Counterpoint: No need to pound the table

By Randall Poulton | May 16, 2019

There is an old adage, when the facts are on your side, pound the facts! When the law is on your side, pound the law! When neither is on your side, pound the table! During my counterpoint, there will be no need to pound the table.

In this case, the governing law is the Constitution of the United States of America, specifically Article II, Section 1, paragraph six. In describing the qualifications to be president of the United States, of which there are three, and only three, the Constitution says: you must be: “a natural born Citizen”, “attained to the Age of thirty five years” and “been fourteen years a Resident within the United States.” There is no mention of releasing tax returns or hair color!

Now, over the years, certain “norms” have evolved. With rare exception, to be president, you must be an old white man. Let’s hope this norm soon goes by the wayside.

Now, on to the facts.

Did Trump promise to release his taxes? Yes, he did. But, he also left himself some wiggle room when he said he would not do so while he was under audit. Slimy — but a lie? I don’t think so. Even if yes — so what? Politicians lie.

I seem to remember some serious presidential whoppers like: “Read my lips — no new taxes,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” These lies were followed by real consequences: higher taxes, impeachment and the mess called Obamacare (which every single Democratic candidate for president now promises to fix).

I fail to see how Trump’s past financial gains and losses will impact me today or tomorrow.

Can the Democrats force Trump to turn over his tax returns? I doubt it. But, on page 3,158 of the huge and complicated IRS code, section 6103(f) does say: ”… the Secretary (of the Treasury) shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.” So maybe the Democrats have a case.

But the Trump administration says there needs to be legit grounds for Congress to see a taxpayer’s tax return. Nothing will happen on this for months or years, and, even if the Democrats win in court, you and I will never see Trump’s tax returns. Talk about a waste of time!

Specifically, to Mr. Brower’s points:

First: I agree politicians should not personally benefit from decisions they make while in office. Each year, every president, and many other officeholders, must fill out an extensive financial disclosure. You can peruse Trump’s 2017 form OGE278e online. It is 92 pages long and, unless he is lying, his income was astronomical! He lists 201 sources. Among the biggies are his golf courses: $75 million from Doral, $25 million from Mar-a-Lago and $20 million from Turnberry. Trump also owns a lot of stock in Apple, Caterpillar and Microsoft.

On the other side of the ledger, his liabilities are certainly “bigly.” Trump’s form OGE278e also includes another piece of information: On the day of his inauguration, Trump resigned his leadership position in 596 companies. Did you know that?

Second: I do think Trump “puts his money where his mouth is.” Trump has donated his entire presidential salary to various causes, including combating opioid addiction, a camp promoting STEM careers, and restoration projects at the Antietam National Battlefield. These generous donations get zero press coverage. And, according to his 2005 tax return (the one that was mysteriously leaked to the media), Trump paid $38 million in taxes for that one year! That is bigly taxes to go with his big mouth!

Third: I would support a new law that requires all future presidents to release their tax returns during their years in office. But that may require a constitutional amendment, and we have not ratified one of those since 1992.

Fourth: Is Trump a crook? Well, I don’t think so. And, apparently, Trump has also convinced the IRS that his business dealings are legal (they, after all, DO have his tax returns!).

What I find most unfortunate is that Congress is wasting valuable time chasing Trump’s tax returns while our country’s real problems go wanting. And, that is enough to make me want to pound the table!

Randall Poulton is a columnist for these newspapers. He lives in Winterport.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 19, 2019 07:29

Ronald Horvath apparently has some serious time on his hands. "According to the Washington Post". Nobody can seriously believe anything that comes out of that rag owned by Bezos. AKA Washington Compost. Only 10,111? You missed one!

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | May 18, 2019 10:03

Cherry picking your own "facts", Randall, doesn't make your argument right.

Is trump a liar?  Really?  Do we even have to ask.

"...  Donald Trump has a tenuous relationship with reality, but the full extent of his use of alternative facts has now been laid bare. He made 10,111 false of misleading claims in 828 days as president, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper's Fact Checker reckons the rate of his lies has picked up dramatically over the past couple hundred days. It took him 601 days to get to 5,000 false and misleading claims, which worked out at an average of eight claims a day. But just 226 days later he crossed the 10,000 mark—an incredible average of nearly 23 false claims a day. He managed to rack up 171 false or misleading claims in just three days between April 25-27—higher than in any single month in the first five months of his presidency."

And does trump "put his money where his mouth is?" Well, just maybe he's spending more tax dollars on himself than his paltry "contributions" can justify.

