Rachel Maddow’s Fake News: Trump Tax Return Extravaganza Falls Flat

“Maddow promised answers, but she failed to deliver much in terms of substance… I don’t feel like any of the information she provided was anywhere close to damning…”

I believe that President Trump should release his tax returns. Every presidential candidate for the past several decades has done so, and “The Donald” should be no different. Needless to say, I was excited to learn that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was going to release Trump’s returns. The “breaking” announcement, the hyped tweets, the buzz on the Internet, and the lengthy monologue had a good number of Americans feeling excited. Some might have even been nervous.

And then, Maddow delivered… and it was a letdown. TWO PAGES? Of a tax return from 2005!? Maddow’s first “breaking” tweet announced that she “had” President Trump’s “tax returns.” This was at roughly 7:30PM, and she was urging viewers to tune into her 9PM show. Roughly an hour later she clarified that the returns were from 2005, but still made it seem like she had the whole shebang.

She didn’t. She had two pages. Out of date, irrelevant, lacking in any insightful information. Indeed, perhaps the only relevant information gleaned from the return is that, yes, Donald Trump does pay taxes, and a reasonably significant amount.

Maddow has been taking a lot of heat for the spectacle, and I can’t say that I feel sorry for her. In hindsight, the whole thing feels like a cheap marketing trick, clearly designed to get people to watch her show. Maddow promised answers, but she failed to deliver much in terms of substance. And certainly, I don’t feel like any of the information she provided was close to damning.

Tax Returns Show What Many Would Expect

As some would see it, President Trump only paid $5.3 million dollars under federal income tax guidelines on income of over $150 million. This would indeed be very worrisome, and the federal tax code has become so bloated and filled with holes that it’s not completely inconceivable. However, there is something called the “alternative minimum tax”, which ensures that wealthy individuals and certain organizations can’t use loopholes to eliminate their tax burden.

As a result, President Trump ended up paying over $31 million in alternative minimum taxes, $1.9 million self employment tax, and $5.3 million federal income tax on his $150 million income. This equates to an approximate tax rate of about 25 percent.

Perhaps that is too low given that many working class Americans are shelling out 20% or more of their income each year. Still, the number isn’t particularly surprising and anyone familiar with how the tax code works could have pegged that number with an educated guess.

There were over $100 million in deductible losses. This information might look bad at first glance, but when you’re running a huge multi-billion dollar business, deductible losses are going to be common. More or less, these deductions help ensure that you’re not paying taxes on things you shouldn’t be.  The market is fraught with risk, so we need to ensure that people are encouraged to take those risks.

Ultimately, none of the information gathered should be of any surprise. It is common for the wealthy to pay less in taxes, based on percents, than middle class Americans. Many of us already knew that. What people really want to know is if there are conflicts of interest that haven’t been made public. Say, ties to Russian companies. Unfortunately, Maddow failed to deliver despite her big talk.

Brian Brinker is an OpsLens Contributor and political consultant. Brinker has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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