Income Tax Returns? They’re Private.
Well, it looks like Russian collusion has fizzled, so Democrats - and some Republicans - are back to beating the drum for President Trump to release his tax returns.
Another crowd - can’t tell if they’re on the left or right, probably both - are demanding Bernie Sanders release HIS.
I don’t give a rip about Trump’s taxes. Or Bernie’s. Or anyone else’s. Last time I checked, tax returns were supposed to be private.
Yes, I know that since 1976 all presidential candidates have made some of their tax returns public. So what? It’s not a law. If they don’t want to let the world see their tax information, they can’t be forced to do so.
Of course, voters are free to read into that refusal anything they like. Is the candidate hiding something? Is he or she just being obstinate?
Look, I assume rich people do what I and most middle class taxpayers do: They hire a tax preparer (shoot, Trump probably hires an army of them) to make sure they pay what they owe and not a dime more. They take advantage of every one of the bazillion tax exemptions, deductions and craven loopholes Congress has created over the years. And they pay as little as legally possible.
It’s the American way.
Last Wednesday, a congressional tax committee demanded that the IRS turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. You know where this is headed: to court. For a legal battle that will enrich a pack of lawyers and might drag on past the 2020 elections.
Congress apparently has the right to demand private tax returns, as uncomfortable as some of us might be with that concept.
But even if Congress does get its grubby mitts on Trump’s returns members cannot disclose what’s in them. That’s a felony. Once the leaks start, criminal prosecutions could follow. This could get interesting.
Still, the notion of politicians weaponizing tax returns is repugnant.
Anyone else remember back in 2012 when Democrats hated Mitt Romney (before he emerged as a critic of Trump’s and they started to like him) and the loathsome Harry Reid said the wealthy businessman hadn’t paid taxes in a decade?
It was a malicious lie, according to The Washington Post. But as Reid later said, it worked. Romney lost.
One of the strangest incidents of the 2012 presidential campaign was when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid accused then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of having not paid any taxes over the past decade. That Reid made that allegation from the floor of the Senate made it even odder.
The problem with Reid's allegation? It's just not true. We know that, at least in 2011 and 2010, Romney did pay taxes. How do we know that? Because Romney released his tax returns for those years. In 2011, Romney paid $1.9 million in taxes; in 2010, he paid slightly more than $3 million in taxes.
Our own Fact Checker gave Reid Four Pinocchios for his "no taxes" claim. PolitiFact gave the claim a "Pants on Fire" rating.
Yet Reid (D-Nev.) not only refuses to retract the allegation but also seems to take great pride in it. When pressed by CNN's Dana Bash last year about continuing to defend a statement that is not true, Reid responded, "Romney didn't win, did he?"
Over the weekend Romney weighed in on the attempt to sieze Trump’s tax returns. He called the move “moronic.”
He would know.
Attempts to shame Sanders into opening his tax returns are similarly inane.
Look, Bernie Sanders reportedly owns three homes. His rumpled, socialist act may be just that. An act. He seems to enjoy the fruits of capitalism.
So what? He’s not the only hypocrite in Washington. And he’s reportedly one of the poorest members of the Senate.
I have zero interest in seeing Bernie’s tax returns. We do know he earns $174,000 a year as a U.S. Senator, more than three times Vermont’s median income of $57,513. If he and his wife made canny investments that yielded them enough to buy multiple homes, well, good for them. They’re smarter than most of us thought they were. If his books are generating millions of dollars, well, there’s no accounting for the taste of the American reading public.
Until someone can show that Bernie amassed his wealth illegally, I don’t care if he keeps his tax returns private.
Same goes for Trump.
I’m not sure why the left is itching to see the president’s returns. Do they think he’s a tax cheat? Do they want to show that he’s exaggerated his fortune? (Shoot, that’s a given. The president’s a serial exaggerator.) Do they think he took advantage of loopholes that allowed him to declare negative income and drastically reduce his tax bill? We know he did that back in the 1980s. Or are they hoping to find something they can use to revive impeachment?
Fact is, Trump was elected in 2016 without showing his returns. He claimed he was under audit and would release the returns once the IRS was finished. If he doesn’t release the documents by 2020, the electorate will have to decide if that’s a deal-breaker this time.
Frankly, I wish Trump would release his returns - not because I want to see them - but to quiet the jackals.
For a while, that is. Until they find something else to howl about.