Monday, September 28, 2020

Monday Morning: Trump’s taxes

And what else you need to know today.

Good morning. Biden keeps his polling lead. Child labor is surging around the world. And The Times publishes details of Trump’s finances.

Trump’s taxes

President Trump waiting to board Air Force One this month.Doug Mills/The New York Times

Even though taxes on wealthy Americans have fallen sharply in recent decades, most still pay a lot to the federal government. A typical billionaire pays tens of millions of dollars in federal income taxes each year.

President Trump, however, is different.

Yesterday, The Times published an investigation of his finances, based on thousands of pages of documents that had not previously been public. They showed that Trump paid no taxes in 11 of the 18 years between 2000 and 2017. In both 2016 and 2017, he paid only $750.

He was able to do so both because many of his businesses report losing large amounts of money — which reduces his taxable income — and because he has engaged in questionable tax practices. Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television.

The investigation also found that:

  • As president, he has received more money from foreign sources and U.S. interest groups than previously known.
  • Ivanka Trump, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that also helped reduce the family’s tax bill.
  • Trump is facing a series of large looming bills in the next few years, and it is not obvious how he will cover them.

You can read the full story, by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, here. I’ve compiled a list of major takeaways here. We’ve also put together a timeline of his finances.

Below is a sample of outside reactions to the story:

Susan Hennessey, Lawfare: “Now we know for sure why Trump was refusing to release his tax returns.”

Lily Batchelder, New York University: “Trump’s tax returns suggest he has only ever been successful as a showman, not at running actual businesses.”

Seth Hanlon, Democratic policy adviser: “In 2017, a single worker without children who made $18,000 would have paid $760 in federal income tax. Donald Trump paid $750.”

Avi Asher-Schapiro, of Thomson Reuters Foundation: “Perhaps the most instructive thing re: Trump taxes is the $75K deduction for haircuts. It really illustrates how easy it is for rich people to manipulate their tax burden, & pay less than us. Trump’s haircuts are a business expense […] but not my entire rent when I work from home.”

Robert George of The New York Daily News noted that Trump telegraphed his tax avoidance during a 2016 presidential debate by saying, “I take advantage of the laws of the nation.” George added: “It’s not like he wasn’t up front about this.”

Some Trump supporters, like Mike Cernovich, emphasized that the documents contained no new revelations about Trump’s ties to Russia.

Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight: “No particular instinct for how much the Trump tax news will resonate with rank-and-file voters. May depend on how much the Biden campaign chooses to emphasize it. There is a damaging headline for Trump (that he paid only $750) which is sometimes lacking in these sorts of stories.”


Joe Biden leaving North Carolina last week.Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

1. Biden still leads

Joe Biden leads Trump by eight percentage points nationwide, 49 percent to 41 percent, in a new poll from The Times and Siena College. Polling on this presidential race has been consistent for months: Since May, Biden has led by between five and nine points, according to an average calculated by FiveThirtyEight. He probably needs to win the national popular vote by several points to win the Electoral College.

The new poll also found that 56 percent of voters said the next president should nominate the Supreme Court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And 67 percent of voters — including 40 percent of Republicans — said they would support a national mask mandate to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Suman Das, 13, waited to load bricks with his father in West Bengal, India.Atul Loke for The New York Times

2. A surge in child labor

School closures and economic pressures caused by the virus have thrust children into the role of breadwinner across the developing world. In India, children as young as 6 pick through trash in search of recyclables. In Kenya, 10-year-olds mine sand. Some families have sent their teenage girls into sex work.

United Nations officials estimate that at least 24 million children will drop out of school worldwide as a consequence of the pandemic, and that millions could end up working. The surge in child labor could roll back recent progress in school enrollment, literacy, social mobility and children’s health.

In other virus developments:

  • As more activities move indoors, there are simple ways to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, The Times’s Apoorva Mandavilli writes. Keep windows open while the weather is still mild, and invest in a basic air filter.
  • Millions of people in the United States could lose their job-based health insurance by the end of the year. And with a new relief bill unlikely and the Affordable Care Act in peril, the safety net is quickly fraying.

Here’s what else is happening

  • A federal judge temporarily halted a Trump administration order that would have blocked new downloads of TikTok in the United States, granting the Chinese-owned app a reprieve.
  • A woman was charged with attempted murder after she drove a car into a crowd of racial justice protesters and counterprotesters in California.
  • A judge this morning restored Uber’s transportation license in London, one of the ride-hailing company’s most important global markets, where regulators had threatened to ban its cars for safety concerns.
  • A prickly, bespectacled 65-year-old man could end up being the sole bulwark between Fox News viewers and a premature declaration of victory by Trump, writes Ben Smith, The Times’s media columnist.
  • Lives Lived: The professional skateboarder Keith Hufnagel was known for his “pop,” the seemingly effortless way he leapt onto and over tall obstacles. After years touring the world, he opened a store in San Francisco, and grew it into a global streetwear brand. He died at 46.

Every day, a team of Times journalists works with reporters and editors around the world to create this newsletter — and help you make sense of the world. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times.



Members of the Proud Boys during a rally in Portland, Ore., on Saturday.Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times

The Proud Boys, a far-right group sympathetic to white nationalism, staged their latest rally in Portland, Ore., this weekend. To some people, it may be surprising that Portland — which has a famously progressive reputation — has become a center for right-wing gatherings. But Oregon has a strong strain of white supremacy running through its history.

“Racism has been entrenched in Oregon, maybe more than any state in the north, for nearly two centuries,” Alana Semuels wrote in a 2016 Atlantic article. When Oregon became a state in 1859, it barred Black people from living there. White settlers streamed West, dreaming of a white utopia.

At some points in the 20th century, Oregon had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership per capita, and active Klan members played important roles in the state legislature. By the 1990s, Portland had acquired the nickname “Skinhead City” because it was the home base of Volksfront, a neo-Nazi group.

Today, only a tiny minority of Oregon residents support such groups, and Oregon can also claim a long history of progressivism. But the state’s whites-only legacy still shapes the present, the writer Walidah Imarisha told Oregon Public Broadcasting. One example: Portland is the whitest city of at least 500,000 residents in the U.S.


Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Make some dal

Start the week with this recipe for Sri Lankan dal with coconut and lime kale. Green chiles, garlic and ginger add depth to the quick-cooking red lentils. Hot rice and a spoonful of yogurt on the side turn it into a luxurious meal.

Music to argue over

Rolling Stone has revamped its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, which the magazine originally published in 2003. It’s the most widely read feature in the magazine’s history, and compiling such a list is no easy feat: As part of the process, the editors collected Top 50 lists from more than 300 producers, critics, music industry figures and artists, including Beyoncé and Gene Simmons.

On this newest list, Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album “What’s Going On” is No. 1, displacing the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Of the 500, 86 come from this century, and 154 are new additions. Take a peek, and let the debating begin.

Mariah Carey won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 1991.G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times

The making of Mimi

On her 18th birthday, Mariah Carey sobbed. “I thought I was a failure because I didn’t have a record deal yet,” the singer and songwriter writes in her memoir. Now 50, Carey has recorded 15 studio albums and more No. 1 singles than any other solo artist.

In her new memoir, she opens up about her difficult family life growing up, some of her struggles with mental and physical health, and Derek Jeter being the “catalyst” for her to end an abusive marriage.



Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Book replaced by Google Maps (five letters).

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. Nestor Ramos, a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize at The Boston Globe this year, is coming to The Times next month as an editor on the Metro desk.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. On the latest episode of “Sway,” Kara Swisher interviews the tech executive Elon Musk.

Amelia Nierenberg, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at

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