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U.S. President Barack Obama has a deal for “Republican” presidential nominee Mitt Romney – release five years of his tax returns and Obama’s campaign will drop the issue.

“Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide,” an Obama aide said this week. “If the Governor will release five years of returns … we will not criticize him for not releasing more.”

If this debate sounds familiar … it should.

Romney refused to release any of his tax returns during the GOP primary – an “annoying and politically damaging delay” that left many voters with the impression that he had something to hide.  He eventually released his return for 2010, which showed that he and his wife raked in $21.6 million – most of it from investments.

Romney paid 13.9 percent of that haul to the government – and has recently said that he has paid about a 13 percent rate over the last decade.  He has also denied allegations by U.S. Senate Leader Harry Reid that he did not pay any taxes in certain years.  Obviously that’s much less than the 25 to 28 percent that most Americans pay.

Let’s be clear about one thing … Romney is under absolutely no obligation whatsoever to release his tax returns (although doing so has become the norm in presidential campaigns).  He has the right to withhold this information because technically it’s nobody’s business but his own – although as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin once wrote “the American people have a funny way of determining what is and isn’t their business.”

More importantly, we believe that the solution to the tax inequity exposed here is simple: Lower taxes for everyone to a fair, flat rate.  Of course that would involve government confining itself to core functions (a concept that’s apparently foreign to Romney).