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Politics, Transparency and Double Standards

An individual’s tax return should not have the power to shape the future of the government, especially if the returns are from a time before their government term began. On the other hand, elected officials should present their tax-returns the year and subsequent years they are elected to show transparency. All elected officials should make their current tax-returns public when in office. People should be able to access information on those who will shape the nation’s future for the sake of full transparency.

Historically, since the early 1970s, most presidents and some vice presidents have chosen to release their returns publicly. In the hope of making this information more widely available, Tax Analysts has been collecting and archiving tax returns filed by American presidents, vice presidents, and candidates for over 20 years, according to Tax Notes, a portfolio of publications offered by Tax Analysts.

Presidents, vice presidents, and candidates typically released over 20 years of tax returns. Congressional members, governors, and other members of government should follow the same tradition.

The information or lack of information we know about the men and women of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches is information given to us through alternate, indirect means and presented through a colored lens. The website provides some information on each representative presented in the best light possible, as their names are hyperlinks to their official webpages.

Roll Call has managed to gather only 23 tax returns of the 535 members of Congress. Most members were unwilling to share their tax-returns despite requesting tax-returns from other political members.

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself” –Eleanor Roosevelt.

These “double standards” of having others provide tax-returns when those imposing these requests refuse to is concerning. If people in power can enforce a request without them following the same regulation or request then it is reasonable to think that most people will follow their actions and not provide their personal information. If members of the House and Senate want others to provide what they will not, then a house of inequality should not be followed with the same gravity as the members' command.

The question of whether President Trump will release his tax returns is nothing new. However, during this delicate political climate of fairness and equality, it would be hoped that these requests be made across the board.

The public should be able to track and see tax returns from the start of a congressional member’s career and the differences in tax returns while in office. The members of Congress are public figures, they are also representatives and make decisions that impact the nation’s present and future. The people should be able to follow their elected representative to ensure he or she is doing quality work without suspicious spending or behavior. The idea of them all also providing their tax returns, where the public can also rate them on something other than their “public persona” since congressional members can serve limitless consecutive terms. A webpage indicating how long a congressional member has served, what bills they have submitted, and past, along with their tax returns.

Alex Fernandez