We know that Donald Trump avoiding paying taxes for many years. Today The New York Times offers an explanation of how he pulled that off: He deducted debt of nearly a billion dollars even though he swapped equity in Trump partnerships for some of that debt, which meant he didn't have to pay the entire amount he owed. The tax trick was legally dubious and was eventually outlawed.
And much of the public, especially the heartland whites who are giving Trump strong support, won't care.
We know heartland voters won't care because we know from various news reports that Trump gives very little to charity, stiffs contractors, stiffed students at Trump University, and so on -- he's an unethical businessman and also a terrible businessman, and he doesn't do anything of redeeming value with the wealth he's managed to amass. And yet he's neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in the polls, and he has a strong and enduring base of support in Middle America.
Don't talk to me about "the rise of populism." Heartlanders, particularly Trump voters, are still living in a Reaganite world, where CEOs can do what they want because, by definition, they're "job creators" and thus demigods. Being a rich businessman might have hurt Mitt Romney, but that's because it's probably hard for the heartland to wrap its collective mind around the question of what exactly Romney did for a living when he was becoming a billionaire. The Obama campaign stepped into that breach, explaining that Romney was in the business of investing in companies and squeezing them for profits, with little or no interest in actually producing goods or services. There's some vestigial New Deal class resentment in the heartland, and a number Middle American voters responded to that message. That's why Obama won Ohio and Iowa as well as the more diverse states you'd have expected him to win.
But Trump played a guy on TV who makes things and builds things and sells the things he makes and builds, and does so with a smile on his face for the consumer. He played a guy who mentored other wannabe providers of tangible goods and services. And even before he was on TV he made his 1% status into entertainment for the masses, as we here in New York know from decades of painful experience.
So Trump brought the heartlanders back home to Reaganism. That means they've never heard a word we've said about Trump's business failings and his lack of financial ethics. Oh, sure, they know the right answer when pollsters ask whether Trump should release his tax returns, --but he won't and they're not going to punish him at the polls, so we know they don't care. They're like the gun owners who tell pollsters they support expanded background checks -- it's nice as far as it goes, but they'll never vote against the candidates who are unswervingly opposed to doing that.
We're lucky Trump's other character failings have been on such prominent display throughout this campaign. Mocking a disabled reporter for a few seconds in a speech hurt him more than being a lifelong crook. He may lose this election, but his way with a dollar won't have defeated him.