Donald Trump and taxes: did he do anything wrong?

I feel it essential to begin, as usual, with an asseveration that I despise Donald Trump and all that he stands for, that he appeals to the worst instincts in Americans, and that I will certainly vote for his opponent. But I also dislike the deification of Hillary Clinton—adulation that has gone so far that one is not allowed to criticize her lest, her adulators say, such criticism could help elect Trump. One friend of mine even wrote that she had a “storied career”! I respectfully disagree.

Does it become allowable to criticize a candidate we favor only after she’s elected? I don’t buy it. The same people who want to stifle criticism of Hillary Clinton also have said that it’s imperative that we criticize atheist “leaders” like Harris and Dawkins, for rationality demands that we hold those leaders as accountable as anyone else. If Clinton is elected (and I’ve put substantial money on the fact that she will be), we’ll just continue to hear the STFU trope about her, for she’ll in all probability be facing a Republican Congress. We can’t criticize her as it will just give fuel to those Republicans.

In fact, the Presidential campaign has become nasty on both sides (nastier on Trump’s), and this contributes to what I see as an irreversible polarization of American politics. Trump has no choice but to engage in negative politics, as he has no positive policies except for his execrable “wall” and the denigration of women, but it pains me to see Hillary Clinton engaging in those kind of politics. After all, she does have policies, and that is one thing that helped her during the last debate. But mud-slinging is the theme of the season, and it’s ugly.

Now we’ve heard that Donald Trump won’t release his tax returns, and that in fact he may have paid no taxes.  In his response during the debate, he said that paying no taxes made him “smart”.

The response, both from the public and the media, has been outrage. How could a multimillionaire pay no taxes, while the poor working stiff pays a big dollop of money to the government?

This criticism is misguided, and the outrage is faux outrage because it’s directed at the wrong target. So odious has Trump become that he now is the whipping boy for nearly everything, including the poor condition of America’s airports.

Everyone tries to minimize their tax burden, including me, using the legal provisions in the tax code. Seriously, how many of you refuse, for instance, to take your legal mortgage-interest or dependent deductions because you want to pay more than you have to to the government? If you do take legal deductions, you have no business criticizing Trump on this account. His taxes may reveal other malfeasance, and perhaps we’ll know eventually.

The fault lies not in Trump, but in a tax code that allows rich individuals and corporations to get away with paying almost nothing. And that is wrong, for of course all citizens have a duty to share in the burden of running the government, and of funding schools, roads, and other infrastructure.

But if you are outraged at Trump’s zero tax bill, then save your rancor for the government and its tax laws, not at him.

As for him not releasing his tax returns, I think that’s a mistake. Though it’s not mandated, it’s customary, and I suspect that he has something to hide beyond not paying any taxes. My suspicion is that his donations to charity are pitiful compared to what he should be giving, especially for someone who pays no taxes.



  1. GBJames
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    It depends on how one minimizes one’s taxes. Trump apparently does things like has the Trump Foundation pay his business expenses. Thus he doesn’t record the income and, bingo!, no tax.

    That’s pretty despicable, IMO.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      So you’re faulting him for doing what the law allows? Or is what he did illegal?

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        If he used the Trump Foundation in the way being talked about, it would be illegal.

        • Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

          But of course that was not my point. I was talking about the use of legal provisions to reduce taxes.

          • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            But why should none of the fault lie with those who take advantage of unfair loopholes? Just because you can legally do something doesn’t mean you’re completely ethically in the clear if you do. I could sit down next to a hungry homeless person and eat a huge lunch, ignore his request for the leftovers, and throw them in a nearby trash can. Perfectly legal. Still makes me a monster.

            Additionally, the legal loopholes for the ultra-rich are only there because the ultra-rich have forced the legislation that allows them.

            Finally, taking my legal and reasonable deductions is nothing like finagling my way to paying nothing, which I wouldn’t do even if I could. I’m perfectly happy to contribute to the public services from which I benefit.

            • Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

              Well said. I completely agree. Most people *do not* set up charitable foundations or private corporations for the sole purpose of gaming the system to reduce their taxes. It’s not the same as claiming your child or homeowner’s credits. Most people think paying their taxes is an honorable thing to do and that not paying is selfish freeloading, or cheating. And of course, even if whatever he did is legal, that doesn’t mean we can’t be outraged and object to it. It’s legal for sensitive snowflakes to scream at their college professors about racist Halloween costumes, but that doesn’t mean we have to excuse the students and attack the Bill of Rights. We can tell them that their behavior, while legal, is misguided and shameful and that we disapprove. Why can’t we say that to Trump?

            • Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

              + 1. Actually, I think we have true ethical choices only when both options are legal.

              • Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                Yes, that would be the true test of character.

            • Diane G.
              Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

              Hear, hear!

              To you, too, pacopicopiedra.

            • Vaal
              Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

              I cast my vote for thumbs up to musical beef and pacopicopiedra replies.

              I have to admit Today’s post by Jerry surprises me.

              But then we wouldn’t want WEIT to get too predictable and boring 🙂

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          Recent revelations by investigative journalists have shown that the Trump Foundation engaged in unlawful conduct. But that illegal conduct would’ve had a de minimis impact on Trump’s personal income-tax liability.

          • Scote
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

            “Recent revelations by investigative journalists have shown that the Trump Foundation engaged in unlawful conduct. But that illegal conduct would’ve had a de minimis impact on Trump’s personal income-tax liability.”

            Only if you count it as a *percentage* of his income rather than in absolute numbers. Remember that Trump not only payed out of his “charitable” slush fund, he also had people pay into it, directly, in lieu of paying him taxable income.

            The amount he dodged was likely more than enough to get a person with a regular income thrown into jail.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        That sort of thing is illegal.

        • Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

          Well then he shouldn’t be excused for that.

        • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          If it’s illegal then it’s not avoidance, it’s evasion. The difference between them is the thickness of a prison wall.

          However, there is a big difference between taking full advantage of tax breaks for the purpose they were intended, versus making bizarre economic arrangements that exist solely for the purposes of avoiding tax. Again these are not necessarily illegal but probably immoral.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      The Trump Foundation is a separate issue to his taxes, and it appears there is little doubt there is illegal action associated with the Foundation.
      1. It was not properly registered as a charity in the first place (which is illegal before we even start), so it’s never been audited.
      2. Trump hasn’t donated any of his own money since 2008.
      3. At least twice he’s paid business expenses, including fines for illegal behaviour, using Foundation money.
      4. Twice he’s bought huge portraits of himself with Foundation money. That wouldn’t be illegal if he then auctioned them off for charity, but he didn’t. One is hanging in one of his golf clubs (Key Largo) and journalists haven’t found the other yet.
      5. He also bought a signed Tim Teebow helmet for $20,000 (iirc the amount). Same deal as above, but he appears to have kept it for himself.

      As for his taxes, if he’s done anything illegal there the auditors will presumably discover it. That is not the issue. He has 500 businesses worldwide and he will not be putting them in a blind trust if he becomes president. He could be majorly compromised when it comes to foreign policy if he is president. Despite all the allegations of pay-for-play with the Clinton Foundation, no illegal behaviour has been found.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see how it is completely separate from taxes. He does this kind of thing to avoid paying taxes. They are coupled together.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t mean to sound dismissive. Sorry that’s how I came across. The issues are absolutely coupled when it comes to his character, as you point out. I was talking about them as distinct legal issues.

          He is constantly accusing others of things he does himself, which I think is indicative in his case. If he accused Clinton of graffiti, you’d know he’d done it. For most of us, when we pass a blank wall it doesn’t cross our minds to tag it. He accuses her of lying but he is a demonstrably much bigger liar. He insists his temperament is his biggest asset which even his supporters think is a joke and is not why most of them are voting for him. He has attacked the Clinton Foundation and it turns out there’s nothing there, but there are problems with his own Foundation.

