By David T. Jones on August 19, 2016

Nosey Parker--a person of an overly inquisitive or prying nature.

Washington, DC ~ Politics is now in the phase of “let it all hang out” and, if there is reluctance to such exposure, rip it out of the recalcitrant.

Thus the endless clarion calls for politicians to release their federal tax returns.  Ostensibly, these demands are couched in dulcet “good government” terms designed to reveal whether certain financial claims by a candidate are accurate or that income is honestly obtained.  “Transparency” is the new buzz word.

In truth these demands are hypocritical and self serving.  They are emphasized by political opponents who suspect that published tax returns will provide further grist for derogatory attacks. 

In the current U.S. presidential campaign, the most prominent target for these demandeurs is Donald Trump. Although Hillary Clinton has had her share of attacks regarding the Clinton Foundation.

There is no legal requirement that politicians make these disclosures. Whether audits are involved or not.  

It clear that the rich, particularly the very rich, have many sources for their wealth.  These income opportunities are rarely if ever open to the “severely normal” taxpayer.  And stratospherically wealthy individuals have very well paid tax experts to take advantage of every element of tax law to assure they pay the least tax that they are legally required to pay.  One can rail against the intricacies of the U.S. tax code that has many fiscal and social objectives; however, no one is obligated to pay more taxes than legally required.  And “charity” frequently gets little more than lip service.

One’s tax records are an area of great personal privacy.  Even the proverbial “salary man” who uses the IRS “short form” may balk at revealing its contents.  Those reviewing a taxpayer’s statements are bound by strict privacy requirements.  Perhaps not at the legal strength of a religious confessional or a doctor’s medical examinations, but highly regulated.  

In the federal government, senior officials are required to provide confidential information regarding their specific investments, e.g. stocks, property, to ensure against conflict of interest potential.  However, they are not/not required to provide their federal tax returns.  

Consequently, one must ask whether such information is necessary for a voter to make an informed decision?  Or is it closer to gratuitous intrusion into personal privacy?  

One can argue the public has a right to know of a candidate’s medical history.  Healthy enough to serve effectively in the office being sought?  But is equal fiscal transparency required?

Candidates for senior offices face extraordinary pressures.  There are many disincentives to subjecting self/family to these pressures.  Adding the requirement for a fiscal strip tease is a further obstacle.  Doubtless this implicit requirement is one element weighing against the superrich ,such as Bill Gates, from entering the political arena.  Taxes should be between you, any one who assisted in their preparation, and the IRS.  If illegality is detected or charged, it is a matter for the juridical system with its legal protections.

The current stress on divulging tax returns is not a useful part of the political process beyond providing partisans with “gotcha” opportunities.

On the other hand, tax form release is not ubiquitous.  Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, Richard Lugar, and Ralph Nader didn’t release tax returns during their Presidential campaigns.  So we might ask:

  Did Mitt Romney’s use of Cayman Island tax havens cost him the 2012 election?

  Did the revelation that Bill Clinton received a deduction for the charitable deduction of his used boxer shorts damage his prospects for victory?  Or simply titillate readers?

  Did JFK’s nondisclosure of his tax records make him a less effective president?

  Did FDR’s similar nondisclosure affect his abilities as president?

  If Herbert Hoover had revealed his tax returns (he was a wealthy man with extensive charitable donations) would it have made him more electable in 1932 against FDR?

Obviously, if a candidate for any office from president to dog catcher wishes to release tax returns, nothing prevents it.  If you have nothing to hide—bare it all.  

But let’s stop the hue-and-cry pursuit.


Please login to post comments.

Editorial Staff

Beryl P. Wajsman

Redacteur en chef et Editeur

Alan Hustak

Senior Editor

Daniel Laprès


Robert J. Galbraith


Roy Piberberg

Editorial Artwork

Mike Medeiros

Copy and Translation

Val Prudnikov

IT Director and Web Design

Editorial Contributors
La Patrie