Monday, October 25, 2004
Last Wednesday, we blogged the Wall Street Journal op-ed critical of Teresa Heinz Kerry's release of 2 pages of her 2003 federal tax return. Michael Kinsley rose to her defense in Sunday's Washington Post. Here are some excerpts:
• Teresa Heinz Kerry released her 2003 income tax Form 1040 the other day, and the right-wing commentariat claims to find her tax situation deeply ironic. On income of over $5 million, she paid federal income taxes of just $627,150, or 12.4%. As a Wall Street Journal editorial last Monday put it, this "means she is paying a lower average rate than nearly all middle-class taxpayers." This was declared to be a devastating comment on John Kerry's tax plans. It shows that they "are much more about a revenue grab than they are about tax justice," the Journal put it. The point is echoing in talk-radioland. It is another example of what I wrote about last week: the fantastic ability of Bush supporters to turn anything into dirt.
• More than half of Teresa Kerry's 2003 income was interest from tax-exempt bonds. The Journal hilariously described these on Monday as "the kind of investments that rich people can afford to hire lawyers and accountants to steer their money into." And the paper predicted that "mega-millionaires such as Mrs. Kerry" will avoid her husband's higher taxes through "tax shelters" like this one, leaving ordinary $200,000 taxpayers to shoulder the burden. In fact, tax-exempt bonds are hardly an exotic tax-avoidance technique requiring lawyers and accountants. Anyone with a hundred bucks can buy into a mutual fund of tax-exempt bonds with a simple call to Fidelity or Charles Schwab. The Wall Street Journal got it precisely wrong: The remarkable thing about Teresa Kerry's tax return is that this fabulously rich woman apparently has most of her income-producing wealth stashed in an utterly mundane and non-exclusive form of investment.
• The right-wing commentariat, and the Wall Street Journal in particular, are not against the rich or the super-rich. They are not against people avoiding taxes. They are just against Teresa Kerry. For a person that rich to be a Democrat seems somehow like cheating.
For prior TaxProf Blog coverage, see here
, and here