Release the returns

We doubt that there is anything truly surprising in Romney’s additional personal tax returns (he’s already released 2010 and will release more from 2011). We already know that he has made vast amounts of money, that he gives generously to his church and to charities, that he has set up trusts for his family, that he maintains bank accounts and investments overseas, and that he takes advantages of such benefits as are available to him under our ridiculously complex tax code. If there is scandal to be had of that, it can be had from the information that already is available. But there is no scandal in that: Romney is a wealthy man — and he has complicated personal finances, something that is typical of wealthy men. In fact, Romney’s personal finances are a very good case study in what’s wrong with the American tax system and regulatory climate. …

Romney may feel impatience with requirements that the political culture imposes on a presidential candidate that he feels are pointless (and inconvenient). But he’s a politician running for the highest office in the land, and his current posture is probably unsustainable. In all likelihood, he won’t be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions. The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later — after playing more defense on the issue and sustaining more hits. There will surely be a press feeding frenzy over new returns, but better to weather it in the middle of July.