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RandomMrAdam's avatar

Is the "Birther" argument posed by the Right the same (or similar) to the "Tax" argument posed by the Left?

Asked by RandomMrAdam (1640 points ) August 14th, 2012

I can’t help but cringe when I hear such radical arguments. I know back in 2008, it was “Obama isn’t a citizen of the US” which seemed silly, and it didn’t seem to matter what proof Obama would present, those who truly believed he was from Kenya continued to believe.

Now, we have the “Did Romney pay 0 taxes over 10 years”? I mean, to some on the Left, it may seem like a legit question. To a moderate, both questions could seem completely ridiculous. Both sides appear to believe the other side is being more obnoxious than the other.

Which question is more ridiculous? Is this what we should expect anymore out of the representatives we elect to represent us? Do they truly represent what MOST American’s want to ask of congress? Are they both simply red-herrings to the real matters at hand? Share your thoughts.

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37 Answers

tom_g's avatar

@RandomMrAdam: “Which question is more ridiculous?”

It’s pretty obvious which question is more ridiculous. Hint – it’s the racist conspiracy theory one.

That said, I have expressed here recently that I do think this is a bit of a distraction. I’d rather have people focused on what Romney says he plans to do this country. Now that we have Ryan on board, let’s take a look at what Romney would be paying under Ryan’s plan. This is more troubling – and more to the point, in my opinion.

JLeslie's avatar

Not the same in my opinion. I haven’t heard anyone on the left saying Romney paid zero tax. Low taxes yes, even Romney has said he pays low taxes. The difference to me is the Republicans completely made up the birth certifcat ridiculousness, whole Romney does indeed shelter his money, have big write offs, and pay mostly on capital gains, which is at a lower rate than regular income. I don’t think Romney has done anything illegal, I just think democrats are tired of republicans being total idiots about how taxation works, not all republicans, just the group of republicans who really don’t understand the tax codes. The ones who say the wealthy pay more taxes and don’t understand there is a difference between paying more dollars and a higher percentage. The left is using Romney I think to try and make a point about how much the wealthy actually pay.

SavoirFaire's avatar

It’s not an argument so much as a ploy. And while releasing his birth certificate didn’t end speculation about President Obama’s place of birth, Mitt Romney releasing his tax returns almost certainly would end this line of questioning. Because like I said: it’s just a ploy. Harry Reid is trying to force Romney’s hand. Everyone calls Democrats spineless, but Reid gets called ridiculous when he steps up and says “fine, I’ll play the game.” Americans simply cannot be satisfied.

Romney’s tax returns aren’t nearly as relevant as some people try to make them out to be, but they are not at all the red herring that Obama’s birth certificate was.

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@JLeslie – I would agree that Republicans (and Democrats at times) can be idiots. But it seems like all professionalism has gone out the window. If I were to spout such radical claims at work about a co-worker, I would likely be fired on the spot. How is it that moderates and logical American’s haven’t voted out these crazies? We have a group of Republicans recently accusing a top Clinton aide of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood (Bachmann leading the march – no surprise).

Will this polarization only get worse? Or will things eventually become more moderate… It truly is the age of misinformation. That is one thing both sides will agree on (even though they feel the other side are the ones misinformed)

BhacSsylan's avatar

@JLeslie Sadly, Reid did say that he has a anonymous republican source which claims that Romney paid 0% taxes. So there is someone claiming that on the left.

However, there is a very obvious distinction between the two: Obama has release way above and beyond necessary information. He gave the short form birth certificate, satisfied the congressional comittee, even dredged up a silly newspaper announcement, and released his long-form certificate, and there are still those attacking him. Up to an including senators and my state’s Secritary of State (Arizona, specifically).

What has Romney released? Nothing but his word. If he released his tax returns for the last decade and he paid his taxes and people still claimed he did not, then you’d have equivalence. But he didn’t. He’s failed to do what candidates have done for years, what his father did, and what he even berated his opponent to do in his gubernatorial race. And he’s palling around with a birther (good old Trump. How does anyone still take him seriously?).

