Mitt Romney's new rich-guy problem

He's done a Cameron: Got in trouble for a horse.

Mitt Romney's done a Cameron. He's in trouble because of a horse.

The New York Times:

Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, who plan to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in London this summer, now have a personal rooting interest in the event. Jan Ebeling, Mrs. Romney’s longtime riding tutor, and his horse Rafalca, co-owned by Mrs. Romney, earned a berth on the United States Olympic dressage team on Saturday.

Mitt Romney owns a horse. Not just any horse – an Olympic standard dressage horse. You know dressage – it's that horse-based sport which is second only to polo in its near-total lack of relateability to your average American voter.

The Romneys actually declared a loss of $77,000 on their ownership of the horse in 2010, and according to Matt Yglesias, the horse-related tax code is more complex than us non-horse-owning mortals could comprehend:

The way this works is that [the horse's owners] have together formed a corporate entity called "Rob Rom Enterprises LLC" which owns Rafalca and pays for his upkeep. The Romneys reported $77,731 in "passive losses" related to their investment in Rob Rom Enterprises but of that their account only deemed $50 to be actually eligible for deduction. The forms don't explain the thinking behind that, but it's probably because losses from your horse corporation can't be used to offset unrelated income. If Rafalca had brought in more money, then Rafalca's care and feeding expenses could be deducted from that income, but in 2010 Rob Rom Enterprises doesn't seem to have had much income.

That said, now that Rafalca is heading to the Olympics, he's likely to suddenly start bringing in a lot more money, which that $77,000 can be offset against. So at some point, Romney probably will end up paying less taxes because of a horse.

Horses: Not good for your reputation as a world-leader (unless you're Putin)

A dressage horse (and rider). Not Romney's dressage horse, sadly. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.