Tuesday, February 14, 2017

tax me tender*

I absolutely love the press. It never fails to bring me essay material every morning.

Donald Trump's tax returns are a great example. According to today's edition of The Oregonian, legislation has been introduced in the Oregon legislature requiring any presidential candidate to provide the Oregon secretary of state's office with copies of his federal income tax returns for the previous five years.

Failure to provide the returns will keep the presidential candidate off of the ballot. If the returns are disclosed, they would then be released to the public.

In a verbal pirouette, one of the Democrat bill's supporters averred: "Voters deserve to be fully informed about the individuals running for the highest office in the country." Followed by the house speaker herself: "I think if you're going to be the leader of the free world, we should see your tax returns."

When politicians start talking like lawyers with all of those very specific limitations ("highest office," "leader of the free world"), you know something is up. And it is.

I am certain the first thing that popped into your mind is the obvious. Why does this new disclosure requirement apply only to presidential candidates? Why not to vice-presidential candidates? Or to senators? Or congressmen? Or, God forbid, Oregon state legislators?

But we already know the answer to that question. It is aimed at one candidate, who had the temerity to take the same course that most presidential candidates took before 1976. It is all about Donald.

Like most "reforms" aimed at one person's activities, this one strikes me as completely missing the target. And, of course, I have a far more modest proposal.

The answer is easy to find. In Norway. The Norwegians have long required all income tax returns to be stored in a public searchable data base. The IRS and the various state revenue departments should do the same.

There would be all sorts of intended consequences. Not only would we not have to play the wait-to-disclose game that fixates a certain sector of the public every four years, we would know the tax history of every presidential candidate years before she filed for office.

And for every other citizen who steps forward to run for office -- no matter where they are on the ballot. Better yet, we would also know where members of the press are actually getting their income, and, better yet, just where they contribute their money.

For me, this scenario would be the bow on the package. At Thanksgiving dinner, your cousin Zeke claims to be clearing $1,000,000 a year from his barbecue ribs stand on the corner. A quick look at the database discloses he has not filed a tax return for twenty years.

If filing a tax return is a civic duty (in addition to being a legal requirement), a conscientious citizen just may want to claim a bounty for turning in a scofflaw. The public treasury would be enriched, and the smug informer could take his family to McDonald's for Thanksgiving next year while cousin Zeke is breaking rocks at the state pen.

But, why are the Oregon Democrats in the legislature (and those in California, New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Mexico) stopping with tax returns? I seem to recall there was a huge controversy last year (and in years past) about the disclosure of candidates' medical records.

We could kill two birds with one legislative stone by making medical records of citizens just as searchable as tax returns.

Now, the obvious objection is that all of that tax and medical information would simply lead to a parade of "false news" stories. The type of news we expect to see as headlines on those checkout stand newspapers. But, isn't that just as true if we simply require a few selected candidates to disclose their tax and medical information?

These days we hear a lot of talk about everyone pulling together. If we are going to require our candidates to bare all, why shouldn't we set the example for our elected employees? After all, we are the bosses. Or, at least, that is what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution say.

I am ready to jump the shark on this one. My hand is itching to upload my tax and medical information on the new mega-computer.

Let's call it HAL. That is a name we can trust.

* -- If you tuned in to learn Darrel and Christy's decision about living in P
átzcuaro, please tune in tomorrow.

No comments: