Updated: May 18, 2019
A tax return is simply a birth certificate for your money.
It's poetic justice. Donald Trump insisted on seeing Barak Obama’s birth certificate. Now, the Democrats in Congress and the American public (those who don’t support him, that is) insist on seeing Trump’s tax returns.
But there's one little problem here. Citizen Trump’s personal income tax filings are so complicated and esoteric, the average American voter, never mind a Congressman/woman, or even an entire committee, couldn’t possibly understand them, at least according to The Donald. And asking to see the corporate tax returns of the whole Trump Empire is akin to demanding a peek into the workings of the Vatican Bank. I’m not suggesting that anyone’s doing anything wrong or illegal here. It’s just that organizations and people with oodles of money and limitless power, well, their financial affairs look a little different than our own.
Forty years ago, some investigators demanded to see Lee Harvey Oswald’s income tax returns for the years leading up to the Kennedy assassination. The American public is never going to see that document because it reveals for whom or for what agency Oswald had been working and on who's behalf he pulled the trigger. Oswald's tax returns are still sealed inside a vault that’s tighter than fish pussy and that’s waterproof. The last thing the Johnson administration, and every administration that followed it, wanted was for the American public to know who was paying Oswald. Want the ‘truth’ about who killed JFK? Well, the American public is going to find out a lot sooner than they’re going to see Donald Trump’s tax filings.
Trump repeated on November 7, 2018, and again in April 2019, that he still could not turn over his tax returns because they are under a ‘continuous audit,' and anyway, even if they were released, “people would not understand them.” The President has been saying this since 2016, when he was still a candidate for office. But he's not been under audit for the two years he's been President. And surely there must be someone amongst the roughly 300 million citizens smarter than myself who can understand them, then reassure the rest of us. Or not.
And who’s conducting this marathon audit, anyway? The IRS? If that’s the case, then something smells. Can't show your tax returns to Congress because the government is auditing them? Who is the Congress anyway, if not the government? And how does a guy whose tax filings are under audit by the IRS get to be President of the USA in the first place?
The good thing here is that the November 2018 elections put the Democrats in control of the House of Congress beginning in January 2019. That gave them subpoena power to force the president to release his tax returns. Trump has pledged to respond with retaliatory investigations launched from the GOP-controlled Senate, turning the government apparatus upon itself, a dog chasing its own tail until it collapses of exhaustion and heart failure.
Thankfully, that wouldn’t actually be necessary if legislators really wanted to see Trump’s tax filings. Existing law (26 USC §6103(f)(1) and (4)(A)) authorizes the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation to obtain the President’s tax returns from the IRS without his consent, carry out investigations, and release this information to the public. The tax committees can take unilateral action without the initiation, endorsement or support of the Congress, but with Republicans in control of these government organs, the powers granted them by law are very unlikely to be exercised. Since early 2017, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., had pushed the House Ways and Means Committee, on which he sits, to request Trump's tax returns but his resolution was denied by the Republican majority on the committee.
Now the Congress has finally demanded that the IRS turn over Trump's personal tax filings. The White House, however, has publicly declared that they won't get them, and that the Administration will defy any subpoenas to obtain documents or cause persons to testify. Donald Trump has effectively declared himself a dictator, above the authority of the Congress and the American people. The years of 'Lie & Deny' or 'Delay & Sin' are over. A fundamental attack on the rule of law has been launched.
The April 10 deadline set by the Congress for release of Trump's tax filings had long passed by the time Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reiterated that legislators would not see the documents. Mnuchin is skating on very thin ice here. Section 6103 of the U.S. tax code compels the Secretary, or indeed any federal employee, to turn over the requested documents or face imprisonment. The code clearly states that Treasury officials “shall” turn the documents over, language that leading tax analysts have said is definitive. There is no wiggle room here.
