May 9, 2019

NYT Scoop and NYS Bill re Trump’s Taxes

The New York Times “obtained printouts from [President Trump’s] official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts [for the years 1985 through 1994], with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, from someone who had legal access to them. They represent the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes. And they show that during a tumultuous decade of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse, Mr. Trump’s core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings — ran up $1.17 billion in losses.” New York Times

On Wednesday, the New York State Senate passed a bill that “would authorize state tax officials to release any state returns filed in New York if requested by the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation… Trump’s home state is New York, where many of his business enterprises are based. Financial information in state returns is likely to mirror much of what is in his federal returns.” AP News

Quick reminder: On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to provide a copy of President Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, claiming “that the panel’s request ‘lacks a legitimate legislative purpose’ as Supreme Court precedent requires.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left focused on the magnitude of Trump’s losses, and his continued efforts to mislead the public.

“It turns out that young Trump's claim to great riches was, at times, completely made up. He was, instead, desperately burdened by debt that topped $1 billion. It seems that his business acumen was at best questionable, at worst fake -- as were his vast profits… The man Trump presented in his book ‘The Art of the Deal’ was a fiction.”
Michael D'Antonio, CNN

“Assuming the Times reporters’ analysis of the I.R.S. data on high earners is accurate—and there is no apparent reason to doubt it—he was the biggest loser in the country for two years in a row… Even now, there are a lot of Americans who believe that the President is a savvy and successful businessman who knows what he is doing. The actual record, which, thanks to the Times, we now know a good deal more about, suggests the exact opposite. It reveals Trump to be a reckless conman who burned money and relied on his father, even as he was fashioning a myth that eventually took him all the way to the White House. No wonder he is so averse to allowing the American public to see any more accurate information about his financial history.”
John Cassidy, The New Yorker

President Trump owes the American people a fuller account of his financial dealings, including the release of his recent tax returns, because politicians should keep their promises, because the public deserves to know whether his policies are lining his pockets and because the integrity of our system of government requires everyone, particularly the president, to obey the law.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“There are two explanations for what Trump is trying to conceal. The first is that there are scandalous or even criminal activities that he has engaged in — partnerships with shady characters, cases of money laundering — and the returns would point the way to discover them… The second explanation for Trump’s determination not to allow the returns to become public is in some ways more innocent: that as so many have speculated, he’s not nearly as rich as he always says. Is it possible that Trump’s motives are only the most petty, shallow and vain ones?
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

“On Wednesday, he again tried to claim that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years between 1985 and 1994 not because he was such a terrible businessman that he managed to lose $1.17 billion, but because he was such a great businessman that he knew how to avoid paying taxes. And while that argument might’ve landed when he was running for president and bullshitting voters about how he was totally going to close all the loopholes from which he benefited, it’s a little less convincing now that he’s president and has already passed a massive tax ‘reform’ law that wait, what’s that? Expanded them.”
Bess Levin, Vanity Fair

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

Regarding New York State, Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) writes, “Our system of checks and balances is failing. But as our Framers envisioned, there is a check still remaining in state government… Washington has failed to act. We intend to lead.”
Senator Brad Hoylman, Twitter

From the Right

The right points out that Trump’s financial troubles have been public knowledge for decades, and worries about the precedent being set by the Times and New York state.

The right points out that Trump’s financial troubles have been public knowledge for decades, and worries about the precedent being set by the Times and New York state.

Anyone who was around the New York business scene in the 1980s and ’90s remembers that Trump was a business disaster in those years. He admitted as much on ‘The Apprentice.’ And those losses meant he didn’t pay much in taxes… It may be a scandal and a travesty. But it isn’t Trump’s fault that the means existed for him to pay far less in taxes than the chattering classes think he should have. And it would be stupid of someone like Trump not to minimize his tax burden if he is able to do so.”
John Podhoretz, New York Post

“It’s not as if the fact that his casino empire was a money loser was a secret until now… The Times’ story adds more detail to the losses but itdoesn’t dramatically change the overall picture that was already part of the record before the last election. Most voters are more interested in what shows up on their own tax returns than what Trump’s returns looked like more than 20 years ago.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

“There really are no Trump mysteries. His flaws aren’t hidden away. He often attests to them himself, or demonstrates them publicly. For someone who cares so much about his image, and so assiduously crafts it, he’s a relative open book… the hope that we are one investigation, tax return, or subpoena away from the revelation that will finally bell the cat and bring Trump down — or even make a difference — is almost certainly forlorn.”
Rich Lowry, Politico

Many argue that the Times “has no more right to Trump’s tax returns than it has to mine or those of any of you reading these words… taxpayer privacy is ‘fundamental to a tax system that relies on self-reporting’since it protects ‘sensitive or otherwise personal information,’ said then-Judge (now Supreme Court Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1986 in another case when she served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia… The IRS and the U.S. Justice Department should investigate how this disclosure happened, find out who did it, and prosecute anyone who violated the law.”
Hans von Spakovsky, Fox News

Regarding New York State, “the ban on bills of attainder—laws targeting an individual—is as clear a constitutional principle as any in the great American charter. Article 1, Section 10 states that ‘No State shall . . . pass any Bill of Attainder.’ The Founders wrote the passage to prohibit abuses that were common in England. If Democrats want to go down this road, they should be ready for the boomerang. Both parties can use tax disclosure as a political weapon, and the Albany precedent will be repaid in kind by a Republican state legislature against a future Democratic officeholder… We wish Mr. Trump would release his tax returns for political transparency. But he has no legal obligation to do so and his refusal doesn’t justify an abuse of state power.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“This is harassment. It serves no purpose but to try to embarrass the President. It sets a dangerous precedent that future legislatures may try to use on future executives. I remain in the camp that thinks the President should release these records, but I do not think any legislature should force this issue. Today, they only want to do it to the President. Tomorrow, it could be any major figure in America that a ruling party decides it does not like. All Americans should be able to trust the privacy of the income tax system, including the President.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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