Tag Archives: election

TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS: “JUST SAY NO!” DON’T PUBLIC FIGURES LOSE ENOUGH PRIVACY?

It appears, if anyone is going to go against the grain about disclosing personal income tax returns, Donald Trump may be the one to say, “Enough is enough.”

American politics already delves into every aspect of a candidate’s life. Do we really need to pry into personal tax returns as well? And what do we really learn when we do? Not much. Rather, transparent disclosure requirements are a far superior way to identify potential conflicts of interest.

Candidates usually have to make disclosures of their assets and liabilities. But personal tax returns are deemed confidential by federal law for all U.S. citizens. That is why any disclosure must come from candidates voluntarily.

Unfortunately, the public has been grossly misled about what tax returns reveal. In a recent editorial by a major U.S. newspaper, a number of false arguments were made. Here are some examples.

Trump’s “boasting ought to be tested against hard information about how his companies performed, how they were managed and governed, how shareholders and bondholders were treated, how Trump was compensated, how he managed his tax burden, and to what extent he has been a philanthropist” opined one publication.

Yet a personal income tax return may provide little or no information about how a person’s companies performed or how they were managed or governed or even where they were located nationally or internationally. Very little of this information goes on a personal tax return; rather, it would be on corporate returns and other documents. And if overseas entities sent funds to U.S. corporations who paid Trump, his tax returns would not show this trail anyway.

A personal tax return almost never will have information about how shareholders and bondholders were treated. That information is likely to be completely confidential for privately-held companies so, again, claims that personal tax returns will provide such transparency are likely to be false.

In one of the most deceptive statements disseminated by a number of publications, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated, “the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to ignore for someone who is seeking to become commander-in-chief,’ despite the fact Romney knows a personal income tax return is highly unlikely to reveal any of this kind of information..

While a personal tax return may show some of Trump’s compensation, it likely would not show the vast majority of it, which probably is in the form of stock and various rights. If Trump’s assets rose by $1 billion last year, it is likely that came in the form of asset appreciation rather than cash payments to Trump. And do we really care? Isn’t it obvious Trump makes far more money than the rest of us? Do we need a tax return to show what a pittance most of us earn?

How Trump manages his “tax burden” seems immaterial. Either he pays his taxes or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, the IRS ultimately will file public liens against him but these will not be on his tax returns.

To use a tax return as a measure of Trump’s philanthropy could be terribly misleading. Someone such as Trump, who controls many different business entities, could be donating goods, services, and space through his businesses and none of this would show up on his personal tax returns.

Furthermore, no one has proven a relationship between elected officials who are generous with their money and elected officials who govern well. Simply because a person is philanthropic does not mean he or she will serve the public better. Perhaps a parsimonious candidate might be better suited for government service today.

Those who argue the release of candidates’ tax returns is an important part of the disclosure process because the returns will reveal a person’s financial relationships do not understand what most tax returns include. A majority of financial relationships will not be reflected on personal tax returns.

The answer to the public’s need for transparency is to improve disclosure requirements and have them cover a reasonable period of time. If we did that, we could skip tax returns altogether.

If he wants, Trump is positioned to lead a needed pushback against demanding too much of candidates and elected officials. There are enough disincentives for those considering running for office. Let’s remove unnecessary personal intrusions so more people will consider public service.

And most importantly, who needs to see Trump’s tax returns to come to conclusions about his candidacy?

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Aaron Harber, a graduate of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was the President of the Colorado Accounting & Tax Services, and is the host of “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV, ION Television (KPXC-TV), and COMCAST Entertainment Television. Go to http://www.HarberTV.com to watch programs 24/7. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. © Copyright 2016 by Aaron Harber and USA Talk Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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IS THE REPUBLICAN SUPREME GAMBLE PLAYING WITH FIRE? IS A DEAL THE SMARTER MOVE FOR ALL CONCERNED?

The stunning death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia continues to send shockwaves across the country. The Court’s most conservative jurist — known for his intellectual prowess, extraordinary articulateness, great sense of humor, and biting opinions (particularly when in the minority) — was the anchor of many opinions which (1) pleased strict constructionist conservatives who believed the Constitution should only be interpreted literally and (2) infuriated liberals who saw the Constitution as a “living, breathing, evolving” document that had to be relevant to an ever-changing world.

