Category Archives: business news

Tax returns: the gift that keeps on giving

Tax returns have, um, returned to the top of our awareness.

Not my tax returns. Or yours. I refer to the president of the United States.

You’ll recall when Donald Trump stiffed 40 years of political tradition by refusing to release his returns for public scrutiny. He said dubiously that he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. That was more than two years ago! He still hasn’t released them. He is showing not a single indication that he’ll do so voluntarily.

Presidential candidates of both parties since 1976 have released their tax returns in the spirit of full transparency. Trump talks about being transparent, then hides his returns.

They’re increasing in relevance to what has developed. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, likely knows what is in those returns. He likely knows about whether the president has invested in “Russia matters.” He likely knows whether the president has benefited materially from his office, which could be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, the part that says presidents cannot accept money from foreign governments.

We’ll know in due course whether Mueller has those returns. We’ll know also in due course whether the special counsel has anything incriminating regarding those returns.

The idea that Trump has refused to release those returns because of an IRS audit falls apart on two levels. First, he’s never produced any evidence that the IRS is even auditing his tax returns. Second, the IRS — which doesn’t comment on individual audits — has made it clear that an audit does not preclude any public figure from making those returns public.

My direct plea to the special counsel is this: Make those returns available to those of us who want to know the truth behind our president’s financial dealings.

Self-awareness is MIA

Donald John “Smart Gut” Trump’s jaw-dropping absence of self-awareness is on full display this week.

He has taken aim at the man he selected this past year to lead the Federal Reserve Board. Jerome Powell took the hit for the reeling stock market, giving Trump the headache of watching people’s retirement funds — such as mine — shrink before our eyes as investors sell off their stocks.

Chairman Powell is not giving anything back to Trump, the president complained. Trump said he is quite unhappy with the selection of Powell to lead the Fed.

For starters, the Fed is an independent agency that doesn’t answer to the president of the United States. Trump doesn’t understand that, along with all the other elements of government he doesn’t understand.

Then he said he has “a gut” that tells him more than “anyone else’s brain” can tell him.

Oh, really, Mr. President?

Well, did your gut tell you to invest in all those endeavors for which you filed bankruptcy before you entered political life? How did Trump University or the Trump Taj Mahal resort work out? Not too well.

Trump’s “gut” let him down . . .  again and again and again!

GM owes its existence to government?

Donald John “Smart Gut” Trump has blasted General Motors for closing plants and for announcing plans to lay off as many as 15,000 employees as part of a company restructuring.

I laughed when I heard the president declare that the government “saved” GM “and this is the thanks we get.”

Oh, wait! That rescue mission was launched during the first term of President Obama. Do you remember that one? The auto industry was in trouble. The new president got Congress to approve a massive bailout for automakers. The money propped them up, helped preserve them; it saved them from collapse.

Then the automakers paid the government back for the money they received!

I guess what rankles Trump the most is that GM’s decision to lay off those workers turns one of the president’s signature campaign promises into, well, an empty campaign promise.

Ready for the next ‘war on Christmas’?

Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have a national cable news network these days from which he can lambaste what he has labeled the phony “war on Christmas.”

The Fox News Channel kicked Bill-O off the air after he was accused of sexual harassment. But . . . his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of those who continue to suggest that the “liberal mainstream media” have declared “war on Christmas” by promoting the dreaded “happy holidays” greeting instead of “Merry Christmas.”

That’s all ridiculous.

The so-called war on Christmas has commenced. My wife and I took a gander this afternoon en route to a Thanksgiving dinner with our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter at the “troops” lining up outside a JC Penney store at the Fairview Town Center Mall.

There will be other such lineups occurring later tonight and throughout the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.

Yep, the war is being waged not by the media but by retailers who sucker people into stores to do battle with each other over the latest trendy toys, the latest video games, the latest gadget, outfit or . . .  whatever.

I’ve never bought into the bogus notion that the war on Christmas is the figment of the “mainstream media.” The reality lies in the minds of corporations seeking to parlay our lust for material goods into a Christmas frenzy that will play out in stores across the land.

I will not suit up for this war, thank you very much. It’s not that I am better than anyone else. It’s just that when I was much younger I had a brief encounter with a real war in a far away land. I don’t want to take part in any phony rendition of the term here at home.

