Since the country found out in 1973 that Richard Nixon paid an absurdly low sum of money in income tax, presidential candidates have felt obliged to release their tax returns for public scrutiny. But in 2016, Donald Trump broke with that precedent, refusing to release his tax returns for spurious reasons, prompting many Americans to wonder what it was that he was hiding. After years of speculation, The New York Times was able to obtain Trump’s tax records, and it turns out the president did indeed have a lot to hide: For many years, he did not pay any federal income tax at all, and in 2016 and 2017, in spite of claiming to be a billionaire, he paid just about the same amount of money in federal income tax as somebody making $20,000.
While Trump’s chronic tax evasion shows many things — that he is not, in fact, a successful businessman, and that he is simply unwilling to pay his fair share to the federal government — one aspect from the Times report that should be most alarming to voters is that the president is suffocating in debt: He owes $421 million to lenders who are yet to be known, and most of that debt is due within the next four years. “Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president,” the Times wrote. In other words, the president’s conflicts of interest are only growing more severe, and this level of debt compromises his ability to govern effectively and to serve the public rather than himself.