Tax fight gets personal as Obama and Biden returns released
April 13th, 2012
08:27 AM ET
2 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.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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. DC Johnny

    And if the liberals get their way, there will never ever again be a President of the United States who was once a CEO, or is currently a multi-millionaire or billionaire, or has any true devout faith, regardless of their other qualifications or merit.

    We are being instructed to look the other way about Obama's abhorrent preacher, his association with unrepentant domestic terrorists, his narcotic use, and his refusal to release transcripts to prove he is the scholar he pretends to be. And all this while actively shredding the constitution day after day.

    April 13, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. Martoon

    What did George Soros pay in U.S. taxes???????

    April 13, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. CATom

    Funny that they keep saying that Obamas jobs record is so poor. How many months of straight private sector job growth has he seen? 26 I think. As it is I turnned down a job offer yesterday because I just started a bachelors program and moved into a new apartment.

    April 13, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. Lauren R.

    Ha ha HA HAAA! Obama has to resort to nonsense because he knows he can't bring up his lousy record of the last 3 years. He also knows that his solution to solving the deficit is unpopular. Instead of cutting government spending (except defense, which he's happy to cut) he wants to RAISE taxes and make the tax code MORE complicated. Romney wants to cut spending, lower taxes where rates are too high, simplify the tax code, and get rid of many of the loopholes (that wealthy people disproportionally take advantage of). Obama is happy to keep government spending at 25% of GDP while Romney wants to cut it back to the historical average of about 20%. Whose ideas do you think make more sense?

    April 13, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. Ray

    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.
    -----------------------------------------–

    At least he has not lined his pockets on the government dime like Obama – writing books when he is in the emplotyment of the government. Any one else would be castigated for such. And as far a losing jobs Obama has presided over the largest decimation of employment in American history – we have less people employed now than whe he started.

    April 13, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  6. Oliver

    Its common sense that the wealthy should pay at least as much as the middle class in tax percentage. If these so called job creators were actually creating jobs it would be one thing, but over the last decade of the lowest rates in modern history, we've seen more jobs shipped over seas, money stashed into foreign banks, etc. While the rich have doubled, even tripled their wealth, the poor and middle class continue to struggle to get by. I make 50k and 30% of my income goes to the state and fed. Why should someone who makes 1 million pay less, when clearly they can afford at least as much as I do.

    Be a patriot, pay your taxes and help lift up the system that made you wealthy. Without all those people driving your cabs, making your coffee, buying your products, building your homes...without everyday Americans, the rich would never have made it in the first place. Give back to your country.

    April 13, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Chris from Chicago

    This "My effective tax rate is bigger than yours!" contest is getting out of hand. The rhetoric about "millionaires paying their fair share" is so far out of touch with the truth it is actually hard to believe. Obama discusses fairness, yet his tax situation seems a lot more favorable then what a lot of small business owners with less income will experience.

    Obama needs to take his "Buffet Rule" election day trickery out of this discussion and start talking about how we can fix the complicated tax system and bridge the gap between our budget and our spending!

    April 13, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. Christian

    Neither Mr. Romney nor President Obama are in violation of the tax code. Romney gets the exact same capital gains tax rate that everyone else gets, including the Obama's and you and I. The only issue I have the the treatment of carried interest as capital gains rather than ordinary income. If the interest is earned on contributed monetary capital then that should be treated as capital gains. Otherwise, it is earned ordinary income.

    April 13, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. Tony

    DC Johnny – you are a bald-faced liar regarding the President's record. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    April 13, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. Dale B

    Here CNN goes again. This is yet another one sided, distorted report intended to inflame class warfare in CNN's ongoing effort to get Obama reelected.

    The artful spin between arguments involving percentages and absolute amounts is quite telling. The "new tax cut every year that is greater than the amount a middle class tax payer pays" avoids the reality that the amount the wealthy tax payer actually pays is 50 times what the middle class tax payer pays.

    The wealthy pay 52% of the taxes in this country, while the spin proliferated by CNN would suggest that the wealthy do not pay taxes.

    As far as Buffet goes, he want to increase taxes now that he as amassed his wealth. His personal power is enhanced if he can limit other from becoming equally wealthy.

    The whole issue is bogus. The Obama campaign strategy is to create animus. Whether it be on issues of wealth, race or gender they have a program to inflame each category. In the case of wealth and women they promote needless legislation as a vehicle to promote the false illusion of unfairness. On race all they have to do is the stir the pot with things like Martin.

    April 13, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. The Film Professor

    People, ever since the Reagan days, we have done nothing in this country except shift income upwards. Talk about redistribution of income!!!! We've let Wall Street ruin our industrial economy through their leverage buyouts and corporate greed schemes by companies like Bain Capital, and it has destroyed the American Middle Class. The LEAST we can do is make these SOB's pay their fare share of taxes. No, it will not solve our deficit problem. But it will restore some fairness to this very unfair system we have, that has the very few get EXTREMELY wealthy while 90% of Americans have seen their actual incomes decline (in relation to inflation) over the past 30 years.

    April 13, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Jerry

    America, don't be fooled, AGAIN!!! The so called "Buffet Rule" is really an Obama tax. Mr. Obama is just NOT honest and sincere enough to call it what IT IS. He continues to shamelessly lie to the face of the American populace.

    Now the Democrats are trying to deviate and cover up the moronic comments about Ann Romney made by an Obama close campaign staffer and regular White House visitor.

    Their lame and weak explanations and excuses hold absolutely no truth.

    My beloved Democratic party continues to be highjacked by Mr. Obama and his lying butt kissers. What a shame!

    Stay tuned...

    April 13, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Martoon asked:

    What did George Soros pay in U.S. taxes???????
    --------------
    Nothing that I know about. Stay tuned. Story at 11.