          However, I suspect that even though he’s paid the least taxes he could get away with, he’s done it legally. He should be campaigning to close the loopholes that he takes advantage of that mean the middle class have to pay more taxes to make up for what he doesn’t pay and could afford to pay. What he’s actually doing is advocating a tax plan that would benefit him and would cost the country millions of jobs. His acolytes see him through rose-coloured glasses while Clinton’s supporters recognize her flaws and support her anyway because her qualities outweigh them.

          • GBJames
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

            “However, I suspect that even though he’s paid the least taxes he could get away with, he’s done it legally.”

            This is why you keep confusing me. How can we say he’s paid the least tax legally if he has illegally been doing things to avoid paying taxes? That just doesn’t make sense to me. (I agree with the rest of your comment, however.)

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted October 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

              The thing is, I’m not sure we’ll find that as far as his business taxes go he’s done anything illegal. I bet he’s structured things in a way that means he pays the least possible, and that those ways aren’t available to most people, and many are deeply unethical, but not strictly illegal. And he does have an obligation to other investors to maximise profit.

              I think there’s lots we would find that would cast him in a bad light if we got to see hus taxes, and I can think of a much longer list than anyone’s publicly mentioned, but I suspect the amount of tax he’s paid is probably legal, if minimal.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 2, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                But we already know about illegal activity to avoid paying taxes! (Assuming the information is correct, of course.)

                How can it possibly be true that he is engaged in illegal tax avoidance (by blending of his foundation and his business finances) and also that he is acting legally? That is not logically possible.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                That’s illegal activity, but it’s not about paying taxes. Charities don’t pay taxes. That’s why I’m saying it’s a separate issue. This Foundation was set up to make himself look good. He’s giving out money in his name like a hero even though he hasn’t donated to it himself since 2008, and he’s using the money for personal expenses, which is illegal, but nothing is to do with taxes. He set it up illegally, but that wasn’t to avoid paying taxes, it was to avoid being audited so the law didn’t know he was using the money for himself. No one would have found out if a journalist hadn’t decided to check it out because of the event he did for veterans instead of attending a debate.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                The foundation was set up to launder money. That is illegal. The reason he wants to launder money is to avoid paying taxes. This is a con of huge, or “uge”, proportions and you keep saying it has nothing to do with taxes. I don’t know how you can separate these things without rolling your eyes.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted October 2, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

                I see what you’re saying. What I’m saying is that putting money into a charitable foundation to reduce your tax liability isn’t actually illegal.

  2. Derek Freyberg
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    If the Trump Foundation really is a charitable [501(c)(3)] foundation, then paying the Donald’s personal expenses would seem actually illegal, not merely immoral.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Prof Coyne is absolutely correct. Trump did not make the tax laws. It was all the voters who are responsible for the despicable tax laws of the country. In fact it is the people who are responsible for the quality and lack thereof, of our representatives. To think otherwise is simply incorrect. What do you think Democracy means. You are responsible.

    The absolutely unbelievable part is that today, the republican party particularly has millions of poor people lining up to vote for no taxes and lower taxes on the rich. The richer you are the less taxes you pay. To be stupid and poor is apparently the new party.

    • $G
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      This is what is astonishing to me as well. Everyone wants to reduce their taxes, but not everyone is running for President — especially not as someone whose supporters seem to think will shake up the system. Why would Trump, who has taken advantages of these laws, change them? He’ll eventually not be President (if he wins), so he’ll need to resume as before, right?

      How can a seemingly downtrodden class of voters not be put right off of his boasting of paying no taxes? I imagine Hillary was on a strict diet of non-engagement during the debate, because that would have been an amazing point to hammer him on. “You may not be a criminal, but you don’t have to be: you are everything your voters hate.”

