Trump’s tax returns still matter

It is quite understandable that covering President Trump’s case of covid-19 sucks in tons of journalistic oxygen. Just like the endless mastication of his debate with Joe Biden.

But you know what? There are things about Trump other than his covid-19 diagnosis and his debating behavior that matter too. Things that should not be forgotten or ignored, and from which we can learn a lot.

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The case in point: recent articles from the New York Times on the federal income taxes that Trump paid — or didn’t pay — both as a private citizen and after moving into the Oval Office.

I loved a lot of the details, which remind me of my years of writing financial gameplay. But there is one thing I want to warn you about – the idea, implicit in the stories, that because Trump has personally guaranteed some of his companies’ troubled loans, he may well go bankrupt when those debts come due in a few years.

I’m skeptical about this because of what I learned about Trump at the time, when I was writing about his financial troubles.

I realized that while Trump is good at getting himself into trouble because he lacks impulse control and can’t tolerate strong subordinates who tell him ‘no’, he’s still better at getting out of trouble. trouble only to get into it.

Trump is either a tax cheat or the worst businessman in the world

So let me briefly explain how I made the mistake of shutting out Trump 30 years ago.

I met Trump in the late 1980s, when I started writing a business column for the now defunct New York Newsday tabloid. Because I specialized in exposing financial excesses and was used to dealing with people who do numbers, I realized early on that Trump’s real estate and casino empire was doomed to fail.

I also realized that Trump was in big personal financial trouble because he recklessly personally guaranteed over $800 million of his companies’ $3.3 billion in debt.

As you’d expect if you know any of us, Trump and I didn’t get along. We used to go towards each other, with her Queens accent and my Brooklyn accent both getting louder as we talked longer and louder.

On June 17, 1990, the New York Newsday featured my front-page column on “The Donald,” as we used to call it. The headline: The party is over for Trump.

In this long article, I provided many reasons why Trump was doomed, why he was fading into the sunset and we would never hear from him again.

It didn’t quite work, did it? Although he was involved in six Chapter 11 bankruptcies and numerous other defaults and debacles, he managed to avoid going bankrupt himself and became a national figure through his television show “The Apprentice”, which brought him fame and money.

Never mind. I have a framed copy of this front page to remind me that I’m not as smart as I like to think from time to time.

But even if I’m not infallible, I know how to count. And it’s clear from the Times articles that “billionaire” and “Trump” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence unless we get a reliable audited financial statement showing that the value of Trump’s assets is more than ten times higher. a billion dollars in its debts.

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Don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

And don’t hold your breath waiting for Trump to release his statements as presidents since Richard Nixon did, no matter how many other stories about his tax clinging.

Allow me to give two reasons for this refusal: one obvious, one subtle.

The obvious reason: Trump’s tax returns undoubtedly show that his earnings do not match his claims as a multi-billionaire.

The subtle reason: If Trump’s statements became public, liberal tax lawyers would compete to dissect them and offer information and insights to the IRS to help it win in its long dispute with Trump over a big deal. tax refund that has been audited for years.

Now let me tell you why we taxpayers should care about how much federal income tax our leaders, especially our president, pay.

Our leaders are expected to lead by example, both to help defray the costs of the benefits they get from government and to encourage tax compliance by ordinary citizens.

If Trump wants to be a real leader after his recovery instead of trying to play one on TV, it’s not too late. He could lead by releasing his tax returns, exposing the games his accountants and tax lawyers have played to allow him to pay taxes at far lower rates than typical blue-collar families, and then sponsoring legislation to end the games.

Alas, I think the odds of that happening are about the same as those of fish learning to fly. Or Trump going silent in a presidential debate while someone else tries to say something.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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