This editorial was published by the Dallas Morning.
If losing $916 million and possibly avoiding federal income taxes for nearly two decades makes Donald Trump a brilliant businessman, we shudder to think what would make him a bad one.
Making a profit and paying income taxes?
Like so much that involves Trump and his business dealings, this latest revelation remains shrouded in secrecy attributable to his refusal to release his tax returns. Nearly every presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released his returns, so why not Trump?
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The reason for his refusal seems clearer this week than last: His losses approach $1 billion, stripping any shred of credibility from his claims of business prowess.
The New York Times last weekend peeled back the Trump mythology with a story based on the first pages of the real estate mogul’s 1995 state income tax filings that the newspaper said arrived anonymously in a reporter’s mailbox. Based on the reported net loss of $916 million in federal taxable income for 1995, the newspaper – supported by tax experts – surmised Trump could have used those losses to avoid paying income taxes for as many as 18 years.
Contrary to Trump’s claim that people would “learn nothing,” from his tax returns, we’ve learned plenty from these few pages. What we have is a shameless presidential candidate portraying himself as a business genius for losing nearly $1 billion and playing the system to skip out on taxes. Hard-working Americans who face tax burdens have every right to be offended, and to question whether as president Trump would pursue the nation’s best interests or his own.
“It’s either a unique combination of bad luck or he’s a terrible businessman or both. I don’t understand how you can lose a billion dollars and stay in business,” says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and president of the American Action Forum, a conservative pro-growth advocacy group.
Trump appears to have broken no tax laws, but the system is badly rigged if Trump can gamble, lose and claim success. Trump plays by rules that amount to “heads I win” and “tails you lose.”
Further undermining Trump’s claim of great business aptitude was Monday’s report that New York’s Attorney General has ordered Trump’s charitable foundation to stop fundraising because it is soliciting donations without proper certification.
Every American is supposed to pay his or her fair share. We may differ on what that means, but we should agree that it doesn’t mean a billionaire can lose and win at the same time. American taxpayers should demand from Trump stop this financial shell game and release his income tax returns.