Video of the Day: Romney: 'I Never Paid Less Than 13%' in Taxes

During a press conference, the Republican again rebuts Harry Reid's claim that Romney didn't pay taxes at any point in the last decade.

Even with the news focused on Paul Ryan and who, if anyone, is going to cut Medicare, there's still a chorus in the media demanding to see Mitt Romney's taxes. During a press conference in Greer, South Carolina, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was again asked about his returns. Romney began by chastising his questioner, then offered some news (emphasis added):

I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces -- 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty -- the fascination with my taxes I find to be very small-minded. I did go back and look at my taxes and over the last 10 year I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 percent or something like that. I paid taxes every single year. Harry Reid's charge is totally false. I'm sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was that told him what he says they told him. I don't believe it for a minute by the way. Every year I've paid at least 13 percent, and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why, the number gets well above 20 percent.

How does Romney's effective tax rate stack up against the average American's? Here are the numbers, via the Tax Policy Center:

Bottom fifth: 1 percent
Second-to-bottom: 7.8 percent
Middle fifth: 15.5 percent
Second-highest fifth: 18.7 percent
Highest fifth: 24.3 percent

So Romney pays a lower effective tax rate than 60 percent of Americans, and those who pay lower are the poorest 40 percent of the population. And that shows Romney's trouble, and why his answer is a bit disingenuous. For example: Mitt Romney mentioned in that very statement that he wants to stop Iran from becoming nuclear, and he wants to expand the defense budget, and that requires money. Meanwhile, Romney has voiced support for reforms proposed by his running mate Paul Ryan that would reduce federal spending on entitlements. Federal revenues matter to those things. While the amount Romney is paying to the IRS every year isn't the difference between solvency and not, it's not hard to see why people care about what wealthy people like him are paying.

It's a bit confounding why Romney decided to let this one out today. Despite Ann Romney's fierce pushback against releases Wednesday, the Romney campaign has announced it will release his 2011 returns before the election, which is sure to cause another mini-firestorm. With the exception of that ticking time-bomb, the most obvious tacks would be to release his returns and get it over with -- something he has vowed not to do -- or else to refuse to address it at all. By leaking out little nuggets like this, he just keeps the appetite for tax information whetted.

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David A. Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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