“I paid millions of dollars [in taxes]. Millions of dollars. And you’ll get to see it,” Donald Trump said during Tuesday’s presidential debate. “When?” Joe Biden interjected. “Inshallah?”
Most viewers of the debate probably did not notice Biden’s use of one of the Muslim world’s favorite phrases, “Inshallah,” which means “God willing” or “if God wills it.” A Muslim viewer well-versed in the vernacular may not have even noticed it unless someone pointed it out and replayed the clip a few times over.
Biden’s pronunciation was, unsurprisingly, overwhelmed by his American accent. “Inshaalaa,” he said, rather than “Insha-allah,” sounding almost Southern despite hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania. He also said it as if it were a question rather than a statement, although perhaps this was unintentional. And he said it as Trump bantered with the debate’s moderator Chris Wallace, all but drowning Biden out.
To the untrained ear, the interjection could have sounded like another nonsensical rambling of “Uncle Joe.” His opponents and supporters alike often poke fun at the former vice president for appearing to have a few screws loose in his old age.
But some observers quickly picked up on the Democratic nominee’s attempt to relate to his Muslim-American voters and show off his cultural awareness.
“Inshallah” may technically mean “God willing,” but the phrase can also be drenched in sarcasm and even interpreted as a nice way of saying “no.” Or perhaps, “we’ll see,” “if God wants me to,” “if God takes me on that path,” “if God has that in His plan for me…”
Some viewers wondered if he actually said “in July,” but Asma Khalid, a national political correspondent for NPR covering the 2020 elections, reported on Twitter that she followed up with Biden’s campaign.
It’s possible that Biden did indeed say “in July,” but his campaign saw the positive response to the idea of him saying “Inshallah” and figured they must as well play into it. Regardless, a sarcastic “Inshallah” is a clear jab to Trump, who has long avoided disclosing his tax returns to the public, in defiance of typical presidential customs.
A recent “bombshell” investigation by the New York Times revealed that Trump’s tax returns in 2016 and 2017 amounted to a measly $750. He paid no income tax in 10 of the past 15 years, according to the same report.
A braggadocious billionaire, the revelation cemented opponents’ perceptions of the president as a crook, as he has adamantly refused to disclose his tax returns for years. As it turns out, that’s because the average blue-collar American or undocumented immigrant paid more income taxes in a few months than the president of the United States paid in years.
Trump’s taxes were thus a talking point during Tuesday’s debate. Biden, who released his tax returns hours before stepping behind the podium, was undoubtedly excited to grill his opponent — or watch Chris Wallace do the grilling — on the issue.
Biden and his wife reported an adjusted gross income of $985,233 and paid a total of $299,346 in taxes in 2019, an effective tax rate of approximately 30%.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, reported with her husband an adjusted gross income of $3,095,590 in 2019 and owed taxes of $1,185,628, placing their effective tax rate at 38%.
All in all, Biden released tax returns covering the past 22 years, while Harris released 16 years’ worth.
Trump, meanwhile, continues to deflect, insisting he pays “millions” in taxes. The revelation of his tax returns, no matter how crooked they may be, would in truth do little to sway his strong voter base, but Democrats will continue to hammer him until he breaks—or gets re-elected.