"...  the cost of the President’s trips to his private Florida resort over the course of four years...  the $600 million security arrangements for Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits are estimated to cost the taxpayer over the course of his term.

According to CBS News, the President spent every weekend of his first 33 days in office at the Palm Beach estate - for which security is estimated to have cost $10 million."

"Donald Trump has charged his own reelection campaign $1.3 million for rent, food, lodging and other expenses since taking office, according to a Forbes analysis of the latest campaign filings. And although outsiders have contributed more than $50 million to the campaign, the billionaire president hasn’t handed over any of his own cash. The net effect: $1.3 million of donor money has turned into $1.3 million of Trump money."

And, Is trump a crook?  You bet.  Maybe you should ask the former "students" of trump university, a particularly foul deal in which trump made $175 million while paying off only $25 million to escape prosecution.  Of course there's more.  It's called selling influence.

"Since their arrival in Washington, the president and Javanka have been reaping profits from the various family businesses in tandem with their public service, while cynically pretending they have suspended their wheeling and dealing... Trump International Hotel is doing brisk business, its lobby always full of White House favour-seekers, its pricey rooms often filled with industry executives and lobbyists. The hotel is siphoning business from other local hotels and convention centres, according to the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, which have both filed lawsuits. The Justice department, unsurprisingly, has defended the president’s continuing role as a hotelier, but a federal judge on Monday sharply criticised the department’s legal reasoning. The case is probably heading for the US supreme court."

"A new survey from Quinnipiac University asked: "Do you think that President Trump committed any crimes before he was president, or don't you think so?"


"Sixty-four percent responded that yes, they thought Trump had committed crimes...  Further, when asked if they thought President Donald Trump committed any crimes since taking office, 45 percent said they thought he had, while 43 percent said they thought he had not.  In general, folks didn't seem to trust Trump.

"New evidence of possible tax-law violations by President Trump’s inaugural committee has emerged...  According to Pro Publica, the committee potentially paid a far-above-market rate for event space at the Trump International Hotel...  Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to groups that are owned by people who also influence the nonprofit’s activities.

“Every legitimate nonprofit is very concerned with this,” said Doug White, a veteran adviser to tax exempt organizations, speaking generally. “You’re benefiting a private person, and you’re using the nonprofit to do it.” Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $100 million—almost twice the amount spent on the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, the next-most expensive inaugural party. "

"In the Trump era, politicians wanting an endorsement from the President apparently have a new way to get it: book an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“Trump endorsements follow in the wake of candidates spending money at his properties,” a report from Fast Company, shows eight GOP politicians or PACs associated with them have held events or spent money at Trump properties, usually his D.C. hotel – which were followed with endorsements from President Trump.

“It raises the specter that the president is essentially enriching himself by virtue of his position,”
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) told Fast Company.”

Of course trump has his party running interference for him as well.

"The sweeping anti-corruption, democracy reform bill passed by Democrats in the House last week included measures to prevent foreign money from influencing future elections, but every single House Republican voted against the bill.

Christian Science Monitor reported on Monday that the Democrats’ bill, H.R.1, was meant to address “an urgent need to close loopholes that could allow foreign money to surreptitiously influence American voters, citing in particular a Kremlin-linked company that bought divisive Facebook ads and a Trump administration tax rule change last summer that could allow illegal foreign donors to evade detection.”


There's more, of course.  With trump there's always more.

“Ever since Trump and his family arrived in Washington they have essentially hung a for-sale sign on the White House by refusing to meaningfully separate themselves from their own business interests,” Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien notes. “That’s certainly not lost on the companies that do business in or with Washington. They know that in Trump’s swamp, you pay to play.”

" If the GOP base persists in blinding itself to the unethical people who trade on their relationships with the current president, America will continue to be sold out by the very faction that swore it would make it great again.”

Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 18, 2019 07:39

Great Counterpoint article. Reade Brower needs to spend more time on Maine issues that affect all of our lives, like why is there so much opposition to the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) or who sets priorities in the DOT that results in large stretches of US1 looking like a 3rd world country or why the citizens need 151 legislators covering 16 counties for a whopping 1.33 million people. Regarding Trumps' tax returns. Release the 6 years that they want but ONLY the chairman of the judicial committee, No Neck Nadler, can see them in a SKIF in the Treasury Dept. No help from his ambulance chasing committee lawyers, no other committee members. BTW, the returns don't have to be in any particular order. He'll be there for the next 50 years.

If you wish to comment, please login.