Trump’s tax return secrecy keeps voters in the dark
Returns have been readily available for examination for almost 40 years – until this year, when Donald Trump refused
Since at least 1980, every presidential nominee, Republican and Democrat, has released their tax returns. Some have released only a year or two, and some have released more. Hillary Clinton has released her returns dating back to 2000.
While all of us cherish our privacy and would understandably not choose to share the financial details of our lives with strangers — or even our friends — none of us has been nominated for the most powerful position in the world. That changes everything — and it should.
I can remember, as a child, hearing my parents say that nothing revealed more about a person’s character than how they handled wealth and power. Whatever you think about Bill Gates, Ted Turner or Warren Buffet, they have chosen to give away billions for a greater good; many wouldn’t.
I remember hearing Bill Gates Sr. several years ago on NPR discussing estate taxes and whether he thought they were too high. To my surprise, he expressed no opposition to the rates that many wealthy people were railing against. In fact, he said that America had made his family’s great wealth possible and that he was fine with a healthy estate tax upon his death. He thought it only fair. You don’t hear that very often.
Power has its responsibilities, too — especially great power. Nowhere is that more true than with an American president.
Our president, regardless of party, is understood to be the embodiment of who we are as a people and what we value. Because of that unique role, it is always important in the selection process to separate a nominee’s rhetoric from their heart-felt beliefs, to find out if what they say and what they do are consistent or not.
Tax returns are one of several helpful tools in making that assessment.
Returns have been readily available for voters to examine for almost 40 years — until this year when Donald Trump refused.
He has repeatedly said he can’t release his returns because they are under audit by the IRS. As we all now know, the IRS has no prohibition on their release but still he persists in hiding his returns from public inspection. So why not release them?
As Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican, recently asked, “What is he hiding?” In this election cycle, Trump has boastfully and repeatedly told us how wealthy he is, how incredibly rich and successful he has been (despite his multiple business bankruptcies). He’s not bashful about that.
He has harshly criticized companies for moving jobs overseas and implicitly questioned their patriotism. He promises to bring jobs back to American soil. He has told the middle class that they are not moving ahead, that our tax system is unfair and that taxes for everyone are too high. He has criticized those who “offshore” their money to avoid paying their fair share of American taxes.
So how does he measure up using his own scorecard? He won’t tell us.
We have recently learned, however, that some of the products bearing his name and from which he profits are made in China. Seems like hypocrisy to me. Will he be bringing those jobs back to America, too?
What else would we learn if he did what Hillary Clinton has consistently done and released his tax returns?
We could see whether Trump’s annual income matches his boasts, what deductions he claims that the rest of us don’t get, whether his effective tax rate is lower than that of most hard-working Americans he says he champions, what tax shelters he has for his money, whether he has any money parked overseas, whether he makes any significant donations to charity, especially to veterans whom he so publicly embraces, and what loans he carries.
That Trump claims secrecy (based upon a falsehood) that no nominee in either party has claimed since 1980 should give all of us pause, regardless of our party or politics. He does, after all, want to be our president.
I thought transparency was part of his campaign to “make America great again.” Maybe he’s exempt.
John T. Broderick Jr. is a former chief justice of the NH Supreme Court.