Beware false equivalencies.

JLeslie's avatar

@RandomMrAdam I can’t quite figure it out myself. I don’t think all the politicans are crazy radicals by the way, I think a lot of them are stupid like foxes. They just play to the stupid people. Romney is not stupid in my opinion, and he has been fairly moderate in his political history. Lately he has leaned right. I think his VP pick was to try and comfort the right wing part of the party that he won’t move way center when he takes office if he wins. What a shame. I think it will change when the Republicans lose the Presidency three times in a row, when and if that happens. I just made that up in my head, but it sounds good to me. And, I have to agree Democrats can be idiots also, and most Americans, red and blue, don’t understand the tax code well, and especially don’t understand the write offs the wealthy enjoy.

Qingu's avatar

No, they’re not alike at all. Not in scope or in implication.

There is incontrovertible proof that Obama is an American. Only deranged and severely idiotic people believe otherwise. And only dishonest hacks bring this up.

Now, did Romney pay “no taxes for ten years”? Probably not—but we don’t know. Unlike Obama’s birth certificate, Romney has kept his taxes secret. And we know he paid an extremely low rate for the year he did release—less than 14%. It seems unlikely that he actually paid no taxes whatsoever, but it is certainly possible that he paid relatively close to zero for ten years.

The implication of Obama being a secret Kenyan Muslim is that he is disqualified from the presidency. The implication of Romney paying no (or close to no) taxes for ten years is just that he’s greedy and personally benefits from an unfair tax system.

BhacSsylan's avatar

“The implication of Obama being a secret Kenyan Muslim is that he is disqualified from the presidency. The implication of Romney paying no (or close to no) taxes for ten years is just that he’s greedy and personally benefits from an unfair tax system.”

You know, I even forgot about this, but it’s 100% true. Because at this point the birther’s aren’t really trying to get Obama ousted this way, just trying to get people to dislike him. But that is the actual result if that conspiracy were true.

And one thing I can say, I’m pretty sure no one has said that Romney has don’t anything illegal this way. The only potentially illegal thing that’s come up is Romney’s shady SEC filings in terms of the control of his company, which has largely faded. As far as his taxes, no one has said he’s done anything against the law. Just something rather unsavory to the 99%.

JLeslie's avatar

The last a birther person told me was Obama went to school in Indonesia (they said it like this was a secret Obama is trying to hide) and he is an Indonesian citizen because his step dad adopted him. Supposedly it is a requirement in Indonesia to be a citizen to attend school. So, they have moved from Kenyan to Indonesian. These people are so stupid. Even if he was adopted and became an Indonesian as a child, so? As a child he would hold dual citizenship. I have no idea if any of it is true. Well, except we all know he did go to to school in Indonesia, all of us have known for years, except the birthers I guess?

tedd's avatar

I don’t believe it’s as crazy as the birther movement, but I do believe it’s in that same vain of stupidity. Romney very likely paid low tax rates, much lower than the average American, for the entire period.. hence why he’s too embarrassed/afraid to reveal his records. But I doubt even Mitt Romney could have gotten away without paying any taxes.

It makes me proud that most on the left are avoiding the stance Reid took on this.

JLeslie's avatar

After listening to this discussion it occurs to me that probably Romney held off releasing his taxes so the dems can be accused of making a big deal about nothing just like the birthers. Smart.

Qingu's avatar

@JLeslie, that seems unlikely. The taxes he did release are bad enough. 13.9 percent is less than many middle-class Americans pay. Which is absolutely outrageous.

I imagine there is plenty in there to embarrass him—even lower tax rates, offshore shenanigans, massive payments to the Mormon church—even if his rates are above zero.

