Tax fight gets personal as Obama and Biden returns released
April 13th, 2012
08:27 AM ET
6 years ago

Tax fight gets personal as Obama and Biden returns released

(CNN) – The fight over how best to tax the American people turned to the personal finances of the two competing presidential candidates Friday, as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden released their 2011 tax returns and called for all-but-certain GOP nominee Mitt Romney to do the same.

The move comes after a week of aggressive promotion from the White House and Obama's reelection campaign on the so-called "Buffett Rule," a measure increasing the tax rate to 30% for Americans making more than $1 million per year.

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The tax returns released by the White House showed Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, made $789,674 in income in 2011, and paid an effective federal tax rate of 20.5%. Biden and his wife made $379,035 and paid $87,900 in total federal tax.

In a post on the White House blog accompanying the returns' release, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wrote the president's proposed "Buffett Rule" would actually increase the percentage of income the Obamas would pay in taxes.

"Under the President's own tax proposals, including the expiration of the high-income tax cuts and limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it," Carney wrote.

Jim Messina, the campaign manager of Obama's reelection bid, called on Romney to release his 2011 tax return in a statement.

"Mitt Romney's defiance of decades of precedent set by presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, including his own father, begs the question - what does he have to hide?" Messina wrote.

He continued, "Governor Romney may try once again to play by his own set of rules, but Americans will hold him accountable for trying to hide his record."

The deadline for filing 2011 taxes is Tuesday, though taxpayers may request an extension from the Internal Revenue Service.

Anticipating the pressure to release Romney's tax returns, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign said Obama's campaign was diverting attention from a failed economic record, adding that Romney would release his documents as soon as they're filed.

"It's no surprise with the worst job creation record in modern history that President Obama would try to distract Americans from the real issues with a series of sideshows," Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "Gov. Romney has already released his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 income and taxes. He will release his full 2011 return when it is filed."

Romney's tax returns previously arose as an issue in January, when Democrats along with fellow Republican presidential candidates pressured Romney's campaign to release the documents.

On January 24, Romney's team released his 2010 tax return, as well as an estimate for 2011. Opponents quickly derided the disclosure as paltry, noting that other candidates, including Romney's father during his run for the GOP nomination in 1968, released a decade's worth of tax returns.

The forms the campaign did release showed Romney earned $42.7 million over the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes. Over the two years, Romney's effective tax rate - the percentage of his income that he owed in federal income taxes - was 14.5%.

Democrats, eager to align themselves with middle class voters, quickly assailed Romney for paying a low tax rate while earning millions of dollars.

On Thursday, Biden slammed Romney at a campaign stop in New Hampshire for promoting a "Romney Rule" on taxes that would benefit only millionaires like him – a harsh comparison to the "Buffett Rule" Democrats are promoting.

"The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do," Biden said Thursday. "The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year."

Obama's 2010 tax return showed the president earned $1,728,096 and paid $453,770 in income taxes.

CNN's Jim Acosta and Paul Steinhauser and CNNMoney's Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Taxes
soundoff (390 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer


    Wow – Such jealousy we all have! Maybe instead of going others who have "made it" – we all should strive as hard as they did to "make it." Anger is not the way to go!

    Sorry babe, but being born with a solid gold spoon in your mouth is hardly "making it".

    April 13, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. Riptim

    We are supposed to keep seven years of tax records. I want to see the last seven years of Mittens taxes. The Dems are going to insist on this through out the campaign until he produces all that hidden money for the world to see What a hypicrit he really is

    April 13, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Mitt Romney doesn't want people to see how much money he has stashed off shore. He doesn't have to any pay taxes on it until it is repatriated back into the US. Meanwhile, the tax rate that he would have to pay just keeps dropping and dropping. Must be nice.

    April 13, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. Woman In California

    Release your tax returns Willard and quit stalling.

    April 13, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. Malory Archer

    WalkerTR, if your federal tax rate is really 26%, then you aren't "Joe Average". Trust me, my tax rate is just slightly lower than that and my family's income is about 3.5x the median income for a working couple, and we have no dependents. We're far removed from "Joe & Jane Average", but that doesn't mean that our tax burden should be higher than that of a multi-multi-millionaire.

    April 13, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. v_mag

    I shake my head at all the naive comments by right-wingers about "jealousy" and how people should just get a job and work hard to make big money like Rom-money did. We've got a system whereby people who are in the right place at the right time can gain a foothold and use their new power and position to crush other people. Then they pass that wealth and power on to their kids, and we wind up with what we have now: an unofficial American Aristocracy that controls goverment and the lives of all those who are not rich.

    This problem has been recognized as a destroyer of democracy for over a hundred years, and it was why the income tax system was put in place. The rich have convinced their ignorant followers that they, too, can become rich if they work hard. That is not the case.

    You will also never win big in the lottery. Lotteries and middle class life in America are rigged. Living in this country is like betting against the house in Vegas. Unless you were born wealthy, like Rom-money, you will never be wealthy, or struck by lightning, or win the lottery, or be eaten by a shark. At least, not by a sea shark. You will be eaten, slowly, by a land shark like Rom-money, though.

    April 13, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. Tyrone

    Whats next, The quarom of 12 in The Oval Office????

    April 13, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    deb0155 worte:

    Wow – Such jealousy we all have! Maybe instead of going others who have "made it" – we all should strive as hard as they did to "make it."
    People like you are the reason why people like Romney have made it to the point where they walk all over you while convincing you that it is for your own good. When GWB lowered the capital gains rate, he was picking winners and losers. The winners were the wealthy, and the losers were the middle class. He adjusted loopholes to encourage investment and penalize those who did not throught the AMT.

