Could someone as wealthy as Mitt Romney actually pay zilch in federal income tax, as Senate majority leader Harry Reid has been openly intimating? Yes, theNew York Times concluded last week, after analyzing new IRS data on America’s top 400 incomes. In 2009, six of these had zero tax liability. The untaxed richtypically owe their tax-free status to legally suspect tax shelters, and Romney’s business record, tax experts Edward Kleinbard and Peter Canellos have justdetailed, reveals an executive comfortable operating at the legal “edge.” As audit chair of the Marriott hotel empire, Romney okayed a maneuver that created a “gigantic tax loss out of thin air.” And under Romney, adds Bloomberg, Bain Capital funneled $1 billion to tax havens in Luxemburg to avoid Italian taxes on a buyout deal that landed Romney an over $50 million personal windfall . . .
These have become giddy days for New York’s top luxury realtors. One of their own, super broker Dolly Lenz, is hosting her own new CNBC show on the “Secret Lives of the Super Rich,” and the going rates on Manhattan’s choicest apartments are soaring. In June, Las Vegas casino king Steve Wynn paid $70 million for a 10,882-square-foot duplex overlooking Central Park. Now another apartment owner in the same building is asking $50 million for a place less than half the size of Wynn's that sold for only $21 million just five years ago, right before the Wall Street meltdown . . .
Let’s hear it for the Middle Ages, at least on one score. Societies in medieval Europe found “blatantly selfish economic behavior,” says Stanford historian Linda Stokes, “simply unacceptable.” Stokes last week summed up her research into years of old court depositions and other medieval legal and financial papers. What would the entrepreneurs of those times think of our contemporary CEOs? Observes the Stanford researcher: “A medieval businessman would surely be impressed by the successes of his modern descendants, but he would also despise them as men without honor or virtue.”