(By the way, under his VP’s economic proposals, Romney’s effective tax rate could be less than one percent, since Ryan doesn’t want to tax capital gains…)

jerv's avatar

One involves questioning the legitimacy of an official document in public records and has had many far-fetched conspiracy theories and some forgeries made by the opposition.

The other is questioning the contents of official documents that has yet to be disclosed.

Obama never tried to hide the fact that he was born in Hawaii, though he did drag his feet a bit on releasing the birth certificate, in part because it was ridiculous to have to re-prove something that had alway been proven, namely his status as a natural-born US citizen. Unless there really is something to hide, Romney should just be the bigger man, stop making a fuss, and just release the records. Not that Obama releasing his birth certificate spouted doubters. Nobody trusts a person who appears to be hiding things, and few purple vote for someone they don’t trust, so Romney is hurting himself by dragging it out.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu I don’t understand why it is embarrassing as long as he did nothing illegal? This is the song of the right wing, let the wealthy be wealthy.

trailsillustrated's avatar

what the h is a birther

JLeslie's avatar

@trailsillustrated The people who don’t believe Obama was born in Hawaii.

Qingu's avatar

@JLeslie, it’s true that Republicans are shameless when it comes to the wealthy, I mean, job creators. I’m sure many Republicans would rejoice if Romney actually succeeded in paying zero taxes since that would mean the government stole less money from him.

But most people have a sense of fairness, and would think it’s unfair that a multimillionaire like Romney has a much lower tax rate than a family making 50k a year and doesn’t benefit from shady offshore accounts and low capital gains tax rates.

I mean, remember that the Republicans’ basic economic idea is “the economy would be better if we stopped spending money on Medicare and helping poor people, and if wealthy people paid less taxes.” This argument is of course nonsensical on its face, but the fact that super-wealthy people like Romney already pay so little in taxes compared to middle class folks further takes the piss out of it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu I don’t agree. I wish it were true, that some would wake up, but I don’t believe it. I think they would be fine with Romney paying almost nothing, and angry they, the guy making $50k, is paying so much (they would say 50% of their income, which is untrue) and see Romney as the way to pay lower taxes for everyone.

Qingu's avatar

@JLeslie, maybe… until you tell them what their taxes pay for. Medicare, Medicaid, SS, defense spending—that’s most of the budget. Then to a much lesser extent there’s the department of education, roads, bridges. Some partisans on either side want less or none of these categories but nowhere near the size of government you’d get if people like Romney paid no taxes, let alone if everyone paid no taxes.

Taxes pay for civilization.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu They don’t want civilization. Or, rather, they will go back to the beginnings of our country and say it was plenty civilized and back then we did not provide public education for everyone. They don’t trust the government to be in charge of medicare and social security, hell they want their social security money now, it’s their money, why does the government have the right to take it? I can understanding not trusting government, but their distrust is different than mine. And, I don’t trust big business, so I think I choose government over private business to take care of these things. Medicaid, they think medicaid recipients are low lifes, they would be happy for them to dissappear, so they ignore “those” people.

They aren’t a no tax crowd, but they are a low tax crowd, and they equate federal government with liberal from what I can tell. Local governments slightly different story, they do some good it seems.

My estimate is 30–50% of the Republicans think like this. But, it is just a guess by talking to the people around me.

Qingu's avatar

Ah, we’re talking about Republicans and not general voters? I don’t think republicans actually “think” like anything. They just repeat talking points.

To the extent that there is a philosophy of thought behind the modern Republican party, it’s Ayn Rand, which is of course basically a cult.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu Oh, yeah, because I think general voters; even better, independent and moderate voters, understand more or less how taxes work. Romney would just be proof of what we already know, which to that I say…so?

BhacSsylan's avatar

@jerv “so Romney is hurting himself by dragging it out.” Well, going by the theory that Romney’s not an idiot (though, that theory is in serious danger after the Europe trip and selecting Ryan, but bear with me), it would seem that the calculations say that it would be more damaging to release them then to attempt to ride this out and keep them hidden.

