Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton
Photo by Darren McCollester—Getty Images
By Shawn Tully
June 21, 2016

Hillary Clinton may soon have a new nickname for her opponent: No-Tax Trump.

On Tuesday, in a speech on economic policy and Trump’s business record in Columbus, Ohio, Clinton is expected to hit Trump on the fact that at least so far he has refused to release his tax returns. It will be the first fire in a barrage of attacks the Clinton campaign plans to launch on the issue of whether Trump pays taxes and how much. On top of Tuesday’s speech, the Clinton campaign is lining up a number of other politicians and experts to talk out out Trump’s tax returns.

“She’ll hit it in the speech,” says Sullivan. “You can expect a steady drumbeat from a wide variety of sources on his tax returns, from the campaign and outside voices. His refusal to release raises questions about what he’s hiding.”

Trump is the first major-party presidential candidate in decades who has said he is likely not to release his tax returns before the election. In the past, Trump has said that he can’t release his returns because he is being audited by the IRS.

Read more Fortune coverage of Trump’s business career:
The Donald Trump Fortune Interview Complete Transcript
What Trump Does Have to Teach Leaders
Donald Trump on Atlantic City, China, and Sanders
Here’s What You Need to Know About Trump’s Business Failures (Video)
Why Donald Trump Loves Low Interest Rates, But Won’t Reappoint Janet Yellen
Why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Are More Similar Than You Think

 

The Clinton campaign is billing the Tuesday speech as a landmark event. Along with the tax issue, Hillary Clinton is expected to deliver her first in-depth assault on Donald Trump’s controversial record of running businesses.

On Monday, Jake Sullivan, a top Clinton adviser, told Fortune that the address will include a detailed chronicling of the tycoon’s business failures. “We’ll show that he’d do harm to small business owners and hard-working families. He’d leave the same devastation in his wake as when he blew through Atlantic City and his deals deals collapsed. He just walked away when innocent bystanders and his contractors lost jobs and incomes.”

Clinton’s main theme, says Sullivan, will argue that while Trump says he’s qualified to be president because of his record in the private sector, in reality his true business record disqualifies him for the job. “He says he’ll do for the country what he did for his business, and that’s running up debt and defaulting, and wiping out shareholders.”

Sullivan is also touting a new study by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, who studies in the past have consistently supported Obama’s economic agenda, that forecasts a near cataclysm if Trump wins the presidency. Zandi assails Trump for opposing any changes to Medicare and Social Security, and at the same time advocating deep cuts in taxes, a combination that would substantially swell government borrowing and debt. Zandi predicts that the U.S. economy would actually be smaller at the end of a Trump first term than when he took office, and that unemployment could balloon from 5%-to-7%, reflecting the loss of 3.5 million jobs. And he’d leave a disastrous debt load totaling almost 100% of GDP, one-third higher than today’s number.

That no-growth future, says Zandi, assumes that Trump gets everything he’s advocating, which of course won’t happen. Nonetheless, says Zandi, the future, however, would still look pretty bleak even if Trump got a good proportion of what he wants, and were forced to compromise with Congress and his Republican colleagues on the rest.

It will be extremely difficult for Clinton to tar Trump with his highly mercurial business history spanning real estate development, hotels. gaming, airlines, a football franchise, and licensing his name for a university, bottled water, and steaks. Many voters admire Trump as a jobs-creator and dealmaker, and aren’t bothered that he used the bankruptcy laws to skirt repaying debts in a system they despise anyway. To succeed, Clinton needs to show that Trump damaged school teachers and bank tellers who believed in Trump and lost their savings on his casino bonds, or local heating and millwork contractors whom he stiffed on payments, ruining their businesses and throwing their families into poverty. She needs to show how his businesses hurt the regular Americans he champions in personal stories. It’s yet to be done. And so far, generalities featuring epic bankruptcies and defaults in the billions haven’t repulsed voters, many of whom see those episodes as a normal chapters in a colorful tycoon’s rollercoaster career.

Can Hillary make it vivid and personal enough to stick? The address in Columbus will show if Clinton can finally shred the business resume that seventeen opponents failed to touch.

 

 

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