Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Gordon Forgey

Not smart enough?


April 18, 2019

Despite the calendar, tax season is not over.

Bernie Sanders has released his returns. Much to his embarrassment and the embarrassment of some of his supporters, he is a millionaire. He has spent much of his career railing against millionaires.

President Donald Trump, on the other hand, steadfastly refuses to release his tax returns. An official request from Representative Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has been blunted, and the Internal Revenue Service so far has been holding fast against releasing them. Neal wants six years of returns, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that releasing them brings up “complicated legal issues” and that could lead to “weaponizing the IRS.”

Congressman Elijah Cummings has subpoenaed ten years of Trump’s returns from a private accounting firm.

Then White House spokesman Sara Sanders took the controversy to another level, perhaps the most ridiculous. She declared that Congress is not smart enough to understand the returns.

Historically, presidents and presidential hopefuls have released their returns, although they have no legal obligation to do so. Also, they have put their holdings in blind trusts to avoid any suggestion of conflicts of interest. A while back, Trump declared that releasing his tax returns would be crossing a “red line,” contrary to tradition.

The call for the release of Trump’s income tax records is not new. He has been plagued by the requests since he became a serious candidate and then president. If there is no progress, emotions and rhetoric and, most likely, lawsuits will build. An election is coming, and neither party will willingly give up any advantage.

Knowing what the returns contain is important. Basically, this is just another case where Trump’s claim to clear the swamp has not come to pass.

Sarah Sanders’ rhetoric alone shows how destructive such impasses can become. It is something Congress may not soon forget. It is another case of the destructiveness of words. They damage congressional integrity and respect. They damage a fundamental institution, and they damage any precedence of openness that the public in the past has demanded.

Congress, in Sarah Sanders’ words, may not be smart enough. Hopefully the American people are.


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