By Jon Dougherty
Since before the 2016 election Democrats (and some Republicans) have pushed POTUS Donald Trump to release his tax returns but after initially pledging to do so once auditors were finished with them, he has changed his mind.
Now the new House Democrat majority wants to force the president to release his returns, along with Vice President Mike Pence under legislation known as H.R. 1.
On Jan. 3, the first day of the 116th Congress, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced H.R. 1, called the “For the People Act of 2019.” Democrats obviously believe that the most pressing issue facing America today is knowing the extent of the president’s wealth.
But Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), doesn’t believe H.R. 1 should extend to the tax returns of the third person in line to the presidency, the Speaker of the House — at least now while the Speaker is a fellow Democrat.
In response to a question from CNS News regarding whether she believes Pelosi ought to have to disclose her returns as well, Chu replied, “No, I don’t think so, because I – unless she’s running for president.”
“See, the whole point of this is, these are the people who make the decisions at the very top,” said Congresswoman Chu. “And for 40 years the president has released the tax returns and there’s good reason for doing that because the American people need to have faith that their president is acting on their behalf and not his own behalf.”
“So that’s why it’s particularly important for the president and the vice president and the major party nominees to submit their tax returns,” she said.
Ah, got it. ‘Faith.’
CNS News asked a follow-up question: “Why should the vice president be held to a different standard on releasing his tax returns than the Speaker of the House?”
“Because the vice president is second-in-command to the president,” Chu said. “They are the ones in the White House making those executive decisions – on trade, or on the tax bill, on things that affect Americans’ financial future.”
Yeah. And Pelosi is third in line. And Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), as Senate President pro-tempore, is fourth in line. And so on. What’s your point, Rep. Chu?
“Nancy Pelosi has to deal with the votes of 435 people,” she added. “She’s one in 435 votes. He can make endless executive decisions that affects the lives of Americans across this nation. That’s the difference.”
Ahhh. Got it. But isn’t Pelosi selected from among the people’s representatives? And as speaker, doesn’t she get to decide what legislation the House will vote on and what legislation it won’t consider — which gives her incredible power?
Yes, those two things are both true. But here’s the thing: Despite Chu’s obvious hypocrisy, she’s right that Pelosi and subsequent officials in the line of presidential succession shouldn’t have to release their tax returns.
But she’s wrong that presidents and vice presidents should have to — whether she is insisting they do so as a matter of partisan virtue-signaling, as is the case with H.R. 1, or for any other reason.
It doesn’t matter that presidential candidates and presidents have released their returns for the past four decades. There is no constitutional requirement for them to do so.
What’s more, an individual’s tax returns contain an incredible amount of personal information, and since it’s personal, that means it’s nobody else’s business — unless the individual taxpayer wants to make his or her returns everyone’s business.
Finally, we have a federal agency known as the Internal Revenue Service, which of course is statutorily authorized to not only collect taxes and revenues owed the federal government but also to conduct tax code oversight and investigations into alleged violations of said tax codes. If Mr. Trump had violated IRS tax codes, given his reported wealth and high profile, it strains credulity to believe that the agency would have missed out on holding him accountable.
In other words, if the president was a serial tax cheat like many Democrats and their supporters seem to think, the IRS would have busted him a long time ago — especially when Barack Obama was running the Executive Branch (remember, the IRS under his watch illegally targeted conservative non-profits to keep them out of the 2012 election cycle). Also, Obama orchestrated “Spygate” so again, it’s hard to believe taxes wouldn’t have been part of that witch hunt scandal.
This notion that presidents should have less privacy than ordinary Americans by forcing them to reveal to us their personal financial data is a construct of modern politics, nothing more. As brilliant as our founders were, if they were seriously concerned that a president could have nefarious financial dealings with Great Britain, France, or some other world power of the day that would affect presidential policymaking in a way that would harm the United States, they would have written disclosure requirements into the Constitution.
Americans in both parties should stop accepting this false premise which has been handed down to us by partisans in Congress who don’t pursue such silliness unless they are convinced doing so helps them politically.
In President Trump’s case, if he were improperly involved, financially, with Russia, China, or some other foreign nemesis, the IRS — and the FBI, and the Justice Department, and the State Department — would all have known about it long ago. Barack Obama would have known about it — long ago. Also, the president has repeatedly stated — unchallenged by Democrats — that the IRS frequently audits him; obviously, the agency hasn’t found anything that he’s done wrong lest he would have been charged and/or fined.
Chu’s hypocrisy aside, she’s right that the House Speaker doesn’t need to show us her tax returns. But neither does the president or vice president; if voters’ tax returns are private, then so are the returns of presidents and presidential contenders.
Quite simply, their returns are none of our business.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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