Where’s the story on Trump’s taxes?

Certain people over a certain age recall the old Wendy’s slogan that became a pre-internet viral cry for whenever someone offered something without substance. “Where’s the beef?” is a phrase that could easily be applied to the first revelation of President Trump’s tax returns.

But the reaction by supporters and the president himself that the “exclusive” offered by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was merely “fake news” brings to mind a slightly more recent expression for those grabbing onto that label.

“You keep using that word,” the fictitious Inigo Montoya says in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The news that Maddow had obtained a long-sought copy of Trump’s tax returns stopped political observers in their tracks. Maddow tweeted out the tease about 90 minutes before her show, ensuring a massive audience would tune in. But it also gave the White House plenty of time to get ahead of the story by releasing the numbers themselves and muting the impact.

What it turns out Maddow had – actually, obtained through former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, who said he got the documents “over the transom” – was the two-page 1040 for Trump’s 2005 tax returns. The summary told a story that is pretty well-known: Rich guy makes a ton of money, writes off a ton of losses and deductions, and pays a ton of taxes, though far below what he would have under the tax rate for his earnings.

It seems Trump paid $38 million in taxes on $150 million in earnings for 2005, an effective rate of 25 percent. But left unknown, which is the biggest question of all in Trump’s refusal to release his taxes counter to decades of tradition, is what exactly his financial holdings entail and what, if any, dealings he has with Russia or other foreign governments.

Trump and White House officials angrily pointed out that Maddow’s acquisition of the records and broadcasting them was illegal. Pretty quickly, though, Maddow and the media became the story, as is the case these days in anything involving Trump and his supporters.

“The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans,” the White House said in a statement.

Early Wednesday, Trump took to his favorite outlet to decry the story as “fake news.” This, less than 12 hours after the White House seemed to confirm it was an authentic 1040. So what exactly was “fake” about Maddow’s report?

Actually, nothing, but that hasn’t stopped the president and others from slapping the label on it. The Boston Herald’s Tom Shattuck gleefully pointed out there was no there there, but then went on to excoriate Maddow and all other outlets that aren’t Fox News as “fake news.”

Which begets the point: it’s either real and meaningless or fake. Hard to have both.

–JACK SULLIVAN


 

BEACON HILL

Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez previews a report on health care price variation that doesn’t seem to include many specific recommendations. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker is noncommittal when it comes to a bill that would require state licensing of all police officers in Massachusetts, one of only five states without such a structure. (Boston Globe)

For a sweater-clad Baker, who has to play the part and project leadership and confidence during storms, there’s no business like snow business. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

David Maher holds office as a Cambridge city councilor but also recently became president of the Cambridge Chamber of a Commerce, a lucrative two-fer that the state Ethics Commission says is OK but which some watchdogs and at least one other Cambridge elected official do not. (Boston Globe)

Not every community is getting back to normal today. Haverhill had 2,300 homes without power as of Tuesday night and school was again canceled on Wednesday. (Eagle-Tribune) Worcester schools were canceled as well, but most other districts in central Massachusetts were starting two hours later. (Telegram & Gazette)

The town of Randolph, which had been struggling financially for years, finally reached its goal of setting aside 6 percent of the operating budget in the stabilization fund, a move that is likely to raise the town’s credit rating and reduce its bonding and borrowing interest to save money. (Patriot Ledger)

The labor representative on the Fall River Housing Authority Board has vowed to remain in his seat despite a challenge from union representatives that he is no longer an active union member or a city resident as required by law. (Herald News)

A series of manhole explosions in downtown Brockton, the third such event in less than eight months, caused widespread power outages throughout the city. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Boston Herald columnist Kimberly Atkins thinks the Republican health care plan is doomed. A Herald editorial seems to offer at least conditional support for the plan — and cautions that the Congressional Budget Office estimates of its effect are just that.

Republicans from rural states that President Trump carried are worried about the disproportionate effect the GOP health care bill could have in lowering coverage among their constituents. (Boston Globe) The Globe’s Evan Horowitz explains how the bill’s ripple effects would also also affect those now covered through employer-sponsored plans.

In yet another veer on Trump’s Twitter bomb that his phone was tapped by his predecessor, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president is “very confident” there will be evidence found to back up his thus-far baseless claim. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Wayland Town Meeting will consider a proposal by the Board of Selectmen that would allow resident immigrants who are not US citizens to vote on local matters. (MetroWest Daily News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Falmouth Town Meeting voters will once again be asked to approve extending the local option hotel excise tax to short-term rentals such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO. (Cape Cod Times)

EDUCATION

Dennis Clarke, the CEO of Cummings Properties, is giving 10 to 12 condos at Elliot Landing in Beverly to his alma mater, Tufts University. Tufts has already sold one of them for more than $600,000. (Salem News)

Massachusetts Teachers Association president Barbara Madeloni calls for increased funding of public schools and the scrapping of high-stakes testing and accountability. (Boston Globe)

The state’s teaching force remains overwhelmingly female, with only 25 percent of public school teaching slots held by men — a figure that has dropped from 32 percent in the early 1990s. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Congressional Budget Office says defunding Planned Parenthood would lead to a sharp increase in Medicaid-paid births. (New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is scheduled to testify before Congress today on the impact an underwater marine monument off Cape Cod created by former President Barack Obama has had on commercial fishing. (Standard-Times)

Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby says new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is right to be skeptical of the science on climate change.

CASINOS

The Justice Department has been granted an extension to file an appeal of a court decision that rejected the government’s granting of reservation land in Taunton to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for a planned casino. The Trump administration has not decided if it will move forward with the Obama administration’s intent to appeal. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Meet the Author

Suspended probate court register Felix Arroyo is charging that court administrator Harry Spence is orchestrating the independent review of his performance by a retired judge, to which a spokeswoman for the court system basically says, yes, Spence did lay out the questions for retired judge Anthony Nesi to answer.  (Boston Herald)

Boston police arrested six people and seized four guns over a span of several hours on Monday night. (Boston Herald)