The 2016 election was a turning point in American politics. It signaled that a huge swath of Americans were fed up with the way that the system had treated them and were looking outside of it for answers. Donald Trump promised to represent those who have felt unheard and taken advantage of. He hinged his campaign on “draining the swamp” and creating a government that would work for ordinary Americans. We the people of the United States have a right and a responsibility to hold him to those promises.
Traditionally, April 15th marks the American tax day. This year, it was also the date of nationwide tax marches demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns to the American people. The march was also an opportunity for Americans upset and unheard by the administration to continue the momentum for resistance that has surged since the election.
The release of Trump’s tax returns is much more than just a symbolic act. It gives important information to the people who chose Trump to represent them. Releasing tax returns and providing economic transparency is not a tall ask of the person holding the highest office in the country. Up to this point, in fact, it seemed a foregone conclusion. And yet here we are almost three months into the new administration, and the line has shifted from telling us that Trump will release his returns once he is no longer being audited to Kellyanne Conway saying “he’s not going to release his tax returns.”
We stand to learn a lot about the president and his intentions in office from his tax returns. First, of course, we will learn the truth about his fortune and how wealthy he actually is--given his propensity for falsehoods it would come as no surprise to learn that he is not nearly as wealthy as he claims to be. More importantly, we will learn the sources of both his income and possibly his alleged debt. This is critical to understanding his motivations and allegiances in the White House. It could shed light on his relationships with Russia and various Middle Eastern countries, but will also provide information about his domestic holdings and potential perverse incentives created by his stake in them. With allegations swirling about his foreign policy intentions, it is hard to definitively say without seeing these returns what he stands to gain from relationships with other countries.
Trump’s tax returns will also tell us, quite simply, if he even pays taxes. During the campaign Trump bragged about paying little to no money in taxes and claimed that we should take that as evidence of his business savvy. We shouldn’t. We should view that as a shirking of duty to the American people.
But beyond this, this tax day is an opportunity for Americans to demand a more equitable tax structure. To protest on behalf of the American middle class, Americans living below the poverty line, and all those who pay more than their fair share. They often pay more than they can afford in taxes to subsidize tax cuts for wealthy Americans like myself.
It is unacceptable that loopholes and systemic inequities allow a high net worth individual like myself to pay less than my fair share of my taxes.
The tax day marches will only be successful if people continue to pressure their elected officials - if we are able to show the government that we are paying attention and we are here to hold Donald Trump to the promises that he made on the campaign trail. We have to show that we will not go away, that we have not forgotten, and that we demand a change.