Audit Notes: Romney’s Ryan taxes, FDR or Ayn Rand, Morton Mintz

The Atlantic on what would be Mitt's "Path to Prosperity"

The Atlantic’s Matthew O’Brien has the best snap financial analysis of Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as a running mate, reporting that “Under Paul Ryan’s plan, Mitt Romney wouldn’t pay any taxes for the next ten years — or any of the years after that.”

Well, maybe not quite nothing. In 2010 — the only year we have seen a full return from him — Romney would have paid an effective tax rate of around 0.82 percent under the Ryan plan, rather than the 13.9 percent he actually did. How would someone with more than $21 million in taxable income pay so little? Well, the vast majority of Romney’s income came from capital gains, interest, and dividends. And Ryan wants to eliminate all taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends.

Romney is hardly alone amongst the super-rich, of course. Most of the top 0.01 percent’s income comes from capital gains and dividends, which means Ryan would quit taxing them if he had his way.

Speaking of O’Brien, make sure to read his trouncing of Arthur “The Curve” Laffer’s WSJ op-ed last week.

— Simon Schama, writing in the Financial Times, says that Romney’s pick gives Americans a “clear choice: Franklin Roosevelt or Ayn Rand.”

This much you have to give Mitt Romney: by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate he has made it impossible to avoid turning the presidential election into a genuine and long overdue debate on the nature, extent and responsibilities of American government. By doing that, whatever the outcome, he will have rendered a service to the American people, who deserve to be drawn into an all-out contest of principles rather than the usual beauty-pageant cum pratfall-watch that consume most autumn campaigns.

Because Mr Ryan (unlike the top of the ticket), is in the habit of actually attaching numbers to his budget proposals, there is a faint possibility that the debate between Americans who want to retain the institutions of the New Deal and the 1960s (such as Medicare) and those who believe that under Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson the country took a fatal step towards collectivism, will actually have to consider evidence rather than collapse into the usual exchange of uninformed abuse that gets confused with argument.

— Michael Hudson writes about Morton Mintz, the 90-year-old former Washington Post investigative reporter, whose clips include breaking open the thalidomide and Darkon Dalkon Shield birth control scandals, and what we can learn from him:

After he left the Post, Mintz wrote freelance articles for magazines and online outlets. Many of these pieces cast a discerning eye on major media organization’s failures to ask tough questions of politicians and business leaders. Too often, Mintz said in a 1991 article in The Progressive (“A Reporter Looks Back in Anger”), business journalism had been undermined by boosterism, careerism, cowardice, libel fears, laziness and chumminess with sources.

He often wondered aloud why big news organizations invest vast resources in covering political horse races and producing personality profiles of corporation titans while ignoring stories that matter to real people - dangers and injustices that affect their families, their bank accounts, their health and safety.


It’s long seemed to me that, in my experience, too many reporters, too much of the time, failed to ask themselves a simple two-word question: “What’s important?”

The Audit’s Martha M. Hamilton, who worked with Mintz at the Washington Post, is quoted here too.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,