The left is continuing it’s clamor for Trump to release his tax returns for various years. Some of them have gone back as far as the 1970’s to try and find some sort of dirt on him. But there are at least three reasons, two practical, one principled, that disclosing his tax records is a bad idea.
The first practical reason is that disclosing them would not benefit him at all. His detractors would complain about everything in them and his supporters would point out every good thing in them.
The second practical reason is that the vast majority of Americans would not understand them; I have seen estimates that Trump’s tax returns run about 1200 pages. He has accountants and lawyers that are experts in taxes doing his returns. I have taken classes at the doctoral level in federal taxation and I have serious doubts that I could follow taxes that are as complex as his must be.
So that leaves the average American in the position of listening to someone else tell them what is in his taxes. Rachel Maddow, assuming she is still on the air, would tell her listeners one thing, Eric Bolling would tell his supporters another. But neither of them would have read all the pages of Trump’s return, either. They would have employed experts to explain it to them, and then they would explain it to us. So any information you get from those returns would be third-hand, at best, and unlikely to sway anybody’s mind about Trump.
The IRS has undoubtedly audited Trump at least once or twice over the past decade. Yet there has been no accusation of chicanery in his returns, nor has there been any IRS enforcement action taken against him, that I am aware of. And, by the way, the tax code is so byzantine that even the IRS gives out erroneous information on a regular basis.
So, absent any smoking gun, or even lukewarm gun, and the lack of the average person to understand the returns, what’s the upside to disclosing his returns? None. Let’s be honest. If Trump tomorrow discovered a cure for cancer, the left would complain that he caused the unemployment of thousands of doctors and researchers.
And then there’s the principled reason. Unless someone can make a credible case that Trump’s tax returns contain information that make him unsuitable to be president, why shouldn’t the returns remain private? Have we reached a point where any aspiration to political office now demands a complete and absolute transparency into all private aspects of a candidate’s life?
And to those who will say that if he had nothing to hide he would release them, I would ask if any of them have drapes on their windows, or doors to their bedrooms. There is a difference between privacy and hiding.
The idea that these tax returns will shed any meaningful light on any meaningful topic is simply silly. The left’s insistence on their disclosure is counter-productive and trivial.
“There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime,” retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker told the Wall Street Journal in July 2011. “That is not an exaggeration.”
I have long maintained that there are too many laws and regulations in America. And while I applaud attempts by Trump to roll back the regulatory overload, more needs to be done.
There have been attempts at figuring out how many laws there are in this country, but none have been successful. Between the cities, counties, townships, states, and the federal government, getting an accurate number is virtually impossible.
In one try at it, in 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses. And keep in mind this was 35 years ago. This effort was considered, at the time, the most exhaustive attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws. In a Wall Street Journal article about this project, “this effort came as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.”
Fast forward to 2015. The United States now has some 300,000 federal regulations, and this number gets bigger every year. In addition to the regulations, there are about 4,500 federal criminal statutes on the books carrying fines or prison terms for offenders. And this is only the Federal level, and doesn’t include any lower level laws.
But the problem isn’t just the number of laws, it’s their byzantine application in ways that were never intended by the drafters. For example, consider the case of Yates v. he United States, 135 S. Ct. 1074 (2015).
John Yates was a commercial fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. A state conservation officer, who was also a deputized federal agent, boarded his vessel to inspect their catch of red grouper. After inspecting some 3,000 fish, the official identified 72 red grouper that did not meet the minimum 20-inch conservation standard and issued a citation from the state. He ordered Yates to bring the undersized catch when he returned to port. When Yates returned to port the next day, armed federal agents stood by while inspectors reexamined his catch, finding only 69 fish under the minimum standard. Federal officials accused Yates of destroying evidence. Three years later, the federal government charged him with the destruction of evidence to impede a federal investigation.
