Over the weekend The New York Times stirred controversy with a story based on purportedly shocking revelations about Donald Trump’s taxes. The paper insisted Trump got away with paying no taxes at all in the 1990s and this, they intimated, makes him some sort of hypocrite. So, to borrow a phrase, what at this point does it matter?
In a piece entitled, “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found,” the so-called “paper of record” published Trump’s personal tax information from 1995 and extrapolated its consequences on “decades” afterward. The paper claimed Trump took such heavy business losses in ’95 that “it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.”
According to the paper:
Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.
Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years.
The Trump campaign had an immediate response to this. In a statement published in theTimes’ story, the Trump campaign said the real estate mogul was just being a good businessman.
“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement said. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes.”
The statement continued, “Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.”
The debate last week presaged this argument when Hillary Clinton–who was perhaps given a heads up about the Timesstory–jumped on Trump both for not releasing his tax returns and for “paying no federal taxes.”
In reply to Hillary at the debate that night, Trump he was “smart” if he was able to pay little in taxes.
Trump also jumped to his well-used Twitter account to remind the nation of his business expertise.
As a second line of attack on the Old Gray Lady, the Trump campaign began to point out that the publishing of his tax information without his permission is actually illegal.
“The only news here is that the more than 20-year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained, a further demonstration that the New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests,” the Trump campaign said in a statement released to the press on Sunday. “What is happening now with the FBI and DOJ on Hillary Clinton’s emails and illegal server, including her many lies and her lies to Congress are worse than what took place in the administration of Richard Nixon – and far more illegal.”
For it’s part, the left-wing media tried to turn the illicit Times story into a populist bat with which to beat Richie Rich Trump over the head.
In a follow up story the Times noted that the huge loss Trump reported in 1995 hadn’t “made the slightest dent in Mr. Trump’s opulent lifestyle.”
The paper went on to paint Trump as an out of touch, mean ‘ol rich white man.
It’s hard to imagine a starker contrast with the vast number of Americans who struggle to both pay taxes and make ends meet, or a more damning indictment of a tax code that makes that possible.
“If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: The tax code is tilted toward the rich in its statutory framework, its exceptions, and in how it is enforced and administered,” said Steven M. Rosenthal, a real estate tax specialist and senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
CNN jumped on Trump, too, essentially calling him an idiot over the incident by questioning his “genius.”
Naturally, MSNBC also used air time to, in its inimitable way, warp “journalism” to aide Clinton.
The network’s Jonathan Capehart went on the air on Sunday and noted that everything Trump did was legal only seconds later to essentially call him a tax cheat.
While what he did is legal, it certainly, I think, to a lot of people’s mind is sort of morally repugnant because we at least at one time held our presidential candidates to a higher standard. If you’re going to govern this country, if you’re going hold the lives now of 330 million people in your hands, the American people need to be reasonably assured that you have their safety as the highest priority is but also you’re not going to cheat the government that you are in charge of.
That is one head spinning turn around. One second Trump is perfectly legal, the next he is a tax cheat!
Ultimately, there is quite a bit of hypocrisy on the left over this issue.
As soon as the story broke, detractors of The New York Times pointed out that the paper itself has often had an arm’s length relationship with paying its taxes.
Forbes magazine noted earlier this year that the paper paid absolutely no federal taxes in 2014.
… for tax year 2014, The New York Times paid no taxes and got an income tax refund of $3.5 million even though they had a pre-tax profit of $29.9 million in 2014. In other words, their post-tax profit was higher than their pre-tax profit. The explanation in their 2014 annual report is, “The effective tax rate for 2014 was favorably affected by approximately $21.1 million for the reversal of reserves for uncertain tax positions due to the lapse of applicable statutes of limitations.” If you don’t think it took fancy accountants and tax lawyers to make that happen, read the statement again.
Further, Hillary Clinton is no paragon of tax-paying, either.
According to ZeroHedge.com, a very popular site that reports on financial issues, Hillary Clinton herself used the exact same tax trick Trump used to avoid paying taxes.