I'm breaking a promise I made not to target overly-political figures on this blog - especially since Trump is such an easy target. Seriously, I don't even have a category for politics and I really don't want to be the author of a bash-Trump blog; however, today is the exception because the smoke-and-mirrors routine this time by the President is just a bit too far into the prevarication range...

The Trump quotes and Trump tweet quotes used here are from:
/trump-blasts-tax-day-protests-says-election-is-over.html (accessed April 16 and April 18, 2017)
and also https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2016/09/15
/?utm_term=.70bec08b3d90 (accessed April 18, 2017).

So let's take a quick sample of some Trump tweets from the Fox News article. Here's what got me interested in this subject: the article headline, which implies so much.

Trump blasts Tax Day protests, says 'election is over!'

Did you catch the inference here? The Fox article wants you to think that Trump is declaring the whole tax return disclosure issue to be one solely related to presidential elections. So the first the question we should be asking is: did the President really make this inference? To examine that, we need first to review what happened over the weekend.

There's a group out there called TaxMarch.org. They organized a number of protest marches to agitate for the release of President Trump's tax returns. You can check their website out at https://taxmarch.org/home (assessed April 18, 2017). Most of those marches had some small turn-outs, though the one in Berkeley on Saturday ended up with arrests and some noise in the news media. A friend of mine who is a retired UC Berkeley research scientist posted up photos he took of the fracas, which appeared to show a situation a bit more ambivalent than what we get delivered in the news. Be that as it may, the point is there were some protest marches in various high-profile locations across the country: none of them very large but several of them gaining news coverage, which after all, is the point of such exercises. It's bread-and-butter attention-getting techniques for grass-roots style political protests and business like usual for this sort of thing.

According to the Fox news article, President Trump reacted to the tax return protests with a couple of tweets. The first one said:

Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!

I opine that if this is what Fox News took as the inference behind their headline, then it's a bit sideways. Reading that tweet without any other referents, I personally would take it as an inference that well-heeled Trump antagonists were behind the protests and not as an inference that protests to release his tax returns are unnecessary because the election is over. Given the our President is often obtuse in many of his tweets, I would take the line about the election as a bit of a non-sequitor in the absence of any other related material that might clarify the reference.

Alas poor President Trump: he provided related material. He provided an additional tweet on Saturday to clarify the situation:

I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?

It was so nice of the President to provide us with that second tweet. I think it is indeed clear now that the Fox news headline was dead on the money: Trump really is making a statement that the whole tax return disclosure issue is one related to presidential elections and should now be a dead issue as a consequence. To bad he's dead wrong on the internet one this matter. To elucidate, we will now look at the history of tax return disclosures of both presidential candidates and of US presidents.

Here are the facts, folks: Presidents have commonly disclosed their tax returns or less-commonly disclosed summaries of tax return information to the public since the the 1970s. It all began with Nixon. Remember Nixon? Well, I remember Nixon but I'm probably giving away too much information on how old I am. Anyway, With Watergate breaking out in the news, Nixon made an unfortunate gaff about his federal taxes. Given his declining popularity, there was an increasing demand from both press and public for Nixon to disclose his return. Nixon protested he was under audit but that did not avail. He eventually caved in and disclosed his returns. You can read all about this interesting episode at the Tax History Project website, at: http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/
(accessed 17 April 2017).

While we're on the subject of Nixon, let's revisit the news back in August. That's when candidate Trump stated he would not release his tax return until the IRS was done with its audit of said return. Just to jog your collective memory, here's a Bloomberg article about the subject: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-08-02/nixon-s-failed-effort-to-withhold-his-tax-returns (accessed 17 April 2017).

Basically, there's nothing holding Trump back from disclosing his returns, not even audits, other than his refusal. The IRS doesn't care if a return under audit is disclosed because it has no influence on the audit process. The only that matters to the IRS is that the return was signed by Trump when it was submitted, to certify "Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete."

So what's the big deal about not disclosing because of an audit? The big deal is that there's no big deal here. It's the law ever since the 1970s that the President's tax return is audited every complete year he or she is in office. Add to this another little fact that every president since Nixon has disclosed their returns despite every one of those returns being under active audit. The nitty gritty details on that are all on the taxhistory.org website (under the "Presidential Returns" tab).

Now what about the tax returns of presidential candidates? Again, visiting taxhistory.org website will show that just about every major party candidate since the 1970s has disclosed their tax returns. Donald Trump is really looking like the odd man out here. I find it is useful at this point to review some of the things Trump has said about his returns. Pulling from a compilation of Trump quotes made by the Washington Post, back in 2014, Trump said:

he would “absolutely” release returns “if I decide to run for office.”

In January, 2016, we find:

(Trump) Said he was ready to disclose his “very big … very beautiful” returns.

In February, 2016, he said:

he would release returns “probably over the next few months.”

In May, 2016, he said:

“release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!”

In July we heard:

“Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them.”

In that same month, we also heard from Mr. Trump that:

“I haven’t had much pressure (to release tax returns). I’ll be honest, most people don’t care.”

At what point do we need to ship this man a shovel? When every US President for the last 40 years has disclosed tax returns or return summaries despite being audited every year, and when all the presidential candidates disclose their returns or return summaries regardless of any audit activity, some of Trump's verbage on this subject begins to lose some traction, at least for me. Maybe it's fair to play presidential comparisons here: the last US President and Vice President to protest they would not publicly disclose their tax returns were "I am not a crook" Nixon and his guilty-of-tax-evasion vice president Spiro Agnew. In the end, their tax returns were disclosed as part of the vain attempts to salvage Nixon's presidency. Nixon's attempt to dodge the capital gains tax on the sale of his New York apartment showed up in those disclosed returns and the audit on that attempted dodge went against Nixon. That's in the taxhistory.org Nixon article cited above. It's pretty interesting reading. So the only person to try to dodge the disclosure bullet since Nixon is Trump and does he really want to be compared to Nixon?

What makes this fodder for this blog right now is his insinuation that the disclosure of tax returns is a presidential candidate issue and not a presidential issue. I think the disclosure of US President returns for over 40 years despite mandatory obligatory IRS audits every year gives the lie to Trump's inference. Your own milage may vary.

As I said, nailing politicians on their foot-in-mouth disease on the internet is just too easy to be decent material for my blog.