In August 2011, Yates was convicted and sentenced under a provision in the 2002 Sarbanes–Oxley law, passed in the wake of the Enron scandal. The law’s “anti-shredding” provision, meant to apply to the destruction of documents or files related to a federal financial-fraud investigation, has nothing to do with fish.
The Supreme Court threw out the conviction, relying more on common sense than any technical legal rationale.
But the crux of the problem is this. There are too many laws, and those laws are applied in too many unintended ways. No man is innocent in today’s America. The state, which already spies on us, has also made it impossible to obey the law. The Supreme Court has gone so far as to say that a policeman may stop you, search you, and use the results of that search against you, even if you had broken no law giving the cop reason to stop you, provided that the officer believed you had broken a law. In Heien v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that a violation of the 4th amendment is perfectly acceptable if the violation results from a “reasonable mistake about the law” on the part of police. Tacitly, the Supreme Court has admitted that even those hired to enforce the law can’t know the law.
This week, and probably next, the talking heads in the media have been all in a tizzy over Obamacare, its repeal, and its replacement. There has been the usual caterwauling from the unhinged-from-reality left about grandma and little Johnny being left to die while the rich republicans run over them with their Cadillacs. There has been the entirely ineffective table-thumping by various and sundry republicans who should know better than to advertise their impotence. Even the libertarians like Paul Rand have been on the bandwagon of public idiocy about “health care.”
The reason I put health care in quotes is because nobody ever maintained that Obamacare was about the provision of care. It was about the provision of insurance, either provided by the government or the private sector insurance companies. It was about who should be covered by insurance, by whom they should be covered, what procedures should be covered, and who should pay for it.
We had the fights, and the democratically controlled congress produced a bill of such brobdingnagian proportions that not one single congressmen, president, or judge can be said to have read every word, let alone all of the cross-references to other parts of the US Code. But, Obama signed it, and the Supreme Court allowed its mandate. And, mirabile dictu, the promises from the left about “heath care” were chimerical. Rates increased catastrophically, doctors abandoned patients, and plans disappeared, leaving many to depend on the exchanges, if there were any.
And, for years, the right tried to repeal this Titanic of laws. They were elected, again and again, on promises to repeal. But, until now, they have been unable. Now, the stars have aligned. A republican Senate. A republican House. A republican in the White House. And, looming on the horizon, a new Scalia for the Supreme Court. So with all these adventitious circumstances, what has the right done?
They have fallen to arguing amongst themselves about whether to replace with the same thing, the same thing with a different name, a slightly different thing, or a greatly different thing. Not one of them that I am aware of has asked the fundamental question that should have been asked of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi at the start of this rough beast. And that is, where is the constitutional justification for the government requiring, providing, and/or regulating health insurance?
I have read, reread, and scrutinized the Constitution, searching for a justification for Obamacare and can find none. I have likewise searched for the justification of a replacement by the republicans and can find none. Nowhere in the Constitution does the provision of health care by the Federal government appear. And yet, not one republican has voiced his opposition to either Obamacare or its replacement on the principal of governmental overreach.
I suppose that I should not be surprised. Every day, more and more people demand more and more from the government. And every day we lose more and more freedom.
Obamacare requires that we have insurance, or pay a fine. The republican repeal will likely contain a like mandate, due to actuarial necessity.
The young left burns schools and uses the heckler’s veto to shut down free speech, and demands that the government cooperate.
Free and open courts have disappeared with the Patriot Act and the FISA courts.
Social Security and Medicare/ Medicaid have become so sacrosanct that no politician will even discuss the programs other than to pledge their undying support, no matter the cost.
One can’t even grow one’s own wheat without running afoul of the ever-growing government.
At what point do we stand on principal, and stand up and say, “enough?” At what point do we realize that freedom is always to be preferred over the mother’s teat? Our forefathers did it over a crappy little tea tax. We, so far, can’t even be bothered to stop a 20 trillion dollar (and growing) debt, which is surely a crushing tax on us all.
At some point, the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem are going to become ironic