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.
Here’s an idea for bringing about some sorely needed unity between the two parties, on January 20th, when
(Hillary Clinton) the next President takes office, I propose that (she) they immediately sit down with the leaders of the House and Senate to amend the 1978 Ethics in Government Act with a new “Trump Rule” to account for newly discovered inadequacies in financial disclosure requirements. Shouldn’t be too difficult, since he’s on the bad side of both parties.
Trump’s long time advisor and confidant Roger Stone has added his name to the long list of voices calling on The Donald to release his tax returns for public review, responding to a reporters question on the subject “I think he should release his tax returns immediately“.
When Hillary Clinton released her 2015 tax return that she filed jointly with Bill (posted publicly, along with all of their other tax returns from 2007 to present), and Trump fans wasted no time digging into them to see what dirt they could find.
Naturally, they set their sights on the Clinton Foundation, found the $1 million charitable deduction they took for a donation to their Foundation and claimed “Ah ha! Look what I found!”. The problem is, rather than being unusual, it’s standard practice.
Rather than being hardly unusual or a sign of corruption, what they have found is actually standard practice for wealthy, charitably-minded people, who establish private foundations, and rather than contribute to charities directly, contribute to their foundation, which then goes on to make grants on its own.
And the since Clinton Foundations tax returns are publicly available (as are any 501c3’s), those returns are available to be examined as well. On them you’ll find that neither Hillary, Bill nor Chelsea draw a salary from the Foundation.
What the Clinton Foundations tax return does show is that 87% of its expenditures were for program services. How does that compare?
(as % of expenditures)
|American Red Cross||90.5%|
|Doctors Without Borders||87.6%|
|Council on Foreign Relations||69.6%|
|March of Dimes||66.3%|
The Clinton Foundation ranks somewhat behind the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders in terms of its efficiency, but quite far ahead of the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among others.
So, rather than unearthing the controversy that one side of the aisle was hoping for, the release of the Clinton’s personal tax returns (along with the public returns of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation) show that they gave nearly 10% of their income to the charity that they operate, which they draw no salary from, and which operates with more efficiency that the 501c3’s that often challenge their policy goals.
What the returns do not answer, and cannot answer, are the recent allegations of “pay for play” with regards to Foundation donors. They simply provide us with a snapshot of the Clintons personal financial dealings.
Donald Trump Still Refuses
Conversely, Donald Trump remains steadfast in his refusal to let the American people see his tax returns, with falsely claiming that he is prevented from doing so because of an IRS audit. He also refuses to release his tax returns from previous years which are no longer under audit. Nobody is buying it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told BusinessInsider back in May “For the last 30 or 40 years, every candidate for president has released their tax returns, and I think Donald Trump should as well”.
To be clear, there is no law requiring presidential candidates release their tax returns, it’s simply a tradition that began with Richard Nixon who released his tax returns despite being under audit. But his ardent refusal has caused others to speculate.
Former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has opined that “It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters”, and believes that the reason for Trump’s refusal to release them is because “there’s a bombshell in Donald Trump’s taxes”.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett chimed in at a Hillary Clinton rally, saying that “You’re only afraid if you got something to be afraid about. He’s not afraid of the IRS. He’s afraid because of you.”
What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander, apparently.
So, while Trump supporters continue to come up empty handed as they eagerly rummage through the Clinton tax returns in search of dirt, it’s beyond dishonest that they don’t ask for the same privilege from the candidate they support. Those returns would go a long way toward answering backing up Donald Trumps sole qualification for why he is the man for the job, namely his business success.
From those returns we could see exactly what his income is, both on a taxable basis and pure cashflow. We could glean where his money comes from, how much debt his organization has amassed (he is the self-proclaimed “King of Debt” after all), to whom he owes money, and could have an honest debate as to whether or not he’s worth the $10 billion that he claims.
Again, with Donald Trumps main qualification for ascending to the Oval Office hinging on how successful he has been, it looks to be a game of smoke and mirrors to figure out if that’s the case. And sadly, his supporters show their true colors as they hypocritically dig thought the Clinton tax returns while ignoring his refusal to make that same disclosure.