So how could Romney amass up to $100 million in his IRA account when official rules limit contributions to about $6,000/year?
Easy—you contribute an undervalued asset to your account, which then mysteriously explodes in value! Not something the average investor can do, but if you're the CEO of Bain Capital you might accomplish with deft accounting and legal maneuvering.
Like it or not, Americans would like to know if a President is dealing from a straight deck. So far, Romney's denials have only inflamed speculation he has played loosely with the tax code, even if acting legally but thwarting its intent (e.g., the IRA rules).
Contrary to Romney's assertions, vast sums of money spent inventing legal and accounting gimmicks do not create useful jobs. It is called "rent seeking." It is reallocating resources from useful activity to wasteful activity, trying to get around the rules others are playing by. Are people who adhere to rules simply "saps"?
Is rent-seeking immoral? It all depends on the circumstances. Are we at war-time and are you selling secrets to the enemy? Romney's alleged sins don't come close to this. But they might reflect a rejection of the view that "we're in this together" and "everyone should do their part." Bottom line: Can you lead the nation and ask for sacrifice if you appear to have run from it yourself?
Charles E. Wilson is misquoted saying "What's good for General Motors is good for the country." Likewise, many today seem to think that what's best for the hedge fund industry is best for America. That's not a mistake Adam Smith would have made. When appointed Commissioner of Customs in Scotland Smith burned all his old clothes, admitting they had been smuggled in from the continent without paying duty. While Smith could have maintained his wardrobe by not becoming a government agent, he clearly saw the contradiction and hypocrisy of trying to do both. Is there a lesson here for Romney?