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        But his voters don’t hate it. If his voters hated it, why are they his voters? The people who have been voting for and continue to vote for republicans in the congress or for president have to want a one sided tax system that favors the really rich. They also have to want deficit spending like crazy because the republicans refuse to raise any taxes and their representatives in congress are in lock step on this issue and have been for years.

        • $G
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          Yes, clearly they don’t hate it . I just think it showed that Hillary was on a strict gameplan during a moment that could have been a sharp heel stomp against one of Trump’s infamous free-wheeling quips that left him pretty wide open.

          It’s also that I’m under the impression that many Trump voters find appeal in his boasts about changing the system, or at least think he is capable of making a severe change. Am I wrong in this? I don’t know any Trump voters (I live in Toronto) so my points of reference are news and discussions forums.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            I’m sure you are right on this. I was simply staying on point with the posting that many are blaming Trump for avoiding taxes and they are aiming at the wrong target. Stay out of the weeds. That is where the Trump roams.

        • Derek Freyberg
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          The only explanation I can offer for what looks like a clear case of cognitive dissonance in these voters is that they are ignoring the fact that they are voting against their economic interests because they see that they are voting for their social interests: the Republican Party says “vote for us and we’ll bring prayer back in schools/ban gay marriage/ban abortion/keep immigrants out” without mentioning that their economic policies will further impoverish those who have already lost by the Republican economic policies of the past – “Trumped-out trickle-down”. And the Democrats have failed to rebut this. It’s only when statements become outrageous (Mitt Romney’s “47%”, Trump on immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants) that people seem to really pay attention.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

            Again, I have no argument with your comments. I am simply attempting to stay on the specific subject at hand concerning taxes and what is or is not Trumps fault. And jumping on Trump for his own personal tax situation is a joke. His tax policy or the tax policy in general is where this issue is and what it is about.

          • Rita
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

            Actually, Trump supporters don’t look at the details of his tax plan, so when he says the plan will help them, they believe what he says. Even if you could sit them down and force them to read the details, it wouldn’t matter.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Voters aren’t the ones responsible for creating the tax code and tax loopholes in it, when there are people and organizations whose campaign contributions and political ads often can decide whether a politician even gets to be considered by the voters.

  4. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    A new development this morning, involving state law:
    Trump Foundation lacks the certification required for charities that solicit money
    Under the laws in New York, where the Donald J. Trump Foundation is based, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. Charities as large as Trump’s must also submit to a rigorous annual audit that asks — among other things — whether the charity spent any money for the personal benefit of its officers…

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      NPR has a transcript of Terry Gross’s interview with Fahrenthold (author of the linked article above) on the Trump Foundation. We may never know about IRS investigations unless they turn into criminal prosecutions, but if NY State goes after Trump and his foundation they may not feel as obliged to keep quiet.
      That Trump has been able to take advantage of tax law provisions that benefit primarily the very rich is not illegal, and not even immoral; but if he has cheated on his taxes by running money through a foundation that is legally required to act independently and only for a charitable purpose, that is both immoral and illegal.
      We may never see the Donald’s personal returns, but foundation returns are public; and that’s what has enabled this public scrutiny of Trump’s dealings.

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Why is not paying your fair share not immoral?

        • Historian
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

          I would agree that not paying one’s fair share is immoral. The trouble is determining what a fair share is. One can have long philosophical debates on this topic. Also, the definition of fair share can and has changed many times over the years. Politically, though, the rich generally win the argument. Although the public would agree that the rich should pay more, this issue rarely determines how most people vote.

  5. Mike Cracraft
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I want to see the tax return to see his connections to Putin and his cronies.

    • W.Benson
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Doubt if Putin associates with carny barkers like Trump.

  6. Rob
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    He also talked about how he was able to use the laws for his bankruptcies. Mr “law and order” may have used the laws but he used those laws to stiff the people who worked for him. Immoral and unethical.

