Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the wrong legislative approach in 2010 when she said of the mislabeled Affordable Care Act: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
But Rep. Pelosi, now House minority leader, took the right priority course Thursday when she called demands for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns a “distraction” from important economic issues. Rep. Pelosi pointed out: “We spent too much time on that. We should be talking about middle-income tax cuts.”
Yet up until a day earlier, Rep. Pelosi and other prominent Democrats had been pressing the case that the looming Republican presidential nominee must release more than just the last two years of tax returns.
You don’t need Sherlock Holmes’ deductive powers to find this clue behind Rep. Pelosi’s sudden shift of focus: McClatchy Newspapers reported Thursday that Rep. Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, “refused repeated requests ... to release their own returns, requests that started before the flap over Romney’s records.”
The Obama campaign hopes more of Mr. Romney’s returns, if released, will help it cast him as a rich man who doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes.
Mr. Romney released his 2010 tax return and estimates on his 2011 return early this year. According to those documents, he expects to pay a total of $6.2 million in federal taxes on $42.5 million in combined income for the years 2010 and 2011 — an effective rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 and an expected rate of 15.4 percent for 2011, once the final numbers are released.
Maybe you think that’s not enough. Maybe you think his reluctance to release his 2009 return stems, as widely speculated, from heavy capital losses that likely reduced — or even eliminated? — his federal tax bill. Maybe you think politicians’ tax returns are relevant to whether they deserve your votes.
Maybe the best way for Mr. Romney to limit this distraction is to release more tax records and absorb any damage from them sooner rather than later.
Then again, how many more years of returns must he release?
And why should Mr. Romney be held to a tougher standard than John McCain, who released only his 2006 and 2007 returns as the 2008 GOP White House nominee?
We, for a change, agree with Mrs. Pelosi on this matter — at least with her revised view that the tax-return controversy is a distraction from far more pressing concerns.
And we suspect that she won’t soon again demand more tax returns from the opposition than she’s willing to release herself.