Donald Trump Used To Be All About Taxes

by Lani Seelinger

By now, you've certainly heard what is quite possibly the biggest news about this campaign season so far, coming from The New York Times — that according to his 1995 tax returns, it's quite possible that Donald Trump avoided paying income tax for up to 18 years. While there are still big gaps in our knowledge, given the small number of documents leaked, Mother Jones has just unearthed more proof of just exactly how hypocritical Trump is.

First, is anyone really surprised? Hillary Clinton reflected those sentiments exactly during the first presidential debate, when she questioned what her opponent could be hiding by not following the standing tradition in presidential elections and releasing his tax returns. Given what Trump has gone on the record saying in the past, as the Mother Jones article points out, not paying years of federal income tax is probably just about the number one thing that Trump didn't want us to know.

In one interview on Fox News from 2011, he bemoaned the state of the country, complaining that "50 percent of people are paying no tax" while at the same time emphasizing that "[he doesn't] mind sacrificing for the country to be honest with you." Then, in 2012, he jumped into the foray on Mitt Romney's 47 percent comment, saying that "[Romney] should never apologize ... you do have a lot of people that feel they're entitled."


What all of these comments are conveniently ignoring, of course, is that most of the people who pay no income tax do so because their incomes don't pass the threshold at which point it becomes required, not because they're using past losses of millions of dollars to make their recent gains untaxable.

There are plenty of perfectly legitimate ways that people could be working, perhaps paying state taxes and taxes for Social Security and Medicaid, but their incomes simply do not require them to pay income tax. Retirees fall into this bracket. Students who work part time almost certainly fall into this bracket. Many of the low-level workers that Trump has allegedly failed to pay over the years are most likely in that category as well.

And where does that leave Trump himself? Making millions of dollars in gains over almost two decades, yet failing to pay a dime of income tax on it – not as a prize for success, as he claims that low taxes on the rich should be, but as a result of past failure. And not just a minor mistake; his claimed losses amount to the GDP of several small countries.

If nothing else, the released tax records and his previous comments on the subject show an awfully distorted understanding of the concept of entitlement. A college student working a part time job to pay her expenses but not making enough to pay income tax is entitled. A self-proclaimed billionaire who makes millions in revenue yearly but once lost such an absurdly huge amount of money that he could avoid paying years of income tax is not entitled. Whichever version of entitlement we decide to go with, we can definitely agree that it's hypocrisy.