Fortune's Allan Sloan: Obama's Tax Return Is a Masterful 'Political Document'

"Forgive my skepticism -- all right, I guess you can call it cynicism -- but the more I look at Obama's return, the more it strikes me as being a much more a political document than a financial document," Fortune magazine senior editor Allan Sloan noted in a column in today's Washington Post.

"Despite Obama having significant net worth, his return shows not a penny of tax-advantaged capital gains or dividend income" which stands in "striking contrast to the 2010 return and projected 2011 return of Mitt Romney," Sloan added. Yet while Sloan ostensibly is annoyed with the cynical class warfare gamesmanship of Obama's tax return, he spent most of his column blasting Mitt Romney for being tone-deaf to how liberal opponents (and by extension the liberal media) would scrutinize his finances:

When I first read Romney’s 2010 tax return, which he released in January under pressure from his Republican opponents, I was shocked by how politically clueless it felt. Here were all sorts of games — obscure tax credits, a Swiss bank account — that were legitimate and above board, but didn’t save much money if any, and that looked and smelled bad to an average person.

I mean, come on. Romney has been running for president for years. You’d think that somewhere along the way, someone would have explained to him that it was better to pay a few extra bucks to the IRS and clean up his return for public consumption by forgoing some deductions and credits, rather than having to explain a Swiss bank account and tacky-looking tax credits.

By contrast, Obama’s tax return is politically astute. Even his biggest tax maneuver — sticking $49,000 of his book income into a retirement plan — doesn’t leap out as egregious, the way Romney’s capital gains income does. Obama’s retirement deduction helps explain why his effective tax rate was 20.5 percent and mine was 25.1 percent, even though he earned more than twice what I did, and (since I’m not running for public office) my return shows tax-exempt income and tax-advantaged dividends.

Sloan laughably concluded with his hope "that next year, things will have calmed down enough in our country for the presidential tax return to be a financial document, not a political one."

The Fortune editor, apparently, is so myopic when it comes to his biases that he can't see that it's pundits like him who have create the journalistic climate that judges tax returns through a political lens rather than a financial one.

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Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.