By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
There is a famous saying that the only things which are inevitable is death and taxes. Last week Donald Trump proved that adage false!
The New York Times has reported that according to documents filed in New York State and Connecticut back in the 1990s, Donald Trump suffered business loses of almost $1 billion in 1995 and paid no federal taxes that year and probably none for the succeeding 18 years. Yes… Mr. Trump despite having assets of over $10 billion (according to statements made by Trump himself) probably paid zero in federal taxes since the days when Bill Clinton was president and Derek Jeter was a rookie. That is a very long time.
Trump’s defense was that he did not have to pay because he was able to amortize his losses over a nearly a two-decade period, so he chose not to contribute anything to the national treasury. Moreover he asserts that it was his “duty” as the CEO of Trump industries to pay Uncle Sam as little as he could get away with. In this case zilch. So clearly his first responsibility was to enrich himself and his company by any means available to him. Is that unpatriotic or self-indulgent to the extreme? The voters will have the last word on that.
For months now, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns has been a big issue in this presidential campaign. First he said he would make them available “soon.” Then he said that he could not because his last few years were still under IRS audit. Then when the IRS said that he could certainly release that information, his son said his father would continue to refuse because by doing so, it would distract voters from the real issues. Huh? What could be a more real issue than discovering what holdings or conflicts of interest might exist in a candidate’s behavior which could have an impact on future presidential decisions? That is why every candidate since 1972 has followed suit by releasing at least their last year of tax returns and most for multiple years. Hillary Clinton has released 40 years of tax records for the press and public to inspect.
Donald Trump and his loyal band of surrogates have insisted that not paying federal taxes proves how savvy he is. They say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a billionaire taking advantage of tax shelters to pay nothing at all. Trump goes even goes farther by stating that since he is expert at not paying taxes and knows how to take advantage of the system, that he will fix the very problem that he exploited. Talk about circular reasoning!
However, in the tax reform plan that he released several months ago, the Trump tax shelter was not mentioned as a problem that needed a cure. So much for straight talk. Mr. Trump only had his conversion moment after the press revealed that which he has tried so hard to conceal about his tax escapades. And still he refuses to release the only documents that would show definitively how much Mr. Trump paid in federal, state and property taxes, as well as where he invested his money and his charitable contributions if any.
For instance did Mr. Trump disclose that he had business investments in Cuba when that was strictly illegal under federal law? Most accountants were stunned that the self-proclaimed financial wizard managed to lose $916 million in 1995 when the economy was booming and the real estate market in particular was going great guns.
The reason why all this is so important, aside from the lack of transparency on the part of Mr. Trump by his refusal to do what every presidential candidate has done for 44 years, is that most of Mr. Trump’s campaign was predicated on his business acumen and his boast that he alone knows how to improve the economy for everyone, and not just the fabulously wealthy. This claim shrinks every day in the light of facts as do his chances of winning the presidency.
At the end of the day the story may still be about the inevitability of death and taxes. By continuing to refuse to level with the American electorate about his taxes Donald Trump may be insuring his political death.