OSHKOSH, Wisconsin (AP) — 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.
“Nah, that’s the game, right?” said the 40-year-old industrial laundry equipment distributor who supports Trump. “We all try to lower our tax burden. You can’t blame him.”
Likewise, Cathy Gerring, a 60-year-old part-time employee from the north Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood echoed, “I just feel he’s a smart business owner.”
Mary Herrick, down the street from Willer in Oshkosh’s upscale subdivision notes Trump’s donation of the president’s salary as a counter to criticism of his tax burden. “That’s giving back to the country,” said Herrick, who works from home.