Trump has, of course, called this story "fake news." The thing is, he may sort of, kind of be right. This is the story about a fake.
I completely understand why how little Trump paid in Taxes this is the headline. It's such an easily accessible issue for people who pay much more in taxes to understand. And it's an easy issue for people to be bothered by on a personal level. But it's important to understand that how much Trump has paid in taxes is not the issue Trump has with protecting his taxes from being released.
A person doesn't spend four years refusing all efforts to release his tax returns, the first president in U.S. history since the tradition began to not do so, and to relentlessly fight efforts in court by repeated lawsuits, just to avoid it being known that he paid next to nothing in taxes. First of all, we pretty much have known that. In his 2016 debates with Hillary Clinton, when she brought this up, he basically acknowledged it and said he didn't pay much in taxes "because I'm smart." (In essence calling people who pay taxes "stupid.") Second, paying low or no taxes can not only be totally legal, but paying as little as they can in taxes is something that many Americans strive for, as well. And for all we know, his deductions are all legal. (More on that in a moment.)
So, what this story about paying low taxes is -- for all the headlines -- is mostly a horrible P.R. issue. And when you're down by 10 points in the polls, and in the middle of a pandemic, and are trying to cram a Supreme Court choice through that around 60% of the public are against, then the very last thing you need is a a horrible P.R. issue. By itself, it may not "turn" the election, but it will confirm people's negative thoughts about Trump and solidifies the problems he's facing, making it all the more difficult for Trump to convince undecided voters to make their decision on his behalf. No, it won't make a dent with his cult, but none of this is about his cult. It's about the undecided voters in the middle and if you can move that just three points, it changes a razor thin 51-49% race in a battleground state to a 54-46% landslide. And people have already started to vote.
What this story also does is take away of the few talking points that Trump likes to claim as one of his Big Successes of his administration -- and that's his "$3 billion tax cuts." That's now a hard banner to wave when it's been made clear how much Trump himself has benefitted from tax cuts and deductions.
By the way, what also strikes me as especially bizarre is that for all the horrific things Trump has done for four years -- ignored a pandemic which as so far killed over 209,000 Americans, used the military on peaceful gatherings of American citizens, separated children from their parents, put children in cages, praised white supremacists and called some neo-Nazis very fine people, ignored science and the survival of the planet by being the only national in the world to withdraw from the Paris Accord on Climate Change, said he wouldn't accept a peaceful transition of power and more and more and more -- it's "He's paid less in taxes than me" that's perhaps bothering people the most.
Far more than paying taxes, what is a far more serious problem is how money Trump made from foreign sources. While president, Trump and his company have made $73 million from overseas deals, which raises an important issue of national security. This isn't the sort of thing that, compared to paying no taxes, will generally resonate with the public -- that is, unless more investigation shows deals with Russia and loans from Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. The thing is, the Times has said that they are going to keep investigating. And it's pretty clear that for business dealings this convoluted, we are only seeing the surface..
But the real story about the tax returns, I feel very confident in saying, is what Trump reported as his income to the IRS and state tax boards (making it as small as possible to pay less taxes)...and what he reported as his income on bank forms for loans (making it as big as possible to qualify for greater loans). Because if they are different -- and we've already had indications that they are very different -- then that is fraud and tax evasion and both are federal crimes, and state crimes. And that is something worth going to court over and fighting as aggressively as you can to keep your tax returns from being made public.
That's the real story, and that I'm sure is what the New York Times -- and New York State attorneys and House Democrats -- are trying to investigate and uncover.
What makes the fraud even worse for Trump, and what a concept that is..., is that when Trump's tax bill comes due, and his $420 million in loans comes due, it doesn't appear that Trump has the money to pay them off.
Oddly, for all the impact of this story is on the election, the biggest impact it may have on Trump himself is that the returns are showing how much money he's lost, how much he owes, and that he's a horrible businessman. And that not only crushes the Trump Brand, but from all we've been told by people who know him and what we've seen, Trump's personal self-image and worth as a human being is based on his net worth. And if Joe Biden hammers that point during the debate, it's what might rattle Trump the most.
Yes, the news of how little Trump has paid in taxes is a big deal because the public is likely to make it a big deal because they can understand it easily. And that becomes a big deal before of the burden it puts on Trump in overcoming his other huge hurdles in the campaign.
But -- the real story, the huge story is what the tax returns show compared to what his loan applications show, because those are major federal and state crimes, and that's what Trump has been trying to hide for four years.
And as major as these stories are -- and if it becomes the potential fraud and tax evasion of a president, then that is beyond major but massive -- they don't even touch the pandemic and the destruction of the country. And 209,543 Americans dead, so far.
And this is who the elected Republican members of Congress enable and support, and are complicit.