Lee Carter, Maslansky+ Partners President joins the On the Move panel to discuss the latest news on Trumps taxes and whether or not this will impact the election.
- But we begin yet again this hour with that bombshell report coming out from the New York Times on the president's tax returns, the Times investigation revealing the president only paid $750 in federal income tax the year he won the presidency and his first year in office. The president denying all allegations in that report over the weekend. Take a listen.
DONALD TRUMP: It's total fake news. Made-up, fake. We went through the same stories, you could have asked me the same questions four years ago, I had to litigate this and talk about it. Totally fake news. No. Actually, I paid tax. But-- and you'll see that as soon as my tax returns are-- it's under order. They've been under order for a long time. The IRS does not treat me well. They treat me like the Tea Party, like they treated the Tea Party.
- Those revelations on the president's taxes coming on a very busy weekend in Washington, where the president also nominated Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let's bring in Lee Carter. She is Maslansky and Partners president. And Lee, let's start with that headline from the New York Times. It's certainly one that has sort of plagued the president for a while. And that seems to be the spin coming from the White House, which is this is a story that's been the same for the last four years. How much damage do you think this is likely to do just over a month out from the election?
LEE CARTER: So it's really one of those things that this plays into the narrative that already exists. I don't think this is new news. I think that people who are looking for a reason to dislike Donald Trump further, really looking for evidence to support that, are going to be energized and enthused by this news. I think those people who are likely to support the president are going to say, there's nothing to see here. We knew that he was probably going to be crafty with his taxes, we knew that he was all of these things, but we're willing to accept that anyway. So really, I think this isn't going to have a huge impact.
You think about in 2016, it was October 7th when the "Access Hollywood" tapes came out, and we thought that was going to be the end of everything. And it really wasn't. I think that was much more damaging than this is. I think the big problems happen when you have something that drops close to the election that makes you think, wow, this is something I never thought of this candidate. And this is not one of those things. I think that there are going to be some people who are going to be upset by it. Clearly, there's a lot of people who are upset by it. I shouldn't say some. But I think that his supporters are going to stand by him regardless.
RICK NEWMAN: Hey Lee, Rick Newman here. You know, in a way, what's more newsworthy out of this information in the Times is the amount of debt Donald Trump owes coming due. It's over $400 million, and much of that is due in the next three years. I'm just interested what you thought of those revelations, especially if Trump would remain as president for another four years.
LEE CARTER: Yeah, you know, it's really, really interesting because he ran as an outsider, but not only did he run as an outsider, he ran as a good businessman, right? People said-- he came out there and said, look, I don't have experience, but I'm a great businessman, and I'm to make deals like you've never seen. We're going to see here is the foundation of those deals might be a little bit more rocky than people had expected. That said, I still think that many people are going to say, you know what, this is who he is, and I am going to take him for what he is. I'm not sure how much of an impact this is going to have.
At this moment, we only have about 8% of the electorate who's undecided. Is this going to be the thing that's going to push them one way or the other? I'm not so sure. I'm much more focused on what's going to happen in the debates over the next, you know, over the next few weeks because, unlike 2016, where we seemed to have an endless campaign, here we haven't had that because Joe Biden has been largely silent. We haven't had constant campaigning because of COVID, and people have been so-- you know, so focused on other issues.
So this is really going to be the time for Joe Biden to make his case for America and Americans. Only a third of Americans feel like they know what Joe Biden's presidency would look like. He's going to have to make that case, and he's going to have to really move those 8% of undecided voters. He is absolutely ahead in the polls, but I think that there's still some concern, when you look at some of these key six swing states, it's within the margin of error, and he's got to be constantly ahead because Hillary Clinton was in the very same place just, you know, weeks before the election.
- Well, you mentioned that you don't believe these-- this report from the New York Times is really going to move the needle either way for those who are kind of on the fence. What about the issue of the Supreme Court nominee? We have that over the weekend. I'm wondering, as we look to tomorrow's debate, how significantly you think that will play in the discussion. And to the larger point, if you've got some conservatives, especially women, who were sort of on the fence here about the president, is this the likely thing that's going to bring it home for President Trump?