So, let the real war on Christmas commence without me.

I’ll reserve my energy for the real thing in just a little more than month. Others of you can just knock yourselves out. Just don’t let me hear about fistfights — or worse — at the mall. Deal?

Energy prices up, then down, then up . . .

Donald Trump is cheering the drop in oil prices. So am I. I don’t like paying more for gasoline than I can afford. So, I am enjoying watching the price of crude take a tumble.

But wait a second! Didn’t the president come into office declaring his intention to shore up the fossil fuel industry? He tossed some of the environmental regulations approved during the Obama administration, claiming they hurt drillers’ ability to explore for oil.

The other thing that hurt drillers was, um, the price of oil. Back when it was around $100 per barrel, pump jacks all over Texas and the rest of the Oil Patch that had gone silent when the prices fell were restarted. They began pumping the “Texas Tea” out of the ground.

Why, then, does the president say this in a Twitter message:

Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!

His Pennsylvania Avenue cheering section seems to suggest now that he wants the price to keep falling. A lot of West Texas wildcatters are unhappy with the trend. They don’t want to see it continue. They want it to go the other way.

I happen to hope it doesn’t, just like the president.

But why didn’t the president say anything in that tweet about developing alternative energy sources? President Obama made quite a push to do so during his two terms in office. The result was that we became effectively “energy independent.” The U.S. of A. became the world’s leading oil producer. Meanwhile, we invested in wind, solar and hydropower to take the burden off those wildcatters and Big Oil to keep producing.

Which is it now? Are we going to cheer the plunging oil prices or wish them to increase?

Donald Trump, per usual, is sending a mixed — or perhaps confused — message to the world.

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And of course, the bouquet the president tossed to Saudi Arabia — in light of his hideous acceptance of the Saudis’ denial in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist — sends another chilling message altogether. More on that one to come.

Why worry now about Trump’s business history?

Someone, somewhere — maybe a lot of folks out here in Trump Country, where I live — may be asking: Why are the media obsessing now about Donald Trump’s business practices when he was a much younger man, an up-and-comer in the real estate development industry?

I think I might have an answer. It’s because Donald Trump sold his presidential candidacy largely on the notion that he is a self-made man, that he had a “little bit of help” from his father, Fred Trump, as he sought to build a business empire.

The New York Times has put the lie to that boast. It has revealed in an exhaustive investigation that Trump received a lot of help from his father and that he well might have used fraudulent tax schemes to benefit his father’s business.

Donald Trump’s status as president of the United States of America makes this a legitimate issue of discussion, particularly as he prepares to campaign for re-election in 2020. The issue of his truthfulness in describing his pre-political business career must be brought up and it must be discussed thoroughly.

I doubt seriously that Trump himself will engage in that serious discussion. He’ll toss out insults at the media and his foes. He will energize his base of supporters. The president isn’t likely to provide forthright answers to direct questions about the Times’s story.

However, the president’s business history and the huge disparity between what a media outlet has uncovered and what he has said about that history demand a full and complete airing.

I hope the president would explain himself. My fear is that he won’t.

Another reason to demand POTUS’s tax returns

Wouldn’t you know it?

Among the first things that crossed my mind when I heard about The New York Times’s in-depth look at how Donald Trump obtained his wealth dealt with those mysterious tax returns that no one has seen.

That’s right. The president who defied political tradition dating back to 1976 continues to keep his tax returns from public scrutiny. He said while running for office in 2016 that he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Every presidential candidate going back four decades has released their tax returns for public review.

Why is that relevant today? Because the NY Times’s investigation revealed that a much younger Donald Trump used possibly illegal tax “schemes” to his financial advantage while he was taking many millions of dollars from his late father, Fred Trump, who helped him build his real estate empire.

So … the question persists: When are we going to see those tax returns, Mr. President?

I know he’s not going to release them unless someone orders it. I also believe the IRS audit is a sham, a dodge that Trump used as a pretext to keep the returns hidden from public review. The IRS doesn’t comment on specific audits, but it also has said an audit doesn’t preclude a public official from releasing them.

Meanwhile, we have this lengthy newspaper report that goes into excruciating detail how Donald Trump and his father possibly gamed the tax system to their financial advantage.

