A reporter at the New York Times received an envelope last week with pages from would-be dictator Donald J. Trump’s 1995 tax returns. Trump, you will remember, is the first presidential candidate in 40 years to refuse to publicly disclose his tax returns. It is the bipartisan consensus of all political observers that disclosing tax returns is the bare minimum a candidate for the highest office in the land must do so that the public can evaluate their fiscal condition, their financial responsibility, and any conflicts of interest that may arise from a candidate’s business holdings.
The Times reported over the weekend that the 1995 documents it received showed that Trump declared a business loss in 1995 of some $916 million, mostly from the collapse of Trump’s casino businesses in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He elected to carry that loss forward to future tax years, meaning that he could shelter up to $60 million in annual income for 18 years without paying a nickel in income taxes.
The revelation that Donald Trump lost nearly a billion dollars in a single year raises many questions, but does go far in explaining why he refuses to disclose his tax returns. At the debate last Monday night Hillary Clinton suggested a number of reasons Trump may be hesitant to disclose his tax returns:
So you’ve gotta ask yourself: Why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.
Trump, of course, interrupted Clinton on that last point claiming he’s “smart” for not paying anything in federal taxes, a conclusion that the records obtained by the Times strongly supports.
Some would retort that Trump’s extreme tactics to avoid paying taxes are unpatriotic, self-centered, and disqualify him from high office.
Some may say that business dealings that leave investors penniless but give Trump the ability to avoid taxes are sketchy to the point of lawlessness.
Guess what I think?