LEE CARTER: So I think this is really, really-- this is going to be a much bigger issue than anything else. When we look back at the 2016 exit polls, 70% of Americans said that one of the primary reasons they voted was because of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court isn't an issue that just is going to impact next four years, it's going to impact the next generation. This is going to tip the court conservative.
Now, I think what's really interesting in this moment is that, unlike Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden is winning by 11 points with Catholics. Trump carried Catholics handily before. This time, Joe Biden seems to be, you know, carrying the day with Catholics. So the way that the Democrats actually handle the treatment of the Supreme Court justice here is actually going to impact, I think, the Catholic vote, because many of them are pro-life, so I think that you're going to see-- in this moment, you're not going to see attacks as much on pro-life as you're going to see attacks on the Affordable Care Act and her opinions on health care.
And the reason for that is largely because they want to keep that advantage with the Catholic votes, which are really, really important in some of those key states, especially Pennsylvania, because they say whoever wins Pennsylvania is 90 something percent likely to win and carry the presidency. So I think this is going to be really, really important for him.
BRIAN CHEUNG: Hey Lee, Brian Cheung here. I want to go back to the tax angle here. Now, even if it's not Trump's tax returns specifically that interest maybe a lot of those swing voters that you were detailing earlier, maybe it does call attention broadly to the tax code in the United States here. It seems like everyone on Twitter is all of a sudden a tax accounting expert. So does that increase the emphasis on whatever tax policy might be under a possible Biden administration, or, if Trump gets re-elected, his approach to the tax code, given, I guess, the really beneficial, I guess, amounts of writeoffs he was able to get under this existing code?
LEE CARTER: Yeah, I think that we're going to see some emphasis on taxes come up as a result of this. I mean, the fact that, you know, the wealthy can have all these writeoffs and loopholes and get out of paying taxes, whether it's Donald Trump or Jeffrey Bezos, right, it's an issue for Americans. People want a simpler tax code, and one that seems more fair.
The question is, when you look at Joe Biden's tax proposal, is it going to be one that's going to carry the day, is it going to be one that's going to make people feel more confident, or are people going to want to say that they're going to want to keep some of the tax cuts that Donald Trump had proposed. I think we saw that, in 2016, Donald Trump's, you know, idea of tax cuts actually resonated with voters.
What's going to happen now? I know there's no question about it that people want to see more tax for the wealthy, and I know that Joe Biden's plan does that, but the other question is what do we want to have happen to those pullbacks for those other things that Donald Trump put in place that benefited so many Americans. I mean, up until the time of the pandemic, most Americans were feeling better about the economy, they were feeling better about taxes than they were before. So the question now is can Donald Trump remind people of what that felt like just six months ago.
- Lee, let's talk about where the discussions on the stimulus bill stand. You heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the weekend, who seemed to be optimistic that the $2.4 trillion package would be a starting point in discussions. How realistic is that? And given that we talk so much about a scenario of a contested election, if there is no bill passed by election date, then what happens down the line?
LEE CARTER: You know, I think this is one of the biggest concerns that I have. There are certain times when, you know, partisanship works. There's other times where it doesn't. The American people need a deal done. They need the relief done. This is going to be-- you know, this is monumental. This is something we've never been through before. And I think that the party who is viewed as the party that obstructed this deal is going to be the one that loses in November, because I think the American people want to see us be able to come together when it matters the most.
I think you're going to hear a lot from the Republicans saying that the Democrats went on break without having made a deal before, you know, before Labor Day, and I think that you're going to hear from the Democrats that it's the Republicans' fault. The question is, who does the American people believe when it comes to who is the party of obstruction in this moment? And that's really going to play itself out, and I think we're probably going to hear more about that through the debates, as well.
- Yeah, a big question going into election day, as well. Lee Carter, president of Maslansky and Partners, great to have you on today.
LEE CARTER: Thanks so much.