Business & Economy

On filing deadline day, Welch talks tax reform, Trump’s returns

Peter Welch
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., speaks Tuesday on the campus of Vermont Law School in South Royalton. He addressed taxes, President Donald Trump’s tax returns, the economy, health care and immigration. Photo by Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
SOUTH ROYALTON — On the day when federal and state taxes are due, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., spoke of the possibility of tax reform and whether the public will ever see President Donald Trump’s returns.

“Donald Trump is not willing to give up his tax returns,” Welch told about two dozen people at a Congress in Your Community event Tuesday afternoon on the Vermont Law School campus.

“He’s had plenty of opportunity to do it,” Welch said. “The question of him not showing his tax returns is really about whether we are going to maintain a culture of transparency in the government.”

Presidents for the past four decades, according to Welch, have disclosed tax return information to the public. No law requires they do so, but it has become custom.

“His tax returns should be in the public domain,” Welch said of Trump. “I think to some extent he is getting away with (not disclosing his tax returns) because a lot of his supporters see it as nitpicking and just another example of political correctness that a lot of people, from their perspective, were fed up with.”

Trump, the congressman said, may not want to disclose his tax returns due to concern they may reveal business dealings in Russia, or for fear of revealing how much, or how little, he paid in taxes.

“Do you think Trump really knows what’s in his tax return, or is he just trying to defend himself by not having to explain a lot of stuff he doesn’t know anything about?” one person asked. “When you have a tax return as large as his, you usually have a whole team of people that figure it out.”

“Trump knows — he knows what he’s doing,” Welch replied. “He may not know every detail on every line, I’m sure, but he knows what the bottom line is. And, he, I’m sure, has spoken with his accountants and tax advisers and they made self-conscious decisions about how to set up his enterprise and minimize his taxes.”

According to The New York Times, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump remained under audit and his tax returns would not be released to the public.

Spicer added, “I think the president’s view on this has been very clear from the campaign, and the American people understood it when they elected him in November.”

Welch said it’s likely that any savings Trump achieved on his returns were “totally” legal.

“We do need tax reform,” Welch said, “but part of the tax reform is that you shouldn’t be able to avoid taxes by legal loopholes.”

Asked by someone else in the crowd what loopholes those may have been, he said he wasn’t sure.

“We got tax lawyers here,” Welch added, referring to a crowd that included several law school students, faculty and administrators.

Another person wanted to know if it was possible, and even likely, that Congress would pass a law requiring presidential candidates to publicly release their tax returns.

“We’ve got a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and we’ve got a Republican president, so it’s not going to happen,” Welch responded.

In addition to taxes and tax returns, Welch spoke and answered questions about health care and immigration reform, the economy and the future of the Democratic Party.

He said mechanization and technology have created an economy in the country that relies on fewer American workers. “That’s a big challenge for us, and we’ve got to talk more honestly about that,” he said.

Responding to a question about the role academics play in the political debate, Welch said, “Ideas matter, but they don’t persuade.”

He said it’s most important to hear from people on opposite sides of issues, then try to find common ground.

“In politics, listening is more important than talking — I actually believe that. People have to have a sense that you want to know their experience, that you have an interest in them,” he said. “Then you can talk about a way forward.”

On immigration, Welch said that in meetings he has had with farmers from around Vermont one of their biggest concerns was finding people to keep the operations running if unauthorized immigrant workers they rely on are deported.

He said farmers told him they can’t find Vermonters to take the jobs they need filled.

“If (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) went and did a wholesale roundup, we wouldn’t be milking our cows,” he added.

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Alan J. Keays

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  • Welch has also put plenty of loopholes in the tax code to protect his contributors. The problem is that there is always someone smart enough to advantage of the “nobly” intended tax loopholes.

  • Pete Novick

    I like what Mark W. Everson, former Commissioner of Internal Revenue (2003 – 2007), suggests for tax reform:

    – Permanency
    – Progressivity
    – Simplification
    – Sound policy

    To this list, I would add:

    – Revenue neutrality

    Tax reform must include Payroll Tax reform. The last substantive changes to the Social Security Act came in the 1983 amendments – the grand bargain crafted by President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill. Here’s a link to a summary of the changes:

    Those amendments have see us through 33+ years. And now we need another shot of bipartisan leadership to kick the actuarial can down the road another 75 years.

    This hogwash coming from the radical right on how Social Security is bankrupting the country is exactly that: hogwash.

    Democrats need to get out in front of the public’s need for information on sensible methods to keep Social Security solvent – before the radical right captures the headlines.

    Are Sanders, Leahy and Welch up to the task?


  • Peter Chick

    Perhaps all of our fine politicians should make their tax returns public. I bet we will not see that happen. If there was an issue with Trump’s taxes the IRS would be all over it.

  • Tony Merchand

    Has Representative Welch made public his tax returns? What about Senators Leahy and Sanders. If they believe so much in transparency, they should demonstrate some themselves.