    So, he is using the law to avoid paying taxes. Yet, he snipes about NATO nations not paying their fair share.

    He may negotiate great deals…but his deals benefit him and take advantage of taxpayers.

  7. Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    “Seriously, how many of you refuse, for instance, to take your legal mortgage-interest or dependent deductions because you want to pay more than you have to to the government? If you do take legal deductions, you have no business criticizing Trump on this account.” I would not agree with this. There are deductions and there are deductions. Some provisions of the tax law were put into place with the aim of doing good. The mortgage-interest deduction is there to help people own their own home. The dependent deductions are there to help support people who have children. Whether one agrees with those goals or not, those are goals that our society has democratically agreed upon, and so there is no shame in utilizing these deductions. Other deductions were designed by narrow special interests – the 1%, real estate moguls like Trump, hedge fund managers, etc. – specifically to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of society, and they were put into the tax law through lobbying, payola and graft. Taking advantage of those deductions, while legal, is clearly immoral. There is a difference between what is legal and what is moral, and it is every person’s responsibility to try to be a good, moral person – not just to obey the letter of the law while getting as much for themselves as they possibly can.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      I can only guess that you are kidding. The other deductions were designed by narrow interests to benefit themselves. So what and who allowed this to take place as it does on everything and every issue that comes before congress. You think that taking advantage of the tax laws that special interests were able to inflict on society in a democracy is unfair of these same special interests. That makes no sense.

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        No. You’re not seriously contending that whatever the ultra-rich are able to get away with because of the influence of their money is done with the blessing of the general population because, hey, democracy? Legislators can do no wrong because we elected them?

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

          Yes, I mean you tell me, who else elected them. And did so every two years and every 6 years. If you do not get the results you want, they vote differently the next time. As you know, if you watch politics at all, the incumbent gets reelected over and over again. This form of government allows for the people to demand change and get the representation they want, only if they remain educated and interested in their government. Please, if you are serious, tell me why this would be nonsense but your government works instead by influence of the rich and legislators are just legislators and they will do wrong. Your form of reason on this issue is what is called the – Oh well, nothing we can do about it, we are just the poor victim of the influential rich and those crazy legislators.

          • Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            I think you’ve got this backwards. Musical Beef (and others) are saying out loud, “this is wrong; this is not ok; we shouldn’t allow this.” Your response is, “You have no right to say that. Don’t speak up and try to effect a change. You may quietly vote against an incumbent, but you’ve no right to criticize behavior you think unethical if it is legal.”

            • Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

              I don’t see that being said here at all. I think that if you can take a legal deduction, you have a right to take that deduction. And there is no immorality in following the law. Many here are arguing that the law is immoral which is a different animal altogether. If Trump paid no taxes, and did so taking legally available deductions, then I hold no animosity for that.

              H&R Block will advertise in the spring that you should bring your return in and they will find money you missed. Is that immoral? The only difference between what Trump and the rich may have done is that they hire their own guys while we get H&R Block. Our goal is the same.

              Whether these deductions should exist are an entirely different matter, one on which the electorate has apparently approved for lack of voting out the guys who put the laws in.

              • Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

                “And there is no immorality in following the law.”

                Really? You can’t imagine an immoral law? Are the comments long enough yet to invoke Godwin? Was there nothing immoral in the German Final Solution? Of course, I am using hyperbole to make a point, not comparing tax avoidance to genocide.

                Others above have eloquently explained the difference between taking reasonable deductions to reduce your taxes vs gaming the system to avoid taxes altogether. I won’t repeat them, but urge you to read all the comments.

            • Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

              Much as I think that someone who puts “The Final Solution” into his law argument has forfeited the right to be taken seriously….

