Senator Lindsey Graham Says Avoiding Taxes Like Mitt Romney Is ‘Really American’

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Just trying to help.
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

As the entire Democratic apparatus (including this morning, a Times editorial) blasts Mitt Romney for putting his money in Swiss banks and Caribbean tax shelters, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is defending Romney thusly:

Mitt Romney shouldn't be criticized for using off-shore tax havens because "it's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday ...

"It's a game we play," Graham said. "Every American tries to find the way to get the most deductions they can. I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game."

He's right. Paying as few taxes as legally possible is arguably our most widespread national pastime. Everybody does it, to a degree. Mitt Romney may have had more options than most people, but he's essentially playing the same game as Joe Schmo and his lesser-known wife, Betty Schmo. 

That doesn't stop these foreign accounts from highlighting just how privileged Romney is compared to the average American, which is why the Romney campaign has claimed that Romney derived no tax benefits from parking his savings abroad. "The tax consequences to the Romneys are the very same whether the fund is domiciled here or another country," a campaign official told ABC News in January, regarding Romney's Caymans-invested I.R.A.. As Vanity Fair concluded in its exposé on Romney's money, that is "simply not true." And now Lindsey Graham appears to agree.