    Many middle class wage earners saw their taxes INCREASE under GWB. If you were a single, divorced man, paying 30% of your gross towards child support, then you could barely make ends meet much less put aside enough of your earned income into investments to qualify for the loopholes. The loopholes were not made for the middle class at all. As a result, the AMT would rise up and take a bigger bite out of your income than without it.

    April 13, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. Malory Archer

    Obama Victim,

    The only thing we know about Romney's "successful businessman" schtick is that he was successful in lining his own pockets while tossing tens of thousands of workers into the street. If that's your defininition of "success"; well good luck with that.

    April 13, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. Darrell

    bill....and the nation certainly over paid George W. Bush for 8 years. GWB got the nation into this economic mess and still walked away with pay check.

    Now, President Obama is cleaning up after the Harvard MBA president who nearly took Am. Capitalism over the cliff. The Republicans are offering another Harvard MBA graduate as their candidate: Mitt Romney. No thank you.

    April 13, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. vic , nashville ,tn

    Obama paid $162,074 in total tax 20.5%

    “The President gave $172,130 – or about 22% different charities.”

    Almost 42,5% he gave his income back we have to raise tax

    April 13, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  12. Wake up people

    @Mallory Archer– I couldn't have said it better myself! Mitt hasn't made anything. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and accumulated even more money by being a vulture capitalist. Do the "sheeple" really believe that he is going to make them rich too? Not unless you're in the 1% and if you're not be prepared to be little more than a sharecropper.

    OBAMA 2012!

    April 13, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  13. CalDude

    How can someone making less than a million go on vacations worth millions and claim no public money was used to pay for it?

    April 13, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  14. judy

    It is not the amount of money but what is a fair tax rate. If money is off shore and not reported. What does that say ? If The president did not report all earnings what would the repos say and do. I know they would be calling him out and making one big stink. So stop acting like everyone is picking on mitt. willard is a sneeky rat and shouldn't be trusted.

    April 13, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Biden made less and paid a higher %

    April 13, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    I don't understand why Romney's tax returns are such a campaign issue when there's so many more issues to focus on.
    Because we want to make sure that our next POTUS is not secretly working for communists. Because we don't want to put another oil baron like George W. Bush into the White House. Because we want a POTUS who represents The People and their best interests, not special interests. Any more questions?

    April 13, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. CMAC

    They keep knocking Obama for the economy and job creation yet we have seen job growth for more than 2 straight years. Am I missing something? I don't think it's a very good argument to say, "Well, it should be better". What an easy thing to say, much harder to do.

    April 13, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. migeli

    Romney is treated like some big success story.He had a better start than most people with inherited wealth and a governor father.He doesn't have the best interests of common people because he was never one of them.Neither was his wife.These people want to take from the poor and middleclass and give"wellfare"to the rich.They want to cut your Social Security and medicare and give more tax cuts to the wealthy.That did not work before and got us in this mess.Make the wealthy pay their fair and give Obama a majority in the house and senate,a filibuster-proof majority so he can get something done this time.Throw the Tea Party out and vote for Obama 2012.

    April 13, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. PotD

    I am sure Mitt Romney is paying what is required by the law, and I am sure Obama is not paying a penny more than required either. If Obama is so eager to pay more taxes himself, why don't he just do so, he could just donate money directly to pay down our national debt.
    And to all those people running around saying "tax me more", why don't they just pay it instead of only say it.. they all could contribute to pay down the national debt.

    April 13, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. skellyute

    I love how some how the media has made people believe you're more of an American if you give a great percentage of your income to the government that mismanages it. To think our founders, and revolutionaries fought the King because we got sick of his taxes.

    April 13, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. Greg Ballantyne

    I'm sure Mitt has callouses on his hands to prove he worked hard for every penny
    We all know how he 'made it' – after all he says he loves to fire people
    A fellow who loves to fire people will also love ripping them off

    April 13, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  22. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    Obama and the Democrats are now demonizing "rich people" the way they have demonized businesses and their opponents. Lefitsts ALWAYS need that demon to attack to push their bogus, counter productive agenda that doesn't encourage people to work harder to get ahead in life. All they want to do is further their victimhood mentality, which makes it somebody elses fault that you may have less or nothing. It can never be anything that is your fault. What a great lesson to be teaching our children. How absolutely pathetic and a sure quick trip to the bottom for this country.

    April 13, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  23. Niko_in_Richmond

    As someone who gets up and goes to a job every day, working hard to make ends meet, I don't understand how and why I am taxed more than someone who only invests his or her money. I think that it takes more effort to hold to hold Diana real job than it does to simply shuffle money around. There is something seriously wrong with the system when that is the case. Some like to point out that the money that is being invested has already been taxed at a higher rate, but so has the money that I earn in my paycheck. Someone paid taxes on it before it was passed on to me.

    April 13, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  24. Cheryl Jefferies

    So what if Obama and Biden released their tax returns. I'm more interested in MY OWN RETURN...and, how much I had to pay. And, how much more I'm paying come Jan. 1 if Obama is re-elected. And, how much more I"ll pay if he's in for 4 more years. "Buffett Thing?" That's a crock. Even Obama admits it's a "gimmick" and "won't do much to help." It's just a sop to his base and to avoid having to face up to the necessary cuts that would help. And, to keep a fair, flat tax from being implemented. Now, THAT would really hit Warren Buffett hard. Think he wants that? NEVER. He and Obama have sure suckered you people in.

    April 13, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. ST

    Brilliant Obama Admin. You are very smart in politics.

    April 13, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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