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In a stunning story that broke Saturday night, The New York Times revealed that in 2016, the year he was elected, President Donald Trump paid only $750 in income taxes that year, an amount repeated in 2017. In 10 of the past 15 years, he has paid no income taxes at all, because he reported losing much more money than he made.

President Donald Trump on the south lawn of the White House the day he publically invited Ukraine and China to investigate his political opponents. Photo credit New York Magazine.

The New York Times obtained some two decades of Trump’s tax returns, minus the years 2018 and 2019. In addition to the news that he has paid little to no taxes for an extensive period of time, also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service.

At issue; the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. If he loses that battle, it could cost him more than $100 million.

For someone who has claimed to be a billionaire, and is surely a multi-millionaire, this is a startling revelation. Trump has build a brand based on personal wealth; which makes Trump’s fight to prevent the public from learning about his tax status at least understandable.

But there is more. According to reporting on his tax records, with his financial challenges mounting, he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president. In fact, the president has personally guaranteed more than $400 million in loans due in 2021. To whom — we don’t know. Should he be re-elected, this reality could cast doubt on whose behalf he might be making decisions; the United States public, or his personal business interests.

The general public has come to realize that the U.S. income tax system offers major tax loopholes for corporations and the rich, as opposed to regular citizens. The rich and the corporate can afford tax attorneys and accounting teams to shield their wealth and pay less than their share of income taxes.

But to pay no taxes at all — when the vast majority of the population of the United States does its duty and pays its taxes so that the federal government can operate (providing millions of dollars back to the local level to fund roads, bridges, schools, public health and a plethora of support services) — takes a certain disdain for our shared responsibility as citizens of civil society.

In contrast, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average firefighter makes about $50,850 annually;  depending upon the exact income, taxed at a rate between 12 and 22 percent. Nurses who earn $40,125 in taxable income in 2020 pay 12 percent of that income in taxes. If they get a $1.00 raise, they move into the 22 percent taxable income level.

According to Chalkbeat, here in Colorado teachers have the distinction of being among the lowest paid in the nation; 46th place for teacher pay in 2016, with an average annual salary of $46,155 pay (meaning the average amount of money earned by teachers in the state during that particular period of time). Making this average would place a teacher in the 22 percent income tax bracket. A recent study found that starting teachers in three of the state’s largest districts, including Denver, could not afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment. But — they pay their taxes.

Society has the right to ask this question; is it fair for this multi-millionaire to pay no taxes when the workers who keep this country running pay thousands of dollars more each year? What about the optics of a man leading our country whose brand is a wealth brag and who has withheld vital information from the American people that he has avoided paying the taxes that the rest of us pay?

Colorado teachers can claim an unwelcome distinction: most underpaid in the nation (or close to it)