Don't believe it? Romney himself said so, just a few months ago. The Ryan plan -- formally, the "Roadmap for America's Future" -- "promotes saving by eliminating taxes on interest, capital gains, and dividends; also eliminates the death tax." Mitt Romney's income -- more than $20 million each of the past two years -- comes almost entirely from capital gains on his investments, or from "carried interest," a cut of Bain Capital profits that are taxed as capital gains (the infamous "hedge fund loophole.") His only major ordinary income was from the speaking fees he collected ($374,000, or "not much," as he put it.) This explains why his tax rate was only 13.9 percent last year -- because the capital gains rate is 15 percent, well below the top rate of 35 percent for ordinary income.
So if the reason that Mitt Romney isn't releasing his taxes is because he's managed to game the system and end up owing zero in taxes for several years, then picking a running mate whose plan would assure that Mitt Romney would basically never pay federal income taxes ever absolutely assures that Romney cannot release his taxes now. He'd lose by 20 points.
But Romney doesn't have to release his taxes to be attacked on this issue, and rightfully so.
Not that they even need the Romney example, really. There is an easy broader case to be made against exempting capital gains, which are already taxed at a lower rate than they have been in decades (thanks partly to a certain former Democratic president.) Consider: over the past 20 years, more than 80 percent of all capital gains have gone to the top 5 percent of taxpayers and half have gone to the top one-tenth percent of taxpayers. It is the favorable treatment of capital gains that has helped drive income inequality to its current levels and that results in the 400 households with the highest income in the country paying such jarringly low tax rates. And Ryan wants to now eliminate the tax on this income entirely? Just seven months ago, Romney argued convincingly in his exchange with Newt that this was taking a good thing a bit too far. Now he's tied at the hip to the leading champion of this approach -- and has turned himself into the poster boy for why it's a terrible idea. In that sense, Ryan and Romney could hardly be more ill-suited to each other's needs: Romney puts an inconvenient face on the extremity of Ryan's plan, while Ryan's plan sheds even more light on Romney's taxes -- or the glaring lack thereof.
OK Team Obama, you got a fastball the size of a beach ball over the plate. Swing for the fences. These guys are going to decimate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants, you name it...to make sure people like Mitt Romney pay zero taxes on their millions.
I'm betting Team Obama is cool running on that. In fact, they wasted no time today and released this web ad:
Oh, and where's your tax returns, Mitt?