Every week, Playboy, with journalist Lilly Dancyger and Creatives for Progressive Action—a national community of artists, filmmakers, writers and activists using their influence and voices to pursue meaningful and measurable progressive action—will deliver a timely overview of global and domestic political events, controversial policy changes, elections, campaigns and government happenings that deserve our attention and citizen action. From bite-size activism to in-person engagement, our goal is activate the marginalized, make our voices heard and ultimately win the fight for social justice for all. From protecting free speech and freedom of identity to safeguarding freedom of (and from) religion and a free press, both here at home and around the world, we will promote the ideas and values that support equal representation for all under the law. Now get out there and make a difference.
THIS WEEK: Support the Presidential Tax Transparency Act
On April 15, thousands of people marched in cities around the country to demand that President Trump hand over his tax returns. During a press conference in January, Trump responded to a question about whether or not he would ever share his tax returns with the statement: “The only ones that care about my tax returns are the reporters.” The Tax March was the country’s response to that claim, with several people carrying signs that read, “I care.”
Unsurprisingly, Trump was unmoved by the public displays, speculating, as usual, that anyone protesting against him must have been paid to do so. As with previous protests against Trump’s policies (including this past weekend’s global March for Science in honor of Earth Day), the protests were not about changing Trump’s mind, but about coming together in solidarity, giving a voice to the concerns that so many American citizens share, keeping each other engaged in the resistance, and making that resistance visible. All very important things.
But, in order to change what’s happening—in the case of the former cause, to make sure that no future presidents can choose secrecy over transparency—there’s more work to be done. It’s time to take the momentum and the passion that we built up together during these marches, and use it to make real change. There’s one very simple and easy way to do that: call your representatives, and implore them to support the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).
For nearly 40 years, ever since Watergate, presidential candidates from both major parties have voluntarily shared their tax returns with voters. It’s been an act of goodwill, a gesture of transparency, an innocuous step that seemed so straightforward and obviously necessary that there was never any need to make it mandatory. Until now.
Of course, nothing about Trump’s rise to power has been typical. His presidency is likely to bring about a slew of new legal safeguards against corruption, making it mandatory, for example, for a president to divest from his business rather than just expecting that he’ll understand why that’s necessary. One such safeguard that’s already in motion is the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, which would formalize the previously customary step of revealing tax returns. The Act, if passed, would require that within just over two weeks of becoming a party’s official nominee, candidates reveal the past three years’ worth of taxes.
In making his case on the Senate floor, Wyden reminded senators that, “In America, nobody forces you to run for president.” He also reiterated a few of the reasons that seeing a candidate’s (let alone a sitting president’s) returns is so important: “Tax returns are legally required to be an accounting in black and white of a candidate’s honesty, integrity, and their personal priorities,” he said. “A return highlights important questions about integrity. Are you the person giving to charity or, as some have wondered, are you converting another donor’s gift into your own? Are you using charities for personal gain?
“A return shows if you pay any taxes at all or if you use the complexity of this Byzantine Tax Code to hide your income while working Americans have their taxes taken out of their paycheck.”
The bill is currently stalled in committee, but with enough pressure from constituents, it might be our best chance to see what Trump is hiding in his tax returns—and to prevent ourselves from ever ending up in this situation again, where presidential ethics are voluntary. You can sign a petition here, but don’t forget that a direct call to your representatives is the most effective way to get your voice heard.
If you don’t already know, you can look up your representatives using your zip code here. Then give them a call, and tell whoever answers the phone that you’re a constituent of whichever representative, and you’d like them to know that you strongly support the Presidential Tax Transparency Act because the American people have a right to know what business ties might influence the President’s foreign policy decisions, and which tax code reforms might benefit him personally.
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