In politics, is the release of tax returns overrated?

Sep 6, 2016, 5:41 AM | Updated: 7:21 am

Jay Inslee...

A video of a recent forum with Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Bill Bryant appears to show the governor refusing to sit at the same table as his opponent. (AP)


Donald Trump’s critics might finally get their wish to see the alleged billionaire’s tax returns. And Washington voters were able to scrutinize gubernatorial candidates’ assets during a release this weekend. The response from the diverging political perspectives of KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz and Zak Burns: Who cares?

“This is one of the most uninteresting moments of any campaign,” Burns said. “I haven’t read one article about what was in Hillary’s and I don’t care what’s in Donald’s.”

Related: Polling shows Jay Inslee is ‘vulnerable’

Trump’s vice president Mike Pence told “Meet the Press” on Saturday that he’d release his tax returns this week and that Trump would follow suit – as soon as Trump’s tax audit is completed. Trump has so far resisted the longstanding tradition of presidential candidates releasing tax returns to the public, by saying he is being audited by the IRS. Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett even offered a challenge to Trump last month to release their records together.

Rantz and Burns, though, are not among those who are interested in this type of charade.

Rantz: The whole mystery of what is Donald hiding — I don’t care. I’m sure he’s hiding tons of stuff. My default position is he’s lying about a lot of stuff. My default position on everybody is they have got something they want to hide. I’m OK with that if it’s not like hiding a murder.

Burns: But it’s not like on your tax return he’s going to make a deduction for a hitman. It’s not going to appear on that. You can always spin it. Let’s say that it turns out Donald Trump pays a tax rate of 7 percent, he can spin it like Mitt Romney did – See how screwed up our tax code is. Don’t blame me for taking advantage of it.

Rantz: The other thing is, if you paid a really high tax rate, why? Couldn’t you find a better way to get out of that? Why would you want to give more of your money to the government if there is a more efficient way to do that and help people — giving to charity for example?

Trump has also been criticized, most notably by the Washington Post, for not actually giving any money to charity. That’s also of no interest to Rantz and Burns.

Burns: Let’s say Donald Trump gave zero dollars to charity. How many voters do you think he loses?

Rantz: Literally none. The only people who are mad about that are the people who were never going to vote for him in the first place.

Bryant and Inslee release returns

That led to a dissection of the numbers more locally. Gov. Jay Inslee and his Republican opponent Bill Bryant released their tax returns to The Seattle Times over the weekend.

Bryant, the former Port of Seattle commissioner, and his wife made nearly $650,000 in 2015 from business profits, investments, and wages. Jay Inslee makes considerably less: $170,000 salary from being governor and $43,000 for his congressional pension. In terms of charities: Bryant’s family donated more than $50,000 on average since 2011. Inslee gave an average of about $8,300 to charity. While that discrepancy is substantial, it’s not quite as daunting when considering the donation compared to salary – 9.8 percent of Bryant’s, 3.4 percent of Inslee’s.

The Times noted that Bryant donated more than $64,000 in 2015 to causes that included food banks, conservation and arts organizations, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Archdiocese of Seattle. Could it be that Bryant gave more because he knew he’d have to release his tax returns in a gubernatorial run? Burns asked.

Rantz: I don’t think that and I say that because I know him and have enough conversations with him that I believe he is a legitimately nice person.

Burns: Your eyes light up every time his name is spoken.

Rantz: He’s just such a nice guy, and just knowing a little about his past, he wasn’t thinking in 2011 that he was going to be running for governor.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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In politics, is the release of tax returns overrated?