What is Donald Trump hiding?
That’s what Hillary Clinton is asking in a new campaign video about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.
The video shows Trump in old news clips saying he would release his tax returns a) if President Barack Obama releases his birth certificate – and b) if he, Donald J. Trump, ultimately decides to run for office. Well, President Obama has released his birth certificate and DJT is running for office. But he still hasn’t released his returns.
The ad also shows Trump at one point saying that he’s thinking about releasing his tax returns and at another point saying he can’t because he is under audit – a lame excuse that just about nobody including Donald Trump actually believes.
So let me state what everybody already knows: Donald Trump will not release his tax information before the election … or after. Donald Trump says things that all but his most sycophantic supporters understand are lies designed to fog up whatever embarrassing issue he doesn’t want to talk about. He is who he is.
But why won’t he do what every presidential candidate has consistently done since the 1970s? Why won’t he release his tax returns? What is Donald hiding?
Maybe the tax returns show he didn’t contribute a lot to charities. Maybe they show business ties to organized crime. But more than likely, I think, it comes down to what percentage of his income he pays in taxes – his effective tax rate. When George Stephanopoulos asked about his tax rate, Trump replied, “It’s none of your business.”
And he also said something that almost certainly has never been said by anyone running for president. “I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.”
He then said it again, just to make sure we all got the message.
If he’s not breaking the law, but simply taking advantage of every break in the law, why shouldn’t he pay as little tax as he can get away with?
The answer is because it’s considered un-American for a public figure to pay “as little tax as possible.” Politicians are supposed to be thrilled that they’re paying a lot of their income in taxes. It’s considered patriotic. But in case you haven’t noticed, Donald Trump isn’t like other politicians. Paying more in taxes than he legally has to isn’t patriotic in his eyes. It’s stupid.
Still, actually bragging about paying as little tax as possible comes with potential problems. Too many Americans are clueless when it comes to taxes. They’re thrilled, for example, when they get a tax refund from the government. They can’t comprehend that the only reason they got the refund is because they paid too much tax during the year – in effect, they gave Uncle Sam an interest free loan. So they think it’s somehow dishonorable – maybe even dishonest — to pay less than what Hillary, President Obama and a million other liberals refer to as their “fair share.”
The Democrats will run with the tax issue. They will try to portray his refusal to share his returns with the electorate as proof that he’s cutting corners and is engaged in questionable business deals. What is Donald hiding, Hillary will ask over and over again.
But Trump says there’s too much waste in government; that’s why he doesn’t want to pay a penny more than he has to. In other words, Donald Trump will make the most of Hillary’s allegation that he’s hiding something shady. He might even say. “Yeah, I pay as little in taxes as possible … because I and everyone else knows the government wastes too much of our money on nonsense.”
And to that he might add: “Yeah, I paid only 10 percent in taxes (or whatever the real number is) and that’s one more reason you should support me for president. I understand business. I know how to structure my finances to minimize my tax bill. I know how to save money. And I’ll use that knowledge to fix our debt crisis.”
That may sound good to his loyal fans, but even Donald Trump understands that if you reveal your tax information and it shows you pay a lower rate than a guy delivering pizza, there’s a good chance a lot of voters will hold it against you. That’s why he won’t release his tax forms – no matter how many times he says he will.
Hillary and her supporters won’t let the tax issue fade away. They’ll hammer him through the summer and into the fall. And Donald Trump may be hoping that’s just what they do.
Don’t be surprised if he says something like this at one of his yuuuge rallies: “Do I make deals that lower my taxes?. Do I take advantage of every break I can? Yes and yes! And I’ll do the same for you and for all the American people when I’m president.”
And it just might work.