After much prodding, Mitt Romney acknowledged his effective tax rate was "probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything." Great! Now Romney can answer a question nobody seems to be asking: What's he really worth?
Assuming this is true, what happened? Four years ago, The Wall Street Journal estimated the Romneys’ net worth at “between $250 million and $500 million.” The Associated Press put it in the respectable neighborhood of $350 million. The New York Times cited “analysts who track buyout firm compensation” who said “it was likely to exceed $500 million.” In a separate article, based on numbers from 2005, the Times put Romney’s assets at $260 million to $350 million.
The Times article, from May 12, 2007, is particularly interesting because Romney's campaign advisers insisted that the forthcoming FEC report had, in fact, low-balled the candidate's net worth. "The report does not include real estate that is not earning income or personal property like cars," noted the Times. Furthermore:
Although the disclosure report often sets out just broad asset categories -- for example, anything exceeding $50 million or $25 million to $50 million -- making it difficult at times to gauge actual net worth, the aides said they believed that their estimate of Mr. Romney's wealth might ultimately be more precise than what emerges from the report.
This prompts a few questions: What explains the disparity between Romney's current net worth versus four years ago? If he lost money in the markets, what sort of investments did he make?
It appears we won't get any answers -- definitive or otherwise -- until April.