Last week, the New York Times broke the news that Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, may have avoided paying federal income taxes due to a loophole stemming from a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax return. This revelation suggests that Trump used his business failures to take full advantage of the American tax code, while millions of hardworking Americans pay their federal taxes every year.
Since the beginning of the presidential campaign, Trump refused to release his tax returns on the grounds that he was being audited by the IRS. The Clinton campaign suggested that Trump refused to release his returns because he had something to hide, and this huge loss from his failed business ventures is certainly a bombshell. According to the New York Times, Trump’s losses come from his failed Atlantic City casinos, his airline, and his purchase of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Because of the net operating loss on his taxes, he could have legally avoided paying taxes for 18 years.
Trump’s business acumen is often cited as a reason he should be elected president. Yet, this nearly billion dollar loss suggests that he has a history of playing fast and loose when it comes to making difficult decisions–why should we trust him with the presidency?
Clinton suggested – during the first presidential debate last Monday – that Trump may have avoided paying taxes for many years due to his reported losses. Trump quickly quipped back, “That makes me smart.” This suggests that Trump feels no remorse for avoiding paying his fair share as a citizen, and critics suggest his tax plan would primarily benefit people who are like him, with tax breaks for upper income Americans.
Trump’s tax plan relies on outdated theories of trickle-down economics that suggest that when the wealthy pay less in taxes, they create more jobs. However, these debunked claims simply prop up a system where the rich get richer, while middle class and poor folks, who cannot afford fancy tax lawyers, may pay more than a person who makes many times their income.
A common refrain this election cycle has been Trump’s disdain for undocumented immigrants. He charges them with bringing drugs and crime, and not paying taxes (a fact that isn’t actually true). Trump’s hypocrisy and racism in this claim is even more exposed now that it is evident that he himself likely avoids paying his own fair share of taxes. By Trump’s logic, it is okay to avoid paying taxes if you are a wealthy American able to exploit the tax code for your own benefit. Perhaps the broken infrastructure, education system, and the plethora of other problems Trump claims to be able to fix would already be better, if he and folks in (his supposed) income bracket had to pay the federal government their share of taxes.
Trump’s claims that his knowledge of these loopholes makes him uniquely suited to fix these problems with our tax system is a load of malarkey. Trump has never been a champion of working folks, and his refusal to pay taxes as well as his tax plans makes it clear that the only person Trump is looking out for in this election is himself.