  • James Rude

    “We do need tax reform,” Welch said, “but part of the tax reform is that you shouldn’t be able to avoid taxes by legal loopholes.” Someone needs to inform the congressman that the 74,608-page-long federal tax code is chuck full of “loopholes”. Take your pick to fit your circumstance…that is how it was written. I don’t care if a Presidential candidate has not shown his tax returns because the more successful he is, the more complicated his tax returns will be and thus, more subject to distortion by an unfriendly media or other political adversaries like Welch, et al. When you look at a politician who has been on the public dole for as long a Sanders, Welch and Leahy have, I would suspect their tax returns are relatively simple. If Welch and other of his ilk, truely want to rid the tax system of loopholes, then support a simple flat tax or consumption tax and get rid of the current tax system, and along with it, the IRS.

    • Felicia Scott

      Is there some reason that Mr. Welch didn’t bring up this “loophole” problem with his friend Barack Obama?

    • Paul Richards

      Like it or not our political framework requires that a lot of money must be spent to run a successful bid for the presidency. The offices of the President and the congress were made to be filled (especially the congress) by everyday common Americans. Sadly there is virtually no way anyone like that could ever win the presidency. So what we normally end up with is career politicians and community organizers who have absolutely no clue what real Americans or American businesses face. Look at Hillary, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Leahy, Bernie, Watters. And it goes on. They have NO clue about anything but the deep state of an ever growing government and how to grow the underclass becoming more and more dependent on them.
      Look at the trouble a successful, American businessman is having in trying to break through decades of a system set up and run by a bunch of professional politicians and their media.

  • Paul Richards

    ““His tax returns should be in the public domain,” Welch said of Trump. “”
    Time to stop all the hand wringing over President Trumps tax returns. I’m quite sure the IRS, Susan Rice, Obama and Hillary have been over his returns with a fine tooth comb. If he has done something illegal then call him on it. If not, shut up.
    Who is Welch to say that Trumps returns should be “in the public domain”? It’s nobody’s business but President Trumps. The thought that Trump has done something illegal regarding his taxes is nothing but a witch hunt. Trust me; if the liberals thought they could nail him on some illegal tax issue they would have done it long before now. Time to end the endless attacks on President Trump and become part of the solutions rather than contributing to the problems.

    • Steve Baker

      Welch is So quick to elude that Trump did something wrong, but so slow to sponsor and support the taxpayers of Vermont.

    • David Dempsey

      The protesting over Donald Trumps tax returns is getting old. The protesters and the rest of us know that he has more money than many of the countres in the world. Do we really need see his tax returns to come to that conclusion. This is like me protesting JFK in the early 60’s because didn’t release his tax returns. The Kennedy’s were well known to be richer than many of the countries in the world. Of all the presidents, his net worth was second highest of them all after Trump. His father Joe made most of his money in the stock market by using insider trading tactics that were unethical but legal at the time. Mobster Sam Giancana once said “Joe Kennedy is one of the biggest crooks who ever lived”. Fellow mobster Frank Costello said ” I helped Joe Kennedy get rich”. JFK was known as a philandering womanizer, and the public was well aware of that fact. My point is that I don’t really care about any of JFKs personal life. I liked him, and he showed his metal during the Cuban missile crisis. He was one of most liked president ever. I don’t think Donald Trump’s personal life is any worse than JFKs, but I guess a lot of people disagree with me.

    • David Bell

      “I’m quite sure the IRS, Susan Rice, Obama and Hillary have been over his returns with a fine tooth comb.”

      What evidence specifically led you to be sure of this?

      “If he has done something illegal then call him on it.”

      How about he can release his tax returns, then we will actually know this rather than just declaring we are quite sure?

      “It’s nobody’s business but President Trumps.”

      Just like Obama’s birth certificate, school records, etc?

      • Paul Richards

        “What evidence specifically led you to be sure of this?” Ask Lois Lerner, Doug Shulman, John Koskinen or any one of the other liars associated with the IRS in case you have not been paying attention. Ask Rice, Hillary or Obama. If you don’t think that the IRS has scrutinized President Trumps tax returns I think you are living in another universe. Why don’t we just start a witch hunt on you or any other citizen and make them publish their tax returns? They are the personal property of President Trump and what is in them is between him and the IRS.
        “How about he can release his tax returns, then we will actually know this rather than just declaring we are quite sure?”
        How about you leave that up to the experts tasked with that job; the IRS? At lease they know how to read and interpret them. We don’t need the liberal media throwing out false information about them to see what sticks.
        “Just like Obama’s birth certificate, school records, etc?”

  • Felicia Scott

    I want to see the tax returns of Peter Welch’s wife, Margaret Cheney, who has done so much damage to the state of Vermont in her position on the Public Service Board (awarded to her by industrial wind collaborator, Peter Shumlin). I want to know what perks and payments she may have gotten for helping to permit the industrial wind/solar disasters in Vermont, one of which has now resulted in a death.

    Digger has been quick to go after Stenger and Quiros, let’s see some astounding journalistic research on the Welch/Cheney corporate and legislative cronyism.

    I couldn’t care less about Trump’s tax returns. He is not legally required to produce them. One part of them was stolen and silly Rachel Maddow of the silly MSNBC had to show that Trump paid $38 million in taxes for that year.

  • waltermoses38

    “If ICE did a wholesale roundup, we wouldn’t be milking our cows”
    Unh, they need to do something, but really can’t get it together. Problem was here long before Trump. Couldn’t get it together then, either. Legislators in DC have great health care. We don’t have their luxury health care. Can’ seem to get that together either. I could go on but I’m kicking a dead horse.