The Ultimate Exit Interview September 29, 2016October 3, 2016 So much to offer you this week. Did you know the role drugs played in Hitler’s madness and in the boundless energy of his troops? How did it take so long for this to come out? Read it here: “High Hitler.” It seems to be for real. Have you seen the super-callous-fragile-egocentric-braggadocious clip? Three minutes. Hard not to smile once the singing starts, though it’s not entirely fair to Trump. For fairness, look to the Republican-owned newspapers coming out against him. Trump is driving those papers crazy — as saucily argued here in Salon — to the point, in some instances, of their endorsing the guy who doesn’t know what Aleppo is and can’t name a single foreign leader. (In all of America, the only newspaper of any appreciable circulation thus far to endorse Trump in the general election — the only one! — is the National Enquirer. The paper that revealed Justice Scalia was murdered by a hooker hired by the CIA.) Then there’s this . . . definitely-not-for-use-in-persuading-the-undecided or for sharing with the easily offended. But fun. And worth it for the tag-line alone: HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON. Doing the —-ing homework since 1947. The choice is so clear, it’s maddening. Here’s how Al Franken frames it. Three minutes suitable for sharing with anyone. [$$$ Oh! And if you own BOREF, there’s last week’s WheelTug webinar that I watched live with viewers from 56 countries. An hour may be way more than you want to commit to this, but the company soldiers on. $$$] Trump keeps saying he brought his newest hotel in ahead of schedule and under budget, which is nice. But who set the budget and the schedule? (I budgeted $20 and an hour for lunch yesterday and am proud to report — not to be braggadocious, but because it makes the point — I had a $6 sandwich at my desk.) And how did he come in under budget? By sourcing his materials from Mexico and China? By short-changing the Americans who did the work? He’s currently keeping veterans groups from more than $6 million they could sorely use — $10,000 of it, mine — they would get if he would just release his tax returns. And there is zero, zero, zero reason why he “can’t.” Listen to real estate accountant Andy Walsh: In case you are one of the many people who have told me that truthfulness is a key deciding factor for them in this election, I thought I would try to add a little insight to the lies Mr. Trump continues to tell regarding his tax returns. Everyone by now probably knows his oft-repeated lie about being under audit, but there is more to the story. This is an area I know more than a little about; I’ve been a CPA for 35 years and spent part of my career conducting financial audits of large real estate syndicates. I apologize for the length of this post, but I think it is necessary. Mr. Trump is betting that nobody will take the time to try to understand this so that he can get away with such shameless lies. Given that I’ve seen few news stories exploring this in even the barest detail (it only requires a call to any accountant), he’s probably right. He’s counting on the press and us being lazy. First, when he says his recent tax returns are under audit, it is reasonable that most people would assume that he is referring to his 2015 returns. The truth is that he probably has not yet filed his 2015 personal federal income tax return. Unlike most working people, who would have filed their 2015 return by April 15, 2016, those who are wealthy or self-employed (or both) file for an automatic extension to October 15. Someone with a return as complex as Mr. Trump’s would certainly have done so. Therefore is it most likely that his 2015 return has only recently been filed or will be filed in the next couple of weeks. So his most recent tax return would have been for 2014, which would have been filed in October 2015. Mr. Trump started saying during the primary season (that is, this past spring) that his returns were under “routine audit.” However, there is no such thing as a “routine audit.” When the IRS does select a return for examination, it does so at least a couple of years after the return is filed, usually longer. There is no way that Mr. Trump would have been notified of an audit of his 2014 return by now, much less last spring. The IRS simply is not that fast or efficient. So to claim that his 2014 return is under audit is a blatant lie. I’ve read several stories in which Mr. Trump’s son states that Mr. Trump’s return is 12,000 pages long, suggesting that it is too complex for the public to comprehend. I am certain that Mr. Trump’s return is complex, given the nature of his business, but the 12,000 page number is either a gross exaggeration or (most charitably) an obfuscation. He may be referring to the combined returns of the 500+ legal entities that make up the Trump empire (again, without seeing his return we have no way to verify that number). Every real estate syndicate I’ve worked with is comprised of a collection of separate companies, one for each property owned. That makes it easier to attract other investors and bank financing, and to compartmentalize legal liability (so that a lawsuit against one property cannot affect another holding). Each of those entities is almost always set up as a partnership or limited liability corporation, a form of ownership where the entity files a tax return, but the tax effects accrue to its owners. This allows the owners to minimize their legal liability while taking advantage of the many tax benefits of owning real estate. That may offend some of you, but our tax code allows it. So the 12,000 number may refer to the combined returns of all of Mr. Trump’s holdings. However, that number is irrelevant to the question at hand. Here’s why: when each of those entities files its return it must provide to each partner or shareholder a one-page summary of that partner’s share of the earnings or loss of the partnership (Form K-1). Mr. Trump’s personal return (which is what is relevant to be shared) would simply include one K-1 for each of his properties, which are then totaled and summarized on line 17 of his Form 1040 (look at your most recent return and you will see what I mean). I’m simplifying a little here for clarity, but not much. So Mr. Trump’s personal return may run to 1,000 pages, but more than half of those pages are likely K-1s, so it should be easily comprehended by anyone willing to invest a little time. This would allow the public to see in what and where he is invested, what charities he funds and how much, and what he pays in personal state and federal income taxes. He doesn’t want us to see any of that, which should be a red flag to any voter. If, by some extremely rare circumstance, his 2014 return is under audit, it would be a simple matter to prove. The IRS does not knock on your door when it wants to examine your return, it sends you a written notice of their intent to perform an audit. It would be a simple matter for Mr. Trump to produce a redacted copy of such notification, if it exists. Several news organizations have requested that letter, but the Trump campaign has not produced it. I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut that is because there is no such letter. Sec. Clinton’s personal life and long record of her time in office has been scrutinized heavily by a partisan congress and the press for decades. Doesn’t Mr. Trump’s financial and business prowess (his primary claim of qualification to be president) deserve even the barest scrutiny of looking at his taxes? Of course it does; to argue otherwise is intellectually dishonest. Finally, I recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Ultimate Exit Interview” for context as we prepare to choose our next President. Will we choose a deeply thoughtful, steady president, like Barack Obama (or Bill Clinton) . . . who’s even better prepared than were they? Or will we just throw all the cards into the air in a tantrum of understandable frustration over Washington’s exceptional dysfunction . . . never mind the fact that the dysfunction is not symmetrical, as I’ve argued many times before (if you think both sides are equally to blame, I’d be deeply grateful for your clicking that link to see whether my argument makes sense to you) . . . and chose “a national disgrace,” as Colin Powell calls him? We are at 1933-style inflection point for mankind. Having inherited the happy gene, I have high hopes it will turn out right. Click here to vote, here to volunteer, here to contribute — and here to see what Republicans are saying about Trump and Clinton. Have a great week.