    April 13, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Fair is Fair

    Mallory Archer asked:

    "Why are CDs and Money Market accounts taxed as regular income?"
    ------
    They're taxed as "ordinary income" (versus "earned income", on which payroll taxes are levied... or "investment income", such as capital gains). The difference, Mallory, is that with investment income, there is an element of RISK... that is, there is no guarantee that one can expect a positive return on investment, and in fact, no one even guarantees the original amount invested. CD's and money markets, on the other hand, are guaranteed a specific rate of return, and the principal is guaranteed by the FDIC up to $250,000 per account. Simple, isn't it?

    April 13, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. Peter

    Ray......hello....still in a coma? When Obama took over in January we had lost 600,000 jobs that month compliments of your pal Bush. Where do you come up with your twisted thought process? You and your ilk must live in caves. Truly bizarre.

    April 13, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. GMAN-64

    Well let's see now......CNN sure did a fine job of hiding this article so that it wouldn't be easy to find.

    I wonder why? Could it be because their man Obama is a 1%'er who pays a lower tax rate than the average person?

    When is Occupy Wall Street going to be picketing the White House??

    April 13, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  17. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    ST - Brilliant Obama Admin. You are very smart in politics.
    -----------------------–
    Unfortunately playing politics is ALL they know how to do. They have proven themselves incompetents when it comes to solving the problems the country faces.

    April 13, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  18. v_mag

    "Real" said: "Obama and the Democrats are now demonizing "rich people" and blah blah blah.

    Nobody has to make them into demons. They ARE demons. Demonstrably, so to speak. Look at the way Rom-money has destroyed the lives of so many working people. Look at the way their money controls who gets elected. Look as the expanding gap between rich and poor that threatens to turn this country into a third world garbage dump. Sure, there are exceptions, and it's "nice" when they donate to charity (always with their name firmly attached, so really they are just buying favorable publicity.)

    Money is not "money" to rich people the way it is to the rest of us. We working folks use money for necessities and the occasional bit of pleasure. Rich people use it to control other people. It's power to them, just like a nuclear weapon would be. To be truly rich is to wield power over your fellow human being, and that is far from what democracy is about.

    King George (and I don't mean GWB this time) had that kind of power over our ancestors, and they fought a war to break his hold. Surely, we can control the abuses of the rich in our country today, if we recognize it and unite against it.

    April 13, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    how the FJFJFJSLLSFJ does Obama get taxed only 20% None of that is capital gains.

    April 13, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. iab

    Thank God Americans are waking up. Mitt and Ann have no clue as to what the middle class is all about. Mitt's only mission is to make surfs and slaves out of the middle class and working poor. If he is elected POTUS 1st he will destroy all unions that stresses fair wages, safe work environment and benefits. 2nd. he will destroy all regulations by not funding the agencies that protect food, water, air, imports and the American ppl.

    The GOP are great SPIN MASTERS and the less informed, ppl who have no clue as to how the three branches work vote against their own self interest. Check suprm ct 10/2010, Judge Thomas's wife lobbyist for ins companies, she made over 600k. He should not even be able to vote on healthcare decision. U ppl who r pro Mitt should do more research into his past. He IS NOT FOR THE MIDDLE OR WORKING CLASS AMERICANS. You voted in the GOP and now our postal workers are being laid off and post offices closed. THE GOP IS NOT A FRIEND OF AMERICAN PPL. How many jobs did the wealthy create when they got the tax reductions, none in fact the unemployment rate went up, check it out. There is so much more and I bag you to educate yourselves by conducting research via computer or local library. Their are too many wealthy folks in DC who are supposed to represent all Americans but they are only interested in themselves and their wealthy who have bought and paid for them. Pres.O. knows this and that is why the wealthy want him out. We must elect him to a second term so he can work for the middle class and working poor. Thank God many Americans are waking up.

    April 13, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Dave asked on page 3:

    Truth001: Romney paid about 35% on his income while at Bain. Now, he is paying about 15% on his investments from his initial income. Should he pay 75%, 80%? What is really fair?
    -----------–
    75%? You have no idea what percentage MItt Romney paid at Bain. Don't be ridiculous. But, the answer to question is 42. 42. It is the answer to everything, including the meaning of the universe. And, it's Friday.

    April 13, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Marie MD

    Hey the flip flopper "didn't make it" on his own. His grandaddy moved to mexicoto have eight wives and for all we know he could be the anchor baby his father needed when he moved back to the US.
    His family has money which he liked to burn along with his elite friends as a teenager.

    April 13, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    Rudy NYC
    The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth wrote:
    Ok, so Obama is a millionaire. WHY is he taking a salary as Presdient and not returning it? Romney did this while he was governor of Mass.
    -----
    Because he wanted to keep earned income at zero in order to escape the AMT. It is euphemistically known as philanthropy.
    ===================================================================================================

    As usual Rudy, you didn't answer the question posed about Obama. Why is HE still accepting his salary as president if he is a millionaire. He is being greedy by his and the Democrats own standards. He needs to decline his salary like the Democrats would expect other rich people to do. And if you want to get right down to brass tacks, his performance doesn't warrant paying him a salary!

    April 13, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Howard

    Obama and Biden are both one percentes, who are inviting other one percenters, to pay $30,000 to $40,000 per plate, for their reelection campaign contributions, while they demonize percenters. What Hypocrisy.

    April 13, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  25. callmecrazy

    So here we go again. The same tired argument of paying different tax rates. I think we should go with flat tax rates the same for everyone, but let's wait until more people are back to work and the economy can withstand government cuts that are desperately needed. "Can't we all just get along?"

    April 13, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16