Late Saturday night, the New York Times published the first page of several of Donald Trump’s tax returns that were filed in 1995. While his opponents claim triumph in establishing that Trump hasn’t been paying much in the way of taxes for many years. While anyone to the Left of Trump is calling this a victory, it needs to be emphasized that this almost certainly isn’t the information that Trump has been so desperate to hide from his supporters.
It should have been long considered a given that Donald Trump has paid little, if any, taxes over the years. Not only has he presided over some substantial business losses but the area of business that he operates in, commercial real estate, offers a wide array of legitimate deductions, ranging from depreciation, to the deductibility of interest, real estate taxes and state income taxes.
Accordingly, while the New York Times has now been able to verify that the losses that Donald Trump generated in 1995 alone were of such size that he was able to shelter a nearly a billion dollars of income from taxes in the years to follow, it’s not exactly news, only confirmation of what everyone should have known already.
So why won’t he release them?
Trumps kids took to the airwaves last month to offer a final volley about why their father won’t be releasing his tax returns. While Eric Trump took the more subtle route, claiming it would be “foolish” to do so due to his fathers ongoing IRS audit, Junior said something far more revealing: release the tax returns would “detract” from his political message.
Based on the response of his supporters, that he generated such large business losses and was able to carry them forward is not detracting from his message. And that should have been assumed long ago, given the right wing’s particular animosity towards taxation. Alarmingly, though, may of his supporters treat his ability to generate such huge losses as an act of genius, rather than the business incompetence that it actually was.
We have to circle back and consider what else might be buried in Donald Trump’s tax returns from his later years. You know, the years after he went bust and most U.S. banks would have nothing to do with him.
Consider how Donald riles up his supporters with much anger when discussing the Wall Street banks that refuse to do business with him, household names like Citigroup, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, contrasted with the amount of praise that he lavishes on authoritarian leaders, it makes me wonder whether this praise is due to their leadership styles alone, or if, perhaps, it was because they opened their wallets to him when more traditional financiers refused him. After all, it’s documented that he went with hat in hand to Prince Alweed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, and to Libya’s Colonel Qadaffi, so who else has he approached over the years?
That’s why I continue to think the big story in his tax returns has yet to be revealed. The amount he pays should never have been the primary question, but rather who exactly he has gotten in bed with once U.S. lenders closed their wallets. Is he heavily indebted to Russian oligarchs or are they merely silent partners in his ventures? These are questions that should be easy to learn if he would release his tax returns, and the answers might be shocking enough to jar the faith of even the more stubborn members of his base.
It’s easy to imagine that having it laid out in black and white that he’s in bed with some of our biggest rivals as being the sort of thing that would “detract” from the message he wants his supporters to hear in a way far more damaging than carrying forward tax losses has done.
We hope that whoever in his organization saw fit to send the New York Times with this preview into his finances, is willing and able to provide us with the greater clarity we’ll gain by seeing his more recent returns.