Friday, February 26, 2016


Under pressure to release his tax returns, which might reveal that he's not as rich as he claims, Donald Trump changes the subject, implausibly but brilliantly:
Donald Trump’s disclosure that his tax returns have been under review by the Internal Revenue Service for the past 12 years reflects a “very unusual” level of scrutiny by tax authorities, according to a former Internal Revenue Service agent who now works as an accountant for wealthy people.

... Alan Olsen, the managing partner of Greenstein Rogoff Olsen & Co. LLP, an accounting firm in Fremont and Palo Alto, California that caters to wealthy Silicon Valley clients ... said that Trump’s revelation about 12 years of audits is something of a bombshell itself. “If the IRS examines your tax return and finds no issues they will not audit your return again for two years,” he said. “If returns are properly prepared, the IRS typically goes away.”
Mitt Romney, as I'm sure you know, has been baiting Trump on this subject:
The issue moved to the top of the agenda this week after Mitt Romney ... said in an interview with Fox News that Trump’s tax returns may contain a “bombshell.” Romney speculated that Trump’s personal tax documents might show that he is not as wealthy as he has claimed. On Thursday night, Romney needled Trump again, posting on Twitter: “No legit reason @realDonaldTrump can’t release returns while being audited, but if scared, release earlier returns no longer under audit.”
(National Review is now citing a business writer's claim that Trump is worth only $150 to $250 million.)

But Trump, instead of merely stalling for time, has decided -- apparently for the first time -- to claim persecution. That's what's brilliant:
Trump’s disclosure, which emerged during a contentious GOP debate on Thursday in Houston, Texas, was a departure from prior statements about his tax returns. He has previously suggested to interviewers that his campaign was working on preparing the returns for release and that the process was time-consuming because of their complexity.

“For many years, I’ve been audited every year,” Trump said Thursday night. “Twelve years or something like that.”

After the debate, Trump suggested to CNN interviewer Chris Cuomo that there might be an unsavory reason the IRS has targeted him -- because he’s a “strong Christian.”
Rank-and-file right-wingers hate the IRS -- and I mean they hate the IRS much more than even the average American hates the IRS. Wingers especially despise the IRS because they've been goaded to do so by the conservative movement and the right-wing media. Recall that last fall a resolution was actually introduced in the House to impeach the IRS commissioner:
House lawmakers have moved to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over accusations he obstructed investigations into the IRS targeting scandal that consumed the agency in 2013.

Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday filed articles of impeachment against Koskinen, accusing him of stonewalling the probe into the agency's alleged targeting of conservative groups ahead of the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Conservatives have been clamoring for the White House to fire Koskinen, who was not at the IRS during the alleged targeting but has been in charge of the agency since December 2013....

The filing came just hours after Koskinen faced off with Senate lawmakers over the targeting scandal, and just days after the Justice Department announced it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner or any of the other IRS officials involved in the processing of applications for tax-exempt status.

Lerner admitted to directing her division to use search terms such as "tea party" to help identify organizations to devote extra scrutiny to, and blamed budget cuts for not being able to do an even and thorough review of all applications. The officials also filtered for terms like "progressive," but not with the same frequency.
Rabble-rousing organizations on the right -- the people who for years have believed that they could stir up high levels of resentment among conservative voters without turning those voters into an angry, uncontrollable mob (i.e., the Trump base) -- have been pushing for Koskinen's impeachment. I'm talking about Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and other Kochite organizations:

Hatred of the IRS has also been ginned up in the Obama years by mainstreamers like Peggy Noonan, who wept for Catherine Engelbrecht -- "a nice woman, a citizen, an American" -- whose organization True the Vote ran into trouble with the agency when it sought tax-exempt status despite its naked partisanship.

And yes, the right thinks the IRS has targeted Christians in the Obama years. Here's Tucker Carlson in 2014 claiming an "assault on people of faith" because the IRS was asked by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to ensure that candidates weren't endorsed from pulpits in tax-exempt churches. (Headline at "Atheist Non-Profit Group Colludes with IRS to Crack Down on Churches.") Here's Fox's Todd Starnes declaring in 2013 that "Several well-known religious organizations say they were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, including the ministry founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham and a 180-year-old Baptist newspaper." Here's a 2013 Breitbart story: "James Dobson: IRS Stonewalled Christian Family Org for Being 'Critical of the President.'"

That's what Trump is claiming, too -- and if you're a right-winger, you're probably already primed to believe every such story already, so why not?

Trump claims his audits go back twelve years -- all the way back to the Bush administration, in other words. But I bet angry right-wingers won't do the math, and even if they do, he's gotten away with being critical of George W. all this time, so why stop now? Transcending both parties is part of his brand.

I bet Trump will never release additional tax documents. And I bet he'll get away with it.


