The New York Times’ report on President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which shows he paid no federal income taxes for 10 of 15 years between 2001 and 2015 and just $750 in 2016 and 2017, reveals many things about the president’s past and character.
The returns show he is not as prolific a businessman as many are inclined to believe, as evidenced by the hundreds of millions of dollars of debt he has accumulated and the pattern of massive yearly losses he incurs from his golf and hotel properties. It should be noted that a major facet of his 2016 presidential campaign was his business experience and acumen.
The report also reveals unethical and potentially fraudulent tax maneuvers. These include labeling haircuts, fuel for private jets and rooms at Mar-a-Lago as “business expenses” to obtain tax credits. He even labeled his estate where his kids grew up in Westchester, N.Y. as an investment property to get further tax write-offs.
Trump’s character and reputation as a businessman will certainly be damaged by this report, but — more importantly — Trump’s character and reputation as a United States citizen is damaged in public discourse.
Virtually every American pays their fair share in taxes to the government as required by law. This is a critical function of our society. We all pitch in so we can have roads, parks, water, streetlights, schools, Social Security, national security and so many other services from our government.
By using personal expenses and business losses to pay $1,500 less federal income tax than the average middle-class household in the UnitedStates, Trump decided he did not have to support our federal government and instead could be a free rider off millions of tax-paying citizens. He chose himself and his personal wealth over giving the country his fair share. This is unethical for a private citizen to do, but for a president to do this completely subverts and contradicts the purpose of the office: to serve the American people.
Paying taxes is part of one’s civic duty and part of being a patriot. Regardless of any other critique of the president, a man who has a history of avoiding contribution to the nation’s shared resources is not a viable leader by any stretch of the imagination.
Someone who fails to contribute their share to the government cannot seriously and legitimately put forth policies using taxpayers’ money. Some of his moves include increasing the military budget and spending $11 billion on a border wall that many experts deem unnecessary. Furthermore, a schoolteacher or nurse or social worker who may rely on public health insurance or public transportation to get to her job cannot trust a self-proclaimed billionaire with her tax money when she pays more to the federal government than him.
Trump has never had personal conviction for the average American. He clearly never did while avoiding taxes as a private citizen and has shown time and time time again throughout his presidency that he still does not. If not even the scrutiny and ethical pressure of the presidency can bring Trump to (at the very least) prioritize community values by paying his taxes, one can only imagine what he does behind closed doors.