I marched in this year’s tax day protests because all of us, even presidents, need to pay our fair share to keep this country running. When we pay our taxes, we’re supporting our schools, cancer research, food for hungry children, our military, the rebuilding of our crumbling infrastructure, and thousands of other important ways we make America great. We all make sacrifices for the greater good when we pay our taxes, and from those to whom much has been given, much shall be required. Does Donald Trump understand this? Given the opportunity to shape tax policy, will he choose a policy for the greater good or one that protects his fortune?
President Trump is supposed to lead this country, but until he releases his tax returns, we have no way of knowing where he’s leading us. There’s simply no way that we can be sure he has American interests, not his own, at heart when running the government. Even if we ignore any potential Russian surprises hiding in his tax returns (which we shouldn’t), his business ties’ effect on tax policies could end up changing the lives of millions of Americans. With Trump’s finances hidden, we can’t know whether he’s proposing a policy that is good for America, or good for his personal bank account.
President Trump has openly admitted to using loopholes to lower his tax bill as much as possible. In fact, during a debate he said that avoiding paying taxes makes him “smart.” It’s his right as an American citizen to work within the tax code, but now that he’s President, his attitude has much wider repercussions. His willingness to do whatever it takes to make money and avoid paying taxes is exactly why we need to see his tax returns.
It is essential that someone with so much power to shape the tax debate operate under absolute transparency. As the tax reform fight begins, it is completely possible for Donald Trump to push for a tax cut that saves himself billions of dollars and helps his wealthy friends and family, and we would have no idea. In fact, he has already advocated for repealing the estate tax, which would save his family an estimated $4 billion, $4 billion then unavailable for our national well-being. His shady business history, from stiffing contractors to scamming people through Trump University, shows that we simply can’t trust that he’s working with other people’s interests in mind.
This does not affect Trump only. Tax cuts for wealthy people have real costs for everyone else. The House GOP plan to replace Obamacare made this crystal clear. It would have given the top 1% a huge tax cut while causing 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance in the next ten years. The willingness of Trump and many in the House GOP to let millions of Americans suffer to pay for a tax cut for rich people was shocking and wildly unpopular, and voters across the country let their representatives hear from them.
Trump and Ryan are now signaling that they plan to either take another pass at repealing Obamacare or move on to tax reform. Either way, huge tax cuts for wealthy people are in our future, and it makes me sick. At a time when poor and middle class folks are struggling, when the working poor don’t have a living wage, and when rich people have never done better, there is no defensible reason to cut taxes for the wealthy. I say this as a millionaire, and someone who would benefit greatly from the Trump-Ryan tax agenda.
For all their talk about freedom and prosperity, at the core of every one of these proposals is a huge tax cut for rich people like me. The truth is, I don’t need a tax cut. I’m doing just fine, and so are the rest of the people in my tax bracket. Our country has tried trickle-down economics for decades, and the results are clear: it doesn’t work. Tax cuts for rich people don’t lead to economic growth; they lead to the rich having more money.
But maybe that was Donald Trump’s plan all along.