Fruitless Politics: Why Trump and Bernie’s Tax Returns Don’t Matter

By MattKeck | Matt Keck Blog | 14 Apr 2019

Every year, Americans file their tax returns with hopes that they’ll be refunded some money that they paid to the government over the past twelve months.

Over recent years, political commentators have used “Tax Day” as another excuse to mention that Donald Trump has not released his tax returns – unlike past presidents and presidential nominees.

This week, Bernie Sanders released his tax returns which drew an amused reaction from some conservative commentators because Sanders is, in fact, a millionaire.

Every time I hear this issue brought to light, I have a overwhelming urge to blurt out the same question.

Why should I care?

At first, this question may sound simplistic. We should all care about a person’s tax returns if they’re running for president! Transparency is a necessity!

But there are several good reasons to not care about the tax returns of any person seeking public office. The conversation surrounding a politician’s tax returns has no real substance.

Most importantly, I care more about the ways that a politician’s policies – and the way they want to change my taxes – than I care about their tax documents.

I don’t condone a nominee breaking the law to avoid paying taxes, but if a presidential candidate hired a skilled accountant that helped them avoid paying taxes utilizing loopholes, I wouldn’t be surprised and I wouldn’t care.

Imagine a world where your personal favorite 2020 candidate releases tax returns that shows they paid the minimal taxes required in order to act lawfully in our nation. Assuming that you felt strongly about the use of tax loopholes, is this severe enough to make you flip parties for an election or not vote? Probably not.

My point is that even if Trump’s returns were damning – in the sense that he owns some foreign assets and used trickery to avoid taxes for a decade – no person with republican values will suddenly champion a democrat for 2020. And it would be quite ridiculous if they did.

Politics isn’t about the individual and their personal flaws. It is about an elected official’s policy prescriptions. If a voter values deregulation and smaller government, then they probably shouldn’t vote for a big government democrat – even if Trump is embarrassingly unpresidential and potentially acts unlawfully.

The tax return debacle is another attempt to confuse policy perspectives with the person who holds them. We really shouldn’t care much about the person. A great guy can have bad ideas. An eloquent orator can champion every policy you find abhorrent. Also, a belligerent narcissist can have better policy positions than the decently spoken professional they’re running against.

This article isn’t meant to defend the policies of the current administration because I have significant qualms with a lot of their legislation. I’m attempting to demonstrate how a continued attack on a single politician, valid or not, does not show that their policies are bad. Talking about tax returns will not change a single voters mind because it has nothing to do with the policy that impacts the voter.

Instead, we should talk substantively about the good and the bad of the administration. We should talk about which policies are working and which policies are failing. We can make these arguments without getting caught up in one individual that already garners far too much attention.

So please, next time you want to talk about Bernie or Trump’s taxes, maybe talk about how their policies will change your taxes if they’re elected.  

If you want to hear more news and commentary from me, check out my Minds account, Wordpress blog, or my other Publish0x posts. Thanks.

[Photo from Matt Madd, Creative Commons 2.0]

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