Read the Times story here.

The Times story is a long one. It’s worth your time if you want to take a peek into how a future president of the United States built his financial empire in a way that contradicts his own statements that he scaled the mountain all by himself.

He didn’t. He had lots of help from his father … and possibly from the federal tax system.

We cannot talk to Fred Trump, given that he’s no longer with us. The public, though, can get a good look at those tax returns to draw its own conclusions about how Donald Trump got his start in the rough-and-tumble world of business.

What’s more, the president calls the Times’s story “100 percent false.” Prove it, Mr. President. Deliver those tax returns!

What? Trump didn’t earn his fortune on his own?

The New York Times has reported something that many of us have suspected all along about Donald John Trump.

The man who would become president of the United States of America has long boasted about his business acumen, how he is a self-made zillionaire, how he is so damn smart.

Many of us out here have known that real business geniuses, real rich individuals, real smart men and women don’t brag openly about all of that.

The Times now reports that young Donald leaned heavily on his late father, Fred Trump, who gave his son lots and lots of money to bankroll his many business ventures.

Oh, and that Donald Trump well might have defrauded the U.S. government out of tax revenue through these questionable schemes.

What a revoltin’ development! I am just shocked, I tell ya, just shocked that Trump well might not be the self-made man he has boasted of being all these years.

Trump had all kinds of help

The Times is reporting that Trump received an estimated $413 million in “today’s dollars” to help build his business empire.

I guess it’s worth asking: Will any of this matter when — or if — the president seeks re-election in 2020? I’ll make a stab at answering it. Probably not, at least not to the base of supporters who continue to support the president.

Trump has bragged about getting a million bucks back when he began his business career. According to the NY Times, he got a lot more than that.

This guts of this story doesn’t really surprise me, although the detail in which the Times has reported it does reveal the amazing scope and depth to which the president sought to manipulate the system in his favor.

Yep, this is the guy who won an Electoral College victory in 2016 in his first-ever quest for any public office of any kind. It happened to be the presidency of the United States.

Gosh, I am so not proud of what we have gotten as a result.

Let’s call it NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump vowed to toss out the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it the “worst trade deal” ever negotiated … ever!

Over the weekend, the president announced a new trade agreement — which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — with Canada and Mexico. It remains to be seen whether it’s better than NAFTA. I’ll say this: Trump has delivered on a key campaign pledge to get rid of one trade deal and replace it with another.

I believe in free trade. I also believe that NAFTA was good for all three nations. It stripped away tariffs, enabling the nations to ship goods among each other. Trump contended during the 2016 that NAFTA cost the United States too many jobs, more or less echoing the mantra delivered in 1992 by Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot.

Let’s look at the details of this deal

Congress will have to approve NAFTA 2.0. The president wants Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, to sign it before handing his office over to his successor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who Trump once blasted as “weak” — called the new treaty a “good day for Canada.”

Midwest farmers are happy with the new agreement. I hope that happiness makes its way to Texas, with its own huge agricultural industry.

The new deal has drawn some guarded, but optimistic, responses from key lawmakers. According to Politico: “Maintaining the trilateral North American deal is an important prerequisite to preserving and extending those gains and the Trump administration has achieved that goal,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I look forward to reviewing this deal to conform it meets the high standards of Trade Promotion Authority.”

I remain committed to free trade among the three friendly giant nations. I hope the new deal, once we dive deeply into the details, is the result of the guy who has boasted of his ability to cut the best deals in the history of Planet Earth.

Does the special counsel have those Trump tax returns?

I keep getting this throbbing in my trick knee that suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller might be able to answer the question that has been bugging millions of Americans like me.

What is in Donald John Trump’s tax returns, the returns he refuses to release for public inspection?

That ol’ trick knee of mine suggests that Mueller has obtained those returns as part of his investigation into “The Russia Thing.” Trump won’t release them, making some sort of phony claim about being under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Of course, Mueller has substantial authority to get a lot of information that doesn’t come out through regular channels.

I’m waiting with some anxiousness for Mueller to finish this probe while telling us what many of us want to know: Are there business dealings in Russia that Trump wants to keep hidden from the public?