Harry Reid says an unnamed Bain Capital investor told him Mitt Romney “didn't pay any taxes for 10 years.” I don’t buy this rumor for a second -- it’s rare for a wealthy person to get his tax burden all the way down to zero, and if Mitt Romney did, I very much doubt that he was blabbing to his investors about it. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul has previously denied that Romney ever had a $0 tax liability.
But so long as Romney refuses to release more years of tax returns, it’s inevitable that Reid and other Democrats will speculate like this. Earlier this month, the Obama campaign put out an ad saying Romney’s refusal to put out returns from 2009 and earlier “makes you wonder if in some years he paid any taxes at all.” They can always say they’re just asking questions -- questions Romney can easily put to rest by releasing more years of his taxes.
If Romney won’t release more taxes, that probably means their actual contents are more damaging than whatever we might imagine their contents to be. But if Democrats succeed in getting people to imagine worse and worse things about what's in Romney's taxes, that calculus will flip and Romney will open up his books. Which is exactly why we can expect more speculation just like this.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.