“The New York Times obtained records from 1995 showing that Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss. The figure is so substantial that it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income tax for 18 years,” exclaimed the New York Times in today’s big “scoop.”
1. The New York Times should not be publishing anyone’s tax returns who has not publicly released them. It’s unethical. They Times has the right to print just about anything, or course, but like all newspapers, it is obligated to exercise that right responsibly and fairly. This is neither. Tax returns are private. These tax returns reveal no crime, and nothing unethical on Trump’s part.
2. Nor does the public have a “right to know” Trump’s taxes. It has a right to trust Trump less than otherwise because he refuses to release his taxes, and has a right to think less of Trump for not following the recent accepted practice of candidates to release their tax returns. The public has no more right to see his tax returns without his consent, however, than it has a right to see mine.
3. What Trump’s taxes “could” have allowed him to do isn’t news. Nor is it responsible speculation.
4. This tax expert argues persuasively that it is highly unlikely that the returns mean what the Times says they do. Either way, it is all innuendo and speculation.
5. Federal law makes it illegal to publish an unauthorized tax return:
It shall be unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information. Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
The Times editor, who admitted that he was searching for someone who would leak the Times the returns, has said that that if the Times’ lawyers advised him not to publish Trump tax returns, he would argue that such information is vital to the public interest because the real estate mogul’s “whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth.” What a transparent and dishonest rationalization! At this point, Trump’s business exploits are entirely irrelevant. He’s rich, he’s a celebrity, he has his name on hotels and resorts, and he lives the lifestyle of the wealthy and famous. That’s true whatever his tax returns show. I would be surprised if more than a handful of voter inclined to vote for Trump would be dissuaded by a 20 year old return showing that he had a bad year.
6. This is another example of journalists abusing their special status under the First Amendment to launder illegally stolen information.
7. And if he used his losses to reduce his taxes in subsequent years, so what? That’s legal, responsible, competent and the system our government has, in its wisdom, allowed to be in place. What kind of Bernie Sanders, Occupy Wall Street anti-capitalist bias is the Times appealing to with this breathless revelation? There is nothing illegal, unethical, unpatriotic or worthy of criticism in a citizen paying as few taxes as the law allows. Paying more taxes might be evidence of generosity or stupidity, but that isn’t what the Times is trying to show.
8. The Washington Post points out that Trump’s speculative tax machinations show the flaws in the tax system. Agreed. That still doesn’t implicate Trump in wrongdoing, and the Times didn’t publish the stolen returns to argue for tax reform.
9. This is hypocrisy for the Times, which didn’t hesitate to pay no taxes in 2014.
10. For what seems like the thousandth time, let me again point out that the news media could properly and ethically make the case against voting for Donald Trump by simply reporting facts and being fair and objective. Instead, it is allowing this election to create a deplorable precedent that may have ended trustworthy journalism in the U.S for the foreseeable future.