              You’ve done an excellent job of setting up your straw men and then knocking them down. You can rant and activate and spend your time and money doing whatever you want but that doesn’t mean you get your way. Other people either must disagree or not care since they re-elect the people responsible for these “immoral” policies. Until you, Musical Beef, (and others) are able to get different people elected to change the laws, then democracy is served.

              • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

                How has he forfeited? That was a good point, using the rhetorical device reductio ad absurdum. His point was only that following a law is not necessarily a good moral thing to do.

                But there is the other issue of the distinction between actually following a certain law, and just not breaking any laws. My example way upthread about the homeless man was meant to show that simply not breaking any laws does not mean you’re necessarily behaving ethically.

          • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

            I did not elect them.

            Are there a lot of middle and lower class people who elect them? Yes. But as we often point out here, they have been suckered. They have bought the line that big government is bad and that regulation and legislation concerning business is the biggest, baddest part of big government. They have bought into trickle down economics. They support the fat cats who create loopholes because as someone famous said (Updike?) they don’t see themselves as middle class; they see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. It’s very similar to the Prosperity Gospel. If they just keep voting for the economically laissez-faire right, they’ll eventually reap great blessings rewards. They’ve been hoodwinked.

            When Deepak Chopra sells his useless Ayurvedic crap to people he’s conned do we argue he’s done nothing wrong?

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Randall Schenck, you seem somewhat confused. Are you really trying to say that in a democracy “legal” and “ethical” are synonyms? Is this some kind of secular “hate the sin, but not the sinner?” We must not criticize people who commit acts we disagree with, unless and until we are able to elect legislators who pass laws against said acts?

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          I am saying that what you are suggesting is a waste of time. Complaining about Trump because he may cheat on his taxes or that many others cheat on their taxes is nothing but talk. It does not fix anything. Now if you want to get together and demonstrate for tax reform or make sure the guy or gal you are voting for is pushing tax reform that is just fine. If the people elected all the representatives that fills the halls of congress and then get on line and complain about the tax code and the cheaters, well, that is a waste of time. Don’t just talk about how the rich don’t pay taxes and Trump is a dog.

          • Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            First of all, why is speaking out a waste of time? Don’t we keep saying and hearing that “the proper response to speech you disagree with is more speech?” Why is it not valuable to speak out against actions why disagree with? By speaking out, we are trying to change minds, and eventually, laws.
            Secondly, why do you assume that people who “talk” about this do “nothing but talk?” You don’t know how I spend my free time and money. You don’t know how hard I’ve lobbied for tax reform and how much I’ve donated to politicians, etc who advocate changes in the tax laws. You speak as though talking about it and acting on it are mutually exclusive and if someone talks about it, they are necessarily not *doing anything* about it.

            You suggest “getting together” to “demonstrate for tax reform.” Why is a group speaking in public ok, but an individual speaking on a blog (sorry, PCC) not ok? Why is it a waste of time for me to speak out on my own here, but not with friends on a street corner?

  8. colnago80
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The problem here is that the Donald and his fellow 1 percenters are the ones who bought off members of the Congress via bribes campaign contributions to write the laws so as to minimize their tax burden.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Agreed. If someone like Trump is so anti-government, or supposedly anti-partisan, and believes in the atomized power of the unfettered business man, why is he so desperately trying to ascertain the highest appointed office in government? Answer: He wants the private/business sector to become a direct conduit to legislation rather than merely a subsidizing/influencing agent.

  9. Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    There’s a big difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

  10. Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I agree with you Jerry. It’s the tax laws.

    However, where Trump is concerned, it’s a matter of the image he’s presenting. He’s saying he’s going to help out the white working class, lower middle class, etc. But, in fact, he has done whatever he can to make sure they pay taxes (to fund the budgets) while he does not.*

    This makes him a liar (again! most of what he claims are lies) and I think it’s worthy of being expounded upon in public.

    (* And I have a hard time believing he hasn’t been doing illegal things in there too. His excuse is always, “no admission if guilt! No admission of guilt! Sealed judgments!”)

