The Treasury Department has issued a set of proposed regulationsclarifying who can and can’t take advantage of the “pass-through” loophole that Republicans included in the tax cut they passed last year, which, in ordinary circumstances, would be a story of interest only to a relatively small number of tax nerds.
But in this case, it is of special interest to President Trump, which is why it is yet another reminder that the American public absolutely, positively needs to see his tax returns.
These new regulations make it clear once again that the Republican tax bill is going to shower millions of dollars on the president. The problem is that we don’t know exactly how much.
In a way, you have to give some credit to Trump for outside-the-box thinking. Every presidential nominee for half a century made their tax returns public, because to avoid having a corrupt president, at a minimum we’d need to know how much income they had and where it was coming from. But Trump simply refused, offering up transparently phony excuses about how he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. No one else would have had the unmitigated gall, but Trump correctly surmised that whatever criticism he’d get for stonewalling, it wouldn’t be as bad for him as what would happen if the public actually got to see his returns.
Eventually, everyone stopped asking, despite the fact that there has never in U.S. history been a president for whom it was more important that we know the details of his finances. That’s not only because Trump was a spectacularly corrupt businessman. And it’s not only because, unlike presidents before him, he refused to divest himself of his holdings, offering a plethora of opportunities for people to shove money into his pockets while he serves in the Oval Office. It’s also because, unlike previous presidents, Trump’s income comes from an incredibly complex web of companies that are impossible for outside observers to completely understand.