$374,000 Is "Not Very Much" To Mitt Romney — Which Is Why He Should Pay Higher Taxes

January 17, 2012 12:39 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has an interesting idea of what constitutes "not very much" money:

Mr. Romney added: "And then I get speaker's fees from time to time, but not very much."

In fact, in the most recent year, Mr. Romney made $374,327.62 in speaker's fees, at an average of $41,592 per speech, according to his public financial disclosure reports.

To put Romney's speech income in context, $374,000 in speaking fees in a single year is — by itself — enough to land Romney among the top 1 percent of all Americans. It's about $200,000 more than the median home sale price. It's nearly enough to pay for four years at Harvard for two people. It's enough to buy a five-bedroom house in Indianapolis, with enough left over to buy two new Lexus sedans to park in the two-car garage. In other words: $374,000 is a lot of money.

But that's only half the story. The other half is that Mitt Romney is right: $374,000 is "not very much" money— to Mitt Romney. Romney's net worth is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars, so that speech income is one- or two-tenths of 1 percent of his net worth. The median American household has a net worth of about $100,000; one-tenth of 1 percent of that is $100. So $374,000 is to Mitt Romney what $100 is to the median household. (Actually, it's even less to Romney, since a marginal dollar is significantly less important to a quarter-billionaire than to someone struggling to put food on the table.)

That's what makes the low tax rate Romney pays — at most about 15 percent, as he acknowledged today — so absurd. Romney pays a lower effective tax rate than many middle-class families, even though he can easily afford to pay a much higher rate. $374,000 is pocket change to Romney. Paying significantly higher taxes wouldn't be any kind of hardship on him at all. But Romney thinks he should keep paying a lower tax rate than people who make less than 1 percent as much as he does — and wants to cut tax rates for millionaires twice as much as for everyone else.

And if you have a problem with a quarter-billionaire to whom $374,000 is pocket change paying a lower tax rate than you do, you're just jealous.