Which, naturally, makes them more and more interesting as time (and the questions) goes on.

josie's avatar

Each is ridiculous. But they are different because they appeal to a different type of wretched souls.

Among the character flaws of the wretched right is their xenophobia. Their historical ties to agriculture, and the vagaries of weather, have made them suspicious, paranoid, and most of all mystical. They believe in good or bad fortune. When the harvest is poor, there has to be something or someone to blame. It does no good to blame natural events or even God, since both are implacable. Why not the stranger in town? They created the Obama birth certificate “controversy” in some cases, but even worse, others exploited it to stoke their xenophobia for political purposes. But documents exist that make Obama legit. They claim the documents are fake or forged. They must prove it. They cannot. Therefore, the documents should be regarded as valid.

Among the character flaws of the wretched left is their jealousy. They are jealous of the happy, the successful, the beautiful etc. but most of all the rich. Long ago, they left the farm and went to work in the factory. They committed much to the development of their muscles for mindless labor, and too little of their minds. To their credit they are not mystical. Neither, however, are the totally worldly. They figure there is only a certain amount of wealth on Earth, and the rich must have taken it all before they had a chance to get their hands on it. Thus the rich owe them some of that finite wealth. The Romney tax return “controversy” exists to stoke their jealousy, also for political purposes. The truth is, if a high profile guy like Romney was doing something wrong or illegal, the IRS would have known about a long time ago.

Each is ridiculous, but in it’s own fashion.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not the same. It would be comparable if, for example, the Democrats took the fact that George Romeny, Mitt’s dad, was born in Mexico and lived his first few years there, and then (the Dems) ran around wildly looking for boogy Mexicans, which is basically what the birthers do.

I don’t think it’s out of line at all to expect Mitt to do what every other presidential candidate has done, and show us the money. It’s not looking for ghosts that aren’t there to assume that he must have something to hide. I really don’t think it’s outrageous at all.

jerv's avatar

@josie I won’t refute that both sides can be ridiculous, bit I think you misinterpret the Left’s side here. Either that, or you are calling those who feel that wealth should be distributed according to how much you do to get it rather than how much wealth you already have; rewards the workers as well as the managers, and let a rising tide lift all boats. Our prosperity isn’t due solely to CEOs and investors, so those should not be the only people benefiting.
It doesn’t matter whether wealth is finite, found, or created,nearly none of it goes anywhere except to those who are already wealthy. And before you say, “But you can have some of that wealth!”, look at the unemployment figures, the percentage of risk-takers that don’t have their gamble pay off, the number of lottery players who miss the jackpot, the stagnant/declining wages of the average person, and then you will see that the only practical ways the average person can get wealthy involve either crime or revolt.

filmfann's avatar

It’s ridiculous for anyone to think Obama isn’t American.
It’s equally ridiculous to not believe that Romney isn’t hiding something by not releasing his tax information. Every candidate has done that for decades.

Qingu's avatar

@josie, a desire for fairness is not the same as jealousy.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

This shit bugs the hell out of me. Can’t wait for this all to be over you guys.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@filmfann “It’s equally ridiculous to not believe that Romney isn’t hiding something by not releasing his tax information.”

So… many…. negatives…

filmfann's avatar

@BhacSsylan True. I counted 4, including Romney.

BhacSsylan's avatar

lol, well played

Paradox25's avatar

Obama already provided evidence of his birth, and the right wingers still did not accept it so obviously it is futile to even argue about this issue. The issue about Romney’s tax returns on the other hand would be dropped much more easily if he would just release them, unless he really did have something to hide that is.

Qingu's avatar

Well he says he paid more than 13% for the last decade so I’ll guess we’ll just have to trust him.

jerv's avatar

@Qingu I guess so. I mean, if he releases the tax returns, people will just claim they were forgeries anyways :p

Qingu's avatar

That’s an excellent excuse not to release them, @jerv! You should work for the Romney campaign. :)

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