Despite knowing President Barack Obama has the right and obligation to nominate Scalia’s successor, all the Republican Presidential candidates and many others on that side of the aisle have called for the President to defer nominating anyone for a year so the next President can make the selection.

While any President, regardless of party affiliation, would be unlikely to wait, getting the Court to its full strength of nine Justices for the new term beginning in the Fall of 2016, should be a priority for the country so decisions — rather than 4-4 ties — can be made. Nevertheless, because Republicans are cognizant of what is at stake, they do not want to give Obama the opportunity to steer the country sharply to the Left.

At the same time, everyone knows one of the responsibilities and rights of the Presidency is the authority to nominate federal judges — including Supreme Court Justices. For many years, both parties respected this right and the concept “Elections have consequences.” That bipartisan perspective rarely exists today. (See my interviews with Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sandra Day O’Connor, at www.HarberTV.com/SCOTUS.)

Scalia was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 1986 by a vote of 98-0. Who can imagine such a unanimous vote for any nominee today?

A nomination right now would have extraordinary political implications. It will mobilize the Right as Second Amendment supporters, Pro-Life forces, and unrestricted political campaign spending advocates join others in an effort to elect a Republican President to prevent a change from the Court’s current 5-4 conservative majority to a 5-4 liberal majority. Those on the Right fear this would open the floodgates for dramatic change.

The Left simultaneously will mobilize as it attempts to exploit a historical opportunity for change which has not been available for several decades. Similar coalitions will seek to elect a Democratic President to stop what they believe has been the regression of the country in recent decades.

Republicans in control of the Senate could delay consideration of any Obama nomination for months. Hearings could be postponed and then dragged out. The Senate could vote down one or two nominees — forcing Obama to restart the process.

If Obama nominated a candidate representing a political base critical to the 2016 General Election, he might be able to turn the tables because Republicans — by rejecting that nominee — could alienate a significant element of the electorate in a very competitive election year. This could cost Republicans U.S. Senate seats or even the Presidency.

Nevertheless, anyone Obama nominates at first will be attacked by the Right no matter how impressive his or her credentials are. That nomination will fail. Obama could be strategic and first nominate a very liberal candidate who would serve as a sacrificial lamb. Then the President would be positioned to put forward a moderate but still left-leaning candidate who might be found suitable by the 60 Senators needed to confirm a nominee.

However, Republicans blocking an Obama nominee in 2016 could be playing with fire. In their zeal to stop Obama at any cost, Republicans may get their wish to have the next President select the new Justice.

What Republicans may not have thought through, however, is the potential impact of the volatility of the 2016 General Election. First, given the fact the Democratic nominees for President have won the popular vote in five of the past six Presidential Elections, the next President certainly could be a Democrat.

While many people discount the likelihood Hillary Clinton could prevail in November, she has plenty of time to overcome the challenges she faces. And although most “experts” discount Bernie Sanders chances of becoming President, they may be underestimating his appeal to non-Democratic voters concerned about political and financial corruption (i.e., some of the same supporters of another “outsider,” Donald Trump).

Even more significant is the fact Democrats could take control of the U.S. Senate because, in this year’s election, Democrats have 10 seats to defend while Republicans have 24. If Democrats hold their own and gain just 5 of the 24 Republican seats, they will constitute the Senate majority.

Although Democrats still would be short of blocking a filibuster, it only takes a simple majority vote to make a rules change so a Justice could be confirmed with the same simple majority. And if Democrats somehow gain more than 5 seats, they might get the 60 votes needed to approve any nominee outright.

With a Democrat in the White House and a Democratically-controlled Senate, the next President’s nominee could make any Obama nominee look tame in comparison. Hence, Republicans could “win the battle but lose the war.”

This is why a compromise on both sides may make the most sense. If the Republican-controlled Senate allows the President to nominate a moderate candidate, Republicans avoid the risk of later having someone they would find much worse. And if Obama compromises, he gets the chance to expand his legacy by nominating a Justice who will have influence for decades to come.

So the only question for the Republican Senate leadership, is, “How lucky do you feel?”

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Aaron Harber, host of “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV, ION Television (KPXC-TV), and COMCAST Entertainment Television. Go to http://www.HarberTV.com to watch programs 24/7. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. (C) Copyright 2016 by Aaron Harber and USA Talk Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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