No such request has ever been refused. Mnuchin's obstructionist stance is therefore the thin edge of the wedge, a test of the dictatorial powers that President Trump has gradually conferred upon himself. Will Mnuchin put his own best interests ahead of loyalty to his master, given that his own head is theoretically on the block due to the publicly announced intransigence? No doubt the man is already watching the Michael Cohen saga as it plays out. A conviction would signal the ruination of Mnuchin's career.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass) Neal responded to Mnuchin's refusal to comply with the subpoena by saying that the law provides "clear statutory authority" for him to request and received access to tax returns and return information. "The law, by its terms, does not allow for discretion as to whether to comply with a request for tax returns and return information," he wrote. "Given the Treasury Secretary’s failure to comply today, I am consulting with counsel on how best to enforce the subpoenas moving forward." Asked if Neal is considering holding Mnuchin in contempt, the chairman said: “I don't see that right now as an option. I think the better option for us is to proceed with a court case.”
What this means is that the authority and power of Congressional subpoena has been, and forever will be, neutralized. Power has been taken away from the people (e.g., the Congress) and awarded to a dictator and his cronies who thumb their noses at the Constitution and every piece of legislation that follows from it. A court challenge seeking to confirm the ultimate authority of Congress to compel individuals to testify under threat of criminal penalties if they refuse will take years to resolve. The American people have been checkmated.
Evidence points to the fact that Donald Trump is a fake billionaire; that is, the Emperor has no real-estate clothes on. If Trump lied about his wealth to get into the Forbes 400, then what else is he willing to lie about? Unless he releases his tax returns, either willingly or unwillingly, then there’s no way to verify any claims about his wealth. So far, the anti-Trump bloodhounds have only sniffed around the Russian connection, dreaming about something more revealing than the First Lady’s magazine spreads (see www.francescorizzuto.com/blog/first-lady-of-porn), while hoping and praying for something that could make the man impeachable. That hope was dashed by the Administration's refusal to release the full, unredacted Mueller report.
But this kind of scandal mongering doesn’t scare the rich folks. It never has. Eric Trump has reportedly said that the Trump business empire “doesn’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” So, there you have it, candid and totally transparent.
None of this should come as a surprise. As a rule, the uber-rich don't pay taxes. It's the middle classes in American society that do all the work and pay all the bills. The rich, through their politicians and lobbyists, ensure that the quality of education for everyone who can't afford private schooling remains low. In this way, they guarantee that a large percentage of the nation's electorate stays ignorant, cash-strapped and forced to work for low wages. This is a well thought-out strategy on the part of those who occupy the power bases in American society. Large numbers of poor, ignorant rabble - in this case, the almost 50% of the electorate that voted for Trump in 2016 - scare the shit out of the rest who continue to work and pay, too frightened to do otherwise. It's called "The American Way."
Even if the public were to see Trump’s personal tax filings, they may even discover that the President pays ‘zero’ tax and, as he himself boasts, has already racked up sufficient capital losses to avoid tax paying for many years to come. Clean hands. How does that make the American wage slaves feel, the millions of guys and gals who work five to six months out of the year to support big government and have the remainder to pay against their credit card debts? And what about the federal workers who suffered through the 2018 year-end government shutdown without their pay checks?
Every major party nominee since the late 1970s has released his or her tax returns before Election Day. So far, besides Trump, only Bernie Sanders has refused to let anyone see his tax returns. Don't vote for this guy unless you want to 1) ensure that Trump gets reelected or, 2) in case Bernie actually accedes to the White House, that the next four years are even worse than the previous four, if that's possible.
So, what’s POTUS45 got to hide? Perhaps nothing. But what the tax returns would surely reveal is what percentage (if any) of his income he gives to charity, or fake charities, how aggressively he pursues tax loopholes (as Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “Pay your fair share”), any so-called ‘suspect schemes,’ and why it took so many years for the IRS to get through that special audit. And what about auditing the rest of the Trump gang?
Personally, I’m not really interested in the Trump Gang’s tax returns. But I’d love to know who killed John Kennedy. And Marylin Monroe. And Gary Webb. And a few others…
Please check out my novels and short stories at https://www.francescorizzuto.com/portfolios