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Our Right to Know VS. His Right to Privacy

We’re going to veer slightly off course today, and discuss a current issue not directly related to our usual focus on pension plans and investing. Let’s delve into the upcoming presidential election. Not enough to cause the bile to rise, mind you, but only to ponder a particular issue that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been forced to deal with.

Here are the facts. Romney is a rich man. His personal wealth has been estimated at $250 million dollars, which is just about enough to finance a successful White House bid. During the Republican primary season, Romney’s competitors began raising the issue of his personal financial transparency or lack thereof. In short, they wanted to see his tax returns.

Even though he eventually did release a few years of data, Romney bristled at the suggestion that his private finances should be made public. Barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance, Mr. Romney will receive the GOP presidential nomination and gird his loins for battle against the Incompetent in Chief, Barack Hussein Obama.

Realizing that the transparency issue might gain some traction, the Obama team has spent the last few weeks publicly hypothesizing that there MUST be some sort of smoking gun in Romney’s financial documents. Surely he couldn’t have gotten that wealthy without breaking at least a few dozen tax laws. Though they will deny it to the core of their socialist souls, the implied assumption is that it’s bad to be wealthy. You must have screwed someone over to get there.

And while we agree that the public certainly has the right to know the character and inclinations of the man or woman we elect to the highest office in the land, is it our prerogative to be offered a glimpse into the details of their private financial life? At Heroic Investing, we say maybe not. There’s this little thing called the right to privacy guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights, and though anyone who willfully chooses to run for president can assume THERE is nothing the other side won’t stoop to when it comes to smearing, our conclusion is the buck’s got to stop somewhere.

It’s not the public’s right to know EVERYTHING.

As Mr. Romney keeps reminding the talking head “journalists,” who echo the Obama record release demand at every campaign stop, his investments are managed by a blind trust. He has no idea exactly what his wealth is located. For any journalist who might be reading this and find it difficult to comprehend, the whole idea behind a blind trust is to provide a level of separation between a public office holder and his or her money.

The interesting aspect to all this is that our president is trying to paint the idea of right to privacy as a bad thing, proceeding on the assumption that it is a politician’s duty to lay his personal life bare for all to see. The further assumption is that someone who chooses not to release every bit of personal financial data MUST be hiding something.
For those who might not remember, Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, who also had substantial personal wealth, ran for president back in 1964 and decided to release his tax returns for the previous 12 years. Like father, NOT like son. Mitt doesn’t believe it’s anyone’s business and we tend to agree. In the absence of any specific claims of wrongdoing, the only “evidence” being a shrill Obama claim that Romney MIGHT have done something wrong, the obvious question becomes exactly when did the public right to know come to trump the individual right to privacy?.

What is the right to privacy and where does it come from? Here’s a quote from the ACLU on the matter:

The right to privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution, but the Supreme Court has said that several of the amendments create this right. One of the amendments is the Fourth Amendment, which stops the police and other government agents from searching us or our property without “probable cause” to believe that we have committed a crime. Other amendments protect our freedom to make certain decisions about our bodies and our private lives without interference from the government.

Last time we checked, Mr. Obama was (unfortunately) part of the government. Hey, Barack, stop interfering with Mr. Romney’s private life. You got a beef with the guy, go after him on philosophical issues. Whining about tax returns is juvenile and disingenuous.

The Heroic Investing Team






Flickr / Austen Hufford


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