Wednesday, May 08, 2019


Paul Waldman writes this in response to the New York Times story on Trump's tax returns:
... let’s look at how Trump himself reacted to this story:

This is a bizarre defense. Trump seems to be claiming that it was shrewd for him to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, because he was doing it to avoid paying his taxes. The next time you see taxes deducted from your paycheck to pay for everything from the military to farm subsidies to health care for children, you might recall that he says of his own successful efforts to avoid paying taxes, “it was sport.”
But Trump voters apparently don't care. Nor, I imagine, do some people who didn't vote for Trump.

Many people in this country clearly believe that being in the position to finagle your taxes, like the having the chance to cheat on your wife with porn stars and supermodels, is an earned privilege. Only a select few get to do these things, and many Americans don't resent them -- they envy them and daydream about being them. The cheating, both financial and sexual, doesn't inspire moral outrage -- it inspires something like hero-worship. Only great men get to live this way.

Waldman adds:
... We do know, however, that Trump believes paying taxes makes you a sucker. When Hillary Clinton suggested that he wasn’t paying any taxes, he responded, “That makes me smart.”
And there was very little outrage when he said this. It's rarely quoted. Remember also that many Americans find their own taxes incomprehensible and assume that, at the exalted level where they presume Trump lives, the tax code is designed to have workarounds for people with smart lawyers. (That's essentially correct, of course.)

Waldman writes:
Trump’s own personal greed and his sense that the rules don’t apply to him have never been in question. But why would he be so threatened by people learning that he isn’t as wealthy as he claims? Part of it is ego, of course; he plainly equates money with one’s value as a human being. But it’s also because he built his career on the belief that if he could convince people he’s impossibly rich, he’d become impossibly rich and remain so.

That’s what Trump has always sold, whether it was to the people he conned out of their life savings with Trump University or to the voters. I am hugely wealthy and hugely successful, and if you associate yourself with me you will reap the reflected rewards.

And if Trump isn’t so wealthy after all, what is he? A small-time grifter, a business failure, a gossip-pages lech, a reality-show buffoon.

That’s what he’s hiding, for sure. And maybe much more.
I don't think so. Notice how fast out of the gate he was with the explanation that it was all standard-issue tax manipulation. If we see more recent Trump tax data and find that his declared income is low, he'll just offer the same explanation, and his fans will buy it. They know he's extremely rich, no matter what contrary facts they encounter. They've seen the plane! And all the gold plating! They watched him on The Apprentice for fourteen years!

Therefore, Waldman's other possible explanation for Trump's tax secrecy makes much more sense: "that there are scandalous or even criminal activities that he has engaged in — partnerships with shady characters, cases of money laundering — and the returns would point the way to discover them." Or his lowballing of his income is so outrageous that even under a tax code that's malleable for the rich it's clearly out-and-out fraud.

I used to think Trump was ashamed to have the public learn that his wealth is lower than he's claimed. Now I'm more persuaded that he's hiding crimes.

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