by Investor’s Business Daily · April 18, 2017
Taxes: Democrats say they won’t work with President Trump on tax reform unless he first releases his tax returns. This has to be the lamest excuse for not fixing the tax code we’ve ever heard.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week that “if he doesn’t release his returns, it is going to make it much more difficult to get tax reform done.”
Democrats say that seeing Trump’s tax returns is critical to tax reform, because otherwise how would anyone know if changes to the tax code will benefit Trump.
As Schumer put it, “releasing his own full tax returns (would) erase any doubt of where his priorities lie.”
Not coincidentally, this argument has started popping up in newspaper opinion pages at the same time.
USA Today posted an op-ed on Saturday by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, arguing that “before this administration even thinks of proposing any changes to the tax code, we should see what tax code provisions the president himself has been and is taking advantage of, and how much tax he has paid in the past few years.”
Newsday argued that Trump’s tax returns would “disclose key details regarding his investments, partnerships and business arms, whether he has foreign bank accounts and trusts, and whether he pays taxes to foreign governments. And we’d know how his sweeping tax reform ideas would benefit him and his companies.”
Let’s be clear. This is not about tax reform at all. And it’s not about making sure Trump isn’t sneaking some provision into a reform bill that will secretly benefit him or his family.
This is about politics, pure and simple.
Democrats continue to hope that there’s something in Trump’s tax returns that they can blow out of proportion to further hamper his administration, and they think they have some leverage over Trump at the moment.
But the question regarding the public’s need to see Trump’s tax returns has already been decided by voters, hasn’t it? They knew before casting their ballots that Trump had refused to release his tax returns, and voted him into office anyway.
Plus, we know from his 2005 tax return — which MSNBC brazenly promoted a few weeks ago only to be embarrassed by what was in it — that Trump has paid more than his fair share of taxes. That year, anyway.
There’s a practical problem with the Democrats’ argument as well.
Trump’s tax returns would only show what he paid in the past, utilizing whatever tax breaks were available to him at the time to minimize his tax burden — just like everyone does.
Those old tax returns would say nothing about how Trump would be taxed in the future — whether tax reform happens or not — because that depends entirely on what Trump does after serving as president.
He might give his fortune away and retire on his White House pension, for example. Or maybe run around like Bill Clinton making speeches for outrageous sums of money. Or he could simply return to running his businesses.
Besides, the entire point of doing tax reform is to broaden the base and radically simplify the tax code — taking away the loopholes and other tax gimmicks that Democrats are sure Trump has used or will use, in exchange for lower and flatter tax rates.
The tax reform plan that Congress comes up with will have to be judged on those merits, not on how it might, possibly, conceivably affect one person many years from now.
Simplifying the code in this way will also make seeing a politicians’ tax returns — Trump’s or anyone else’s — even less important, since tax liability will be a straightforward calculation and there will be far fewer ways to dodge the tax man.
The real story here isn’t Trump’s tax returns. It’s the fact that Democrats don’t want to engage on tax reform because their highly agitated liberal base doesn’t want them to lift a finger to work with Trump on any issue.
Tax reform is vital to restoring economic growth and vitality. No one denies that. If tax reform fails — and the economy suffers as a result — it won’t be Trump’s tax returns that are to blame. It will be shortsighted Democratic lawmakers kowtowing to the extremists in their party.