Like her or hate her, there's no denying that Hillary Clinton knows how to play the game. In a characteristically savvy move on Friday, the former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic front-runner released a wealth of documents to the public, including medical records and tax documents from the past eight years. Those documents, timed in conjunction with another massive State Department email dump of Clinton's personal archives, showed that the Clintons have paid around $44 million in federal taxes since 2007.
"We've come a long way from my days going door to door for the Children’s Defense Fund and earning $16,450 as a young law professor in Arkansas — and we owe it to the opportunities America provides," said Clinton in a statement on her website on Friday. "I want more Americans to have the chance to work hard and get ahead, just like we did ... reforming the tax code can help."
That total, according to the couple's tax documents, came from a combined total income of around $100 million, which the Clinton camp said it would detail further on Friday evening. Already, that number has troubled some in the political sphere who believe the former Secretary's line of work would serve as a jump-off point for those looking to criticize her wealth.
Attempting to stay one step ahead of Republican strategists and GOP and Democratic pundits who might use those numbers against her, Clinton came out swinging, calling out rival candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for allowing those in her same income bracket to get away without paying their "fair share." Said Clinton in a statement,
We hear very different principles from the Republican candidates running for President. They want to give me another tax cut I don’t need instead of putting middle-class families first. For example, Jeb Bush supports eliminating or dramatically lowering capital gains taxes for wealthy investors with no incentives for long-term holding. Marco Rubio’s plan would cut taxes for households making more than $3 million a year by almost $240,000 — more than four times the earnings of a typical family. ... Families like mine that reap rewards from our economy have a responsibility to pay our fair share. And it’s not just the right thing to do — it’s also good for growth.
Clinton will likely fall under heavy scrutiny, no matter what moves her advisers make next, but getting out in front of the storm certainly helped. The former FLOTUS, of course, wasn't alone in that arena: in late June, GOP candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also released his own tax returns from a span of over three decades. Those documents showed that Bush and his wife, Columba, had paid an effective tax rate of around 36 percent — "a higher tax rate than the Clintons even though I earned less income," said Bush on his website that same month.
Compared with the recent financial documents put out by the Clinton campaign on Friday, Bush's claim might ring somewhat hollow. According to federal paperwork, Bush's calculations didn't take into account his sudden rise in brackets — the math, pointed out NPR News fact-checkers, just didn't add up.
"To come up with Bush's 36 percent number, the Bush campaign did a straightforward calculation, adding up his total taxes from 1981 through 2013 and dividing it by all of the income he earned in those same years," the outlet speculated, pointing to the fact that Bush had made it seem as if he had always paid 36 percent.
"Really, he paid more than 36 percent in only eight of those years ... in four earlier years, he had either zero or negative taxable income." The correct average, they surmised, was more likely around 21 to 25 percent.
Still, it was a start. Not all of Clinton's critics have been as straightforward about their own taxes, including the notoriously bold Donald Trump, who, in 2012, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he paid "a lot of tax" but wasn't quite sure exactly what the rate really was. On July 22 this year, Trump finally did release his own financial documents, which — to no one's surprise — confirmed that the business mogul's net worth was indeed in the range of $10 billion. Trump has not yet released his personal tax returns.
If nothing else, the timed release of Clinton's tax documents has shielded her for at least a short while and given her a leg up (if only very temporarily) on her competition. Said Clinton, in a somewhat humanizing move on Friday,
I believe that we all have to do our part to renew the basic bargain of America: If you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. And when you get ahead, America gets ahead too.
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