Denying, defending and numb: Voters not moved by Trump taxes

Full Screen
1 / 2

Sherry Darwin of Oshkosh, Wis., talks about her support for President Donald Trump while picnicking with her grandson Donald in a park Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. "I don't even believe it's true," the 75-year-old retiree says of reports Trump paid little in income taxes in the years before becoming president.(AP Photo/Thomas Beaumont)

OSHKOSH, Wis. – Danielle Fairbank closed the tailgate of her fire-engine red pickup truck in a Target parking lot in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and offered a hearty “Fake news!" to dismiss reports that President Donald Trump paid only $750 in income taxes in 2017.

The assembly worker at a nearby military vehicle plant just as swiftly brushed aside the notion that Trump's tiny tax bill put him out of touch with blue-collar workers like herself. Her job — which she's held throughout the recession and pandemic — is proof to her that the billionaire president is on the side of the working-class.

“I know in my heart he's doing more for this economy, for people like me and for me personally, than anyone is giving him credit," Fairbank said. “That stuff is made up, and it would have come out by now if it were true."

Trump's standing with white, working-class voters has proven resilient through federal investigations, impeachment and countless episodes of chaotic governing. But if those issues were too distant — centered on complicated foreign entanglements — reports about his tax avoidance might have had the potential to hit closer to home during a time of economic upheaval.

Yet, interviews with voters in swing-voting Wisconsin show scant evidence of damaging impact from The New York Times' reporting this week on Trump's long-secret tax returns.

In the hub of swing-voting Winnebago County and Milwaukee's dynamic suburbs, the reactions fit into categories of flat-out disbelief, like Fairbanks, defense of a tax strategy as smart business and an overall fatigue many voters feel with every revelation.

If there is was one common reaction, it's laughter, though not joyful.

Seth Willer snickered from the front porch of his home in the upscale neighborhood of Bellhaven Estates near the shores of Lake Winnebago on Oshkosh's east side when asked what he thought about Trump's income taxes.