Now that Sen. Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren have more or less released their tax returns, voters have every reason to be impressed with both candidates for the Massachusetts Senate seat that's up in the fall.

What's clear is that they have both earned their outsize incomes through hard work and personal accomplishment. They should be an inspiration to Massachusetts voters. They are examples of the power of the work ethic and the opportunities for achievement and reward in this country.

It matters not a bit that Democrat Warren and her husband made nearly double what Republican Brown and his wife made over the last several years. Compared to the average person, they're both filthy rich, and only likely to get richer no matter which one wins the race in November. Voters should applaud that, not resent it.

The candidates made their 1040s available for limited examination by reporters and posted summaries online, at least for a time. They jousted over who was more forthcoming. Trying to eke out political advantage seemed a bit tawdry. The information that was made public was sufficient for most voters.

Warren released the joint federal and state returns for herself and her husband for the last four years - her time in Washington working to establish the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Brown released the joint returns for himself and his wife for the last six years, going back to his days as a state senator from Wrentham.

Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, are Harvard professors. They had an average annual income of about $845,000 over the last four years.

Brown and his wife, television reporter Gail Huff, had an average annual income of about $428,000 over the last six years, The Boston Globe reported.

The Warren family made the vaunted top 1 percent of American workers. The Brown family didn't. You could say that makes them part of the 99 percent, but more to the point, he and Huff are in the top 2 percent.

What's more impressive than the dollars, however, is the sources of income. Brown and Warren had multiple jobs at any given time. Both must be excellent multi-taskers, impressively self-disciplined and, in general, very talented.

Warren is not only a law professor (bankruptcy is her field of expertise) she went to Washington to advise President Obama and Congress on the consumer agency and bank bailouts. She served as the agency's interim director and would still be there except her appointment as director was blocked by Republicans. Warren also worked as a lawyer, a consultant and a lecturer. Her husband's Harvard salary averaged about $240,000 a year. He is a specialist in legal history.

Brown received his Senate salary and reported earning $1 million for his 2011 autobiography. He made modest amounts of money from legal work and as a state senator before being elected U.S. senator in 2010. He also had income as an officer in the Massachusetts National Guard. His wife's TV reporting jobs contributed an average of $120,000 a year to the family income.

In the end, these details don't matter. Both candidates are competent, proven and up to the job. What matters is their politics, which are very different. This is perhaps the most closely watched congressional race in the country, with the balance of power in the Senate at stake.

Their tax return tango is little more than a distraction. Voters have more important criteria for choosing who to elect.

NED BRISTOL is a member of the editorial board of The Sun Chronicle and a former editor of the newspaper. He can be contacted at

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