M. Serajul Islam
That Donald Trump had something serious to hide with his tax returns was obvious from the time he announced his intention to become a presidential candidate. The issue has haunted him ever since. He took shelter under excuses that did not stand to reason. At first, he said his tax returns were under audit and therefore he could not reveal his return. He later tied his tax returns to Hillary Clinton’s emails. When Hilary Clinton had explained satisfactorily that there was no legal problem in releasing his tax returns in the first presidential debate, Donald Trump had said he would release his tax returns if she released the 30,000 plus emails that have not yet been released. In fact, Donald Trump has been playing a game of cat and mouse with the tax issue about what is a very sensitive issue over which voters in the United States are interested and concerned on a bipartisan basis. It is not mandatory under US electoral laws for a presidential candidate to release his/her tax returns. This is his/her right as a citizen and a matter between him/her and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The law notwithstanding, candidates in US presidential elections have made it customary to reveal their tax returns to create trust among the voters in them because income tax is a matter with which every voter in the country can directly relate because every citizen in the country, even when he/she has had no income in the year for which tax returns are being filed, has to file his/her tax returns. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney had made the tax return an issue when he delayed with it. In late September of that election year, he released his tax returns that revealed that although he was a millionaire he had been paying much fewer in taxes than the ordinary folks of the country. In fact, most people with reasonable earnings paid two times than the average of 14% income tax he had paid over the period for which the returns were given. That did not go down well and it was one reason why he lost the election. Therefore, Donald Trump knew that he had a major problem with his tax returns. And that the problem was a bombshell became clear when three pages of his 1995 tax return landed in the mailbox of a New York Times reporter. The three pages revealed that Donald Trump had claimed in his 1995 tax returns a loss of nearly US$ 1 billion and under that claim had legally sought and was given the right not to pay any taxes for the next 18 years.
The legality of no-tax claims earned by Donald Trump meant, as the Hillary Clinton campaign lost no time in explaining that for 18 years thereafter he did not contribute a single cent to the US Government where ordinary folks for whose tax reliefs Donald Trump has been crying his heart out were paying their share of taxes under great financial pressures. Hillary Clinton herself pointed out, as did the media that the three pages published in the NYT notwithstanding; the country knows nothing of Donald Trump’s tax returns except for 1995 and the benefits he derived out of it for next years. The more important issue that is coming out of the NYT story is its impact of Donald Trump’s self-acclaim as the most brilliant businessman in the country. He had argued that he is the fittest person to become the president because he is the only one who has the ability to make America great again just like he has turned his businesses into successes. Hillary Clinton pricked the pin in that balloon by suggesting that only the most unworthy of businessmen loses that much money in one single year. She used the plight of hundreds of thousands of small investors who lost everything when Donald Trump declared bankruptcy as the icing on the cake to destroy Donald Trump’s claim as a successful businessman.
Donald Trump’s top surrogates former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to rescue Donald Trump from the grave mess into which the NYT story had pushed him. They argued a story line given by Donald Trump himself, that he had “brilliantly” exploited the tax loopholes that exempted him from paying a single cent as a tax for 18 years. The surrogates went into denial over the fact by losing US$ 1 billion in a single year; Donald Trump in fact established that he is the anti-thesis of a brilliant businessman upon which he had asked for votes. Donald Trump’s surrogates also went into denial that he had sacrificed the interests of hundreds of thousands of small investors who had lost their investments so that Donald Trump could declare bankruptcy and “brilliantly” but legally avoided paying any tax for 18 years! Donald Trump and his top surrogates made another weird case for his defense. They said that since Donald Trump knew how to legally avoid such huge amount of taxes, he would be the best suited to be the president as he would know how to fix these tax loopholes! This was like justifying to make the top mafia boss of the city its mayor because he would know how laws are broken and thus be able to catch those better who are the offenders of the law! The fact that top Donald Trump surrogates have made such weird defenses underlines a very sad aspect of this year’s US presidential election. Their actions and of course the actions of the Republican candidate suggest that the moral and ethical standards in the public domain that had made America rise to become the greatest power in the history of the world are under serious threat. These ethical and moral standards have been brought under attack because Donald Trump who has based his candidature on abuses and insults that has allowed the alt right and the white supremacists to come into the mainstream of US politics has said that his words and actions are the moral and ethical bars of the country. Notwithstanding the absurdity of the claim, Donald Trump had appeared by most polls a serious candidate who could very well become the president leading to the first presidential debate. That prospect has seriously dampened with his performance in the first debate, his tax bombshell thereafter, sex texting over the former Miss Universe and his views on Russia to name the most important ones. In the only Vice-Presidential debate held on the 4th of October, even his own running mate Governor Mike Pence did not make any serious efforts to defend him because the issues over which Donald Trump is now being pushed against the wall are indefensible. The polls are showing Donald Trump slipping fast with now just about a month for the November 8 election. Nate Silver’s website where Donald Trump was shown as having 46% chance of winning against Hillary Clinton’s 54% with the momentum in his favour leading to the first debate, now shows him down to 20% chance of winning against Hillary Clinton’s 80% with the momentum in the latter’s favour. New York Times’ election tracking shows Hillary Clinton with an 82% chance of winning against Donald Trump’s 18%. RealClear Politics, another credible election tracking website, has Hillary Clinton leading by 4.1 % nationally, a figure that is the average of all major polls. The odds are now stacked heavily against the Republican candidate, with the media serious finally about revealing the real Donald Trump that it had not revealed so far. At the time of filing this article, a new bombshell of greater significance than the tax bombshell has hit the Donald Trump campaign. A video taken in 2006 has just been released to the media where he has expressed “raw, obscene and repugnant” views on women, bragging that he had sexually filtrated with a married woman just after his third and current marriage to Melania Trump like it was his right to do so because of his self-acclaimed “star” status. Speaker Paul Ryan who had invited him to a major Republican event in Wisconsin cancelled that invitation, too ashamed to appear with him in public. The writer is a retired career Ambassador.
M. Serajul Islam