his breast for dear life.

    Ridiculously campy street theater? Of course. But Obama supporters need a way to get that “won’t release his tax returns” drumbeat into the news coverage of all Romney appearances. The more Romney campaign and security people hassle the guy, the better the visual becomes as he works to protect the tax reforms from disclosure. I’m thinking Austin would be perfect for the role.

  2. PM says:

    I think that mitt has to do the calendar–can he get this all out there soon enough for the media to get over it so he can try to set the agenda in time for the election?

    Or, is what he hiding so big that it will dominate debate until November? Apparently, Mitt provided the McCain campaign with 20+ years of tax returns when he was being vetted for VP, so whatever it is, some people already know about it–which means that it will eventually come out.

  3. PM says:

    So, Jon–will announcing his Veep pick help Mitt to change the topic? Which order does he do this in? Release the tax returns, then announce his Veep in order to change the subject, or try to do the Veep thing first in the hope that the entire tax/Bain thing will go away?

    1. I think a VP pick would dominate the news cycle for about a week..unless it’s Palin-esque…and then it’s back to taxes and disclosure. He can’t duck this one endlessly.

      A Palin-esque pick would dominate the news cycle longer but would ultimately be a net negative.

      – Austin

      – Austin

  4. PM says:

    I loved Rick Perry’s support for Mittens, as well as the interesting statement from McCain that there was nothing disqualifying in Mitt’s tax returns (“Palin was just the better candidate”).

    Of course, this insistence on seeing mitt’s tax returns is simply evidence of envy of Mitt’s success from people who are opposed to capitalism and the American way of life (like undocumented weed smokers from Hawaii or Kenya or wherever).

    Doesn’t this all smack of desperation?

    1. Erik says:

      You libs really ought to reconsider your addiction to dry, ironic sarcasm. Or at least start administering proficiency tests and licenses. 7 out of 8 of you can’t do it, and come off poorly trying.

      You’ve got IRONY FAIL going on here because you all do in fact hate capitalism. If that’s too broad a brush, it certainly is fair to say you’d all prefer all every resource and good be allocated by the political process rather than by markets. Taxreturngate is over, by the way. It passed for the time being. It seems no returns to masturbate over will be forthcoming. We’re on to Youdidn’tbuildthatgate.

      And IRONY FAIL because the President was a drug user. He admitted it. Insofar as we’re to adopt Stephanie Cutter’s definition where “felons” includes those who never were adjudicated as such, the President is as felon.

      1. PM says:

        Ouch. looking at the time stamp of your post, I’m guessing the meds must have worn off about midnight…?

      2. It’s IRONIC, isn’t it, that the people who started this blog – me, Loveland, Benidt, Carideo, Andrews – and half of those who have joined – Lambert and Souder – all own and operate a small business? I’m pretty sure none of hate the mechanism that feed our families, send the kids to college and might let us – someday – retire? I just don’t think unfettered capitalism is desirable, I don’t think wealth is the sole (or even the most important) measurement of accomplishment or worth and I do think that anybody who would seek to be president had better be prepared to talk about every aspect of their life.

        I also think it’s a SELF-EVIDENT TRUTH that I wouldn’t be able to operate my business without taxpayer-funded roads, the internet, the radio spectrum that is regulated by the government, the police, fire, military personnel who keep me safe, the bureaucrats who enforce the rules of the road so that commerce is reasonably fair between very small and very large businesses and the courts that are a recourse when needed.

        It’s a SIGN OF DESPERATION that the GOP has decided to go after Obama’s drug use from his youth (which – for the record – sounds like it was about on par with mine and what I observed many of my classmates doing) more than a decade after the public collectively yawned over the disclosure. Really? That’s the next best thing you got after the economy?

        And, finally, it’s a little WEIRD to be jerking off to tax returns. Go to Google, search for “porn” and click on pretty much any link that shows up. Much of it is free and gotta be more satisfying – I hope – than a 1040. But, since I’m a liberal, I would defend to my last breath, your right to get off as you see fit (as long as you’re not hurting anyone).

        – Austin

      3. PM says:

        not only did jon have a lot of help in his successful business from police and firefighters and judges and their family, etc. , but Mitt and Barack agree on this point!

        So the irony is that Mitt is criticizing Barack for something that mitt agrees with.


        Mitt and Fox and the GOP are running an entire campaign on nothing–just emotions and fear and distortions.

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