The New York Crank said...

How dare you doubt that Donald Trump is an IRS victim because of his religion?

Haven't you seen the millions of want ads saying, 'No Presbyterians need apply?"

Haven't you noticed that Presbyterians have been forced into segregated neighborhoods?

And what about those "Presbyterian" and "Everybody else" drinking fountains?

Yours very crankily,
The NewYork Crank

Victor said...

I'll bet along wid ya, Steve!

The fact that tRUMP says that he's a "strong 'Christian,'" is too funny for words!

Holy shit!!!

The sheer hypocrisy would burn - should burn - but I'm now immune to it by now.

But still:

CH said...

So Christie cleared up the mystery of why he didn't attack Trump (good ear for the off-note, Steve, in your earlier piece), by endorsing him. It really rather figures - they're both chickens**t bullies, and I guess CC decided that if he can't beat him, he'd join him. Trump now has a "credible" (in some quarters) VP candidate. And no, DT won't sustain any damage pre-convention by his highly principled refusal (now based on religious persecution, no less) to release some tax returns. I'm not even sure how much damage it'll cause him in the general among "independents"/undecideds - I think that will depend on how the D nominee, whoever it is, manages to frame the issue. (I have some thoughts on that which I'll keep to myself, in the interest of party unity & in view of the fact that I often have wrong thoughts.)

Ten Bears said...

Willard has sat out the kkklown kar and is making his play for a brokered convention. You saw it here first.

If we can't burn the god-damned things can we at least tax them? Jesus would.

sdhays said...

Isn't there something in Two Corinthians about "blessed are those persecuted by the local tax authority for being strong Christians"?

Feud Turgidson said...

With all the lights and noice and glitz, it's easy to lose track of the simplest explanation: what Trump is doing is something he doesn't want to admit to, for reasons: he operates a corporate maze, that works as his magic money box, his illusion, his vehicle to claim he's a multi billionaire.

It's worth SOMETHING. It, or parts of it, are connected to actual cash flow from actual assets that exist SOMEWHERE - just not necessarily within the Maze. That cash flow does indeed irrigate parts of the Maze - but it's impossible to pin done whether, after that cash flow is boiled out, Trump's Maze has any net worth.

I could go on on this but it would be TL;dnr. Here's the abbreviated verison:

(A) Trump's CORPORATE net worth is all trapped inside his Maze.

(B) Also inside Trump's Maze is a minotaur that can take Trump down.

I mean 'minotaur' figuratively.

(2) 4 years ago Trump stiffed Mitt Romney on campaign money.

I'm serious. Trump has done this a lot. He's stiffed thousands of people. But stiffing Mittens, that stupid, because that gave Romney an incentive to bide his time for an opening.

(3) Mittens figures he knows what Trump's got in that Maze, what that minotaur probably looks like, and he wants to use it that take Trump down.

I have what I think of as a sound notion of what that minotaur is. And not just me, or Mittens, but a number of others have figured out what it is.

Palli said...

I don't need to know what IT is, but I do want to know that it will be known...that it will be a part of the necessary dismantling of national & international economic laws written by the rich for the rich.
Not that I care that much, My American faith has eroded so much, hope doesn't spring eternal.

Feud Turgidson said...

"It" isn't the same vehicles Romney has used, prefers, and still uses: researching to find 'undervalued' public stock companies vulnerable to attack and being taken over; then assembling private capital pools and preparing to work with hedge funds to drive down a public company's stock to cheapen and east the costs and time to take over; manipulating labor and other partner components in the business to negotiated debt relief and increasing financial control; use of bankruptcy and receivership laws and leveraging influence with federal SEC designations and exemptions; taking the company private; then breaking it out into more marketale pieces, pocketing the selling prices and dumping all loses into dead remnants of the former public company now dissected; on to the next cut job.

The minotaur living in Trump's Maze is a family trust, or rather an assembly of estate planning vehicles. Mittens uses them too, but not to MAKE money, just to protect what's come his way and ensure it's passed on to his heirs. Trump's purpose isn't in the least heir-motivated, except to the extent it ensures him sex with models; he's use of it is all presentation, to lend the impression of great wealth that works like a fishing lure to attract the greedy and desperate.

That's why Romney wants Trump's personal tax returns out: it'll show that Trump himself as relatively modest to not net worth at all, that he's a self-appointed front man for a grift that aims to exploit celebrity -vulnerable markets, like "reality" shows, real estate projects, gambling ops, glitzy hotel, luxury golf resorts, bathing beauty contests, and electoral politics.

Part of Mitten's motive is disgust, part of it was that Trump stiffed him in 2012, part of it is Romney's concern for the future of 'his' party, and part of it is concern for what might happen in Congress to estate planning when and if the public sees how Trump's gone about it.