Well, at least someone in the press has a hold of some of Donald Trump’s tax returns. Sure, the most recent one dates from 25 years ago, but unlike Rachel Maddow’s infamous tax reveal from a few years back, there’s actually a story in there. Well, kinda.
The returns, which span from 1985 to 1994, indicate that “year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer,” according to a report published this week by The New York Times.
“Mr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition,” The Times reported.
“The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.”
There’s nothing criminal here, and certainly nothing that has to do with the battle over the president’s tax returns that currently rages in Congress. However, the point is to cast doubt upon President Trump’s origin story.
The idea of the high-flying mogul brought low by the early-1990s recession, only to rise again, phoenix-like — all of that is a myth! He was bleeding money for years.
Well, perhaps not so fast. In an interview with Bloomberg, billionaire investor and real estate insider Sam Zell went as far as to call the tax returns “irrelevant.”
“I’m originally a real estate guy,” Zell told Bloomberg from the SALT 2019 conference in Las Vegas.
“I know that active real estate tax returns frankly don’t tell much of a picture. A more relevant picture is really following cash flow, and I doubt that the materials that The New York Times has given us anything other than net result.
“For a real estate guy to have huge deductions, who owns a lot of brick and mortar, is not at all unusual.”
Zell went on to say he’d used a number of the same deductions himself.
Just so we’re working on full disclosure here, Zell has generally expressed admiration for Trump’s economic policies, although he did say that the president’s suggestion that the Federal Reserve reduce interest rates by a point could be catastrophic.
“I think he’s right. If we reduced interest rates by 100 basis points, I think the economy would soar and so would inflation and so would the dollar fall accordingly,” he said at the SALT conference, ultimately deeming the suggestion “a disaster.”
However, Zell went on to praise Trump’s China policy and general handling of the economy, according to CNBC.
“I’m having a tough time correlating the negative headlines on the business environment and the reality of what we see,” Zell said.
“If the economy is going to continue to prosper the way it is now, I don’t think there’s any doubt that President Trump is going to get re-elected.”
So that’s where Zell is coming from. Then again, we also know where The New York Times is coming from, too.
And this isn’t a new phenomenon. A December 2018 piece in The New Yorker is more or less the template for this sort of thing: Trump was a failed businessman lording over a crumbling empire when lo, the gods of reality television swooped down from the Hollywood sign and refurbished his icon status.
There’s nothing particularly interesting in The New York Times’ latest examination of Trump’s tax returns.
Like so much other reportage on Trump, it’s nothing more than a Rorschach test: You’re going to see what you were going to see, anyway.
However, the problem is that the premise likely isn’t as dire as it was made out.
As Zell points out, this is something that probably wasn’t as big of a deal as The Times made it out to be.
If you’re surprised by that, well, you probably weren’t paying attention to The New York Times, anyhow.
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