The Tax Day Protest Is About Way More Than Trump’s Returns

What the president files with the IRS shows a lot more than his net worth

On April 15, the day Americans typically trudge to their local accountant’s office to file last minute taxes, thousands of people are instead expected to fill the streets of cities around the country for the Tax Day March, a 120-city march demanding something we’ve been promised since the election: President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Remember those? Trump claimed he’d release them upon being elected president. He has since backed off that promise—an action (or rather inaction) that has caused an uproar among political leaders, including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., as well as average citizens, including Maura Quint, a humor writer and organizer of Tax Day March.

“Tax returns show a lot of information,” Quint tells GOOD. “They give us a clear understanding of who he’s indebted to, where there are potential conflicts, even things like where you donate to charity, and that can give you insight into who this person is.”

The biggest hurdle for Tax March organizers? Getting the public to turnout and protest as passionately about IRS documents as they do about women’s reproductive rights. Just 53 percent of registered voters say President Trump should be forced to release his returns, according to a new national poll by Bloomberg. Roughly 50 percent say tax disclosure is either very or somewhat important to them, with only 45 percent of voters saying Trump’s tax returns are relevant to his ability to do his job.

Trump has split from a 40-year tradition of presidents and those running for office of sharing this information with the public. To date, the two returns—the first a 1995 state return given to The New York Times, revealed Trump took a $916 million loss that year; the second, obtained by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, reflected that Trump made almost $153 million and paid $38.4 million in federal taxes in 2005. “The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters,” he said in a news conference. “They’re the only ones who ask.”

Part of this may be due to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s overhyped peek at that 2005 return. After promoting the leak as the scoop of the century, Trump’s “sterling” 1040 form looked so carefully crafted that it lead many to believe the White House supplied the document itself.

But Tax March organizers say those who overlook Trump’s tax returns are missing the point. “He lies with such an amazing speed that you can’t keep up,” Quint says. “We have to grab hold of a couple things and just not let go. To me, this is a really good thing to just grab a hold of.” In other words, the Tax March is not about accounting—it’s about accountability.

“April 16, I’d love to say we have Donald Trump’s tax returns, I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” Ezra Levin, co-founder of the Indivisible Project and one of the Tax March coordinators said, adding, “but it is something that’s going to have to keep on going. The answer to this is not that we are all going to score that one goal and it’s all going to be over, the answer is persistence.”

And it is there, in the individual states and towns, that this message matters most to Levin because, as he notes, Congress has the unilateral ability to obtain his returns. “There’s legislation on the books that’s been there for over 80 years … and they are choosing not to. They are just flat out choosing not to,” he says, adding that it is simply up to those 120 marches in towns across America to knock on doors of congressional leaders and say, “You should use the authority you have to hold this administration accountable because you don’t represent Donald Trump, you represent your constituents.”

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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