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      However, he provides gaming opportunities and overpriced buffets for the tax-paying working and lower classes as a gesture of unmitigated altruism.

  11. Randy Bessinger
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The tax code is not white or black. Otherwise there would be no need for tax court. Income and deductions can be controversial. Positions can range from more likely than not to pretyy absurd. Some start out paying little or no taxes but end up after audit and court owing a pretty heavy sum.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      So what is your point other than the tax laws suck. Who’s fault is that? They are not black and white as you say so that the Trumps of the world can do what they do. Again, who’s fault is that?

      • Randy Bessinger
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        My point is that we don’t know what Trump has done on his tax returns and that black and white legal or illegal is a simplisitic look at the tax code. Hence, settlements by taxpayers and the Government.

        Trump may be taking extreme positions that while not illegal are streching the intent of the law. Frankly, I have no idea, but totally agree with Jerry that his effective tax rate is probably not why he is not releasing his returns.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          I do not care what his tax rate is and I do not care if or how much he may have cheated. I am saying that this is all speculation. He may have been paying no taxes and doing so legally. You cannot shame or blame him for that. It is the law. What you have to do is change the law. You do not fix the problem sitting around blaming trump

          • Reginald Selkirk
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            I am saying that this is all speculation.

            And why are we reduced to speculation? Because he won’t release his tax returns. Sorry, that’s an unsuccessful dodge.

  12. Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Frankly, I have never understood why one’s tax return should not be a matter of public record. It would expose tax inequities, and help rebuild trust in government.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard that it’s exactly like that in Norway. Everybody can know what everybody else earns and how much tax they pay.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I’m open to arguments in favor of such public disclosure. But there’s something to be said, too, for respecting the privacy of private citizens, for the right simply to be let alone.

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, but whether one is paying his/her/other share to the cost of community should be public information. At least publish everyone’s effective tax rates.

  13. Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    If only the IRS could figure out a way to tax him for his petulant tweetstorms.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      I think they call that a “vice” tax.

  14. Billy Bl.
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    This is what happens when the rich get to make the rules. Most politicians are lawyers and business people. What do you expect?

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      It’s the real Golden Rule: Those with the gold make the rules.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        You got that right. But you need to add one thing to the end of this. Those with the gold make the rules because the rest of the citizens do nothing.

        • Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          I can’t help but think of Emma Goldman’s decidedly disaffected bon mot: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

            That is very good. But don’t you then have to define “they”. I assume they is either the special interest or the congress. In this form of government…they is suppose to be the people so what are “they” doing?

            • Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

              “Supposed to be” in principle, but not always in practice. My less-than-refined definition of this post-industrial economy is as follows: limited resources with unlimited access to those resources by a select group of entitled assholes.

          • Kevin
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

            I love that. I don’t vote. But that’s only because there are no candidates I can vote for who do not claim that will live forever.

        • nate
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          “Those with the gold make the rules because the rest of the citizens do nothing.”

          Of course, it is much much easier for those with the gold TO DO something, isn’t it?

  15. Historian
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Assuming Trump has paid little or no taxes for decades, it is the job of the IRS to determine whether or not the returns were filed consistent with the provisions of the tax code. Politically, Trump loses under either scenario if he releases his taxes. If it is revealed that his returns were egregiously wrong, perhaps due to gross negligence or fraud, then he will be rightfully labelled a tax cheat and perhaps a criminal. If the returns were essentially correct then the public might become enraged that a billionaire legally pays nothing while the “little guy” could pay 20% or more of gross income to the federal government. A movement to close the loopholes that benefit the rich may accelerate, although I wouldn’t bet a penny that substantive changes to the code would actually happen. So, even if the returns were filed correctly, resentment against him and his fellow 1% would grow, which would not be a good thing for him politically.

    As mentioned by others, the released returns could reveal his dealings with dubious characters. They could also show him to be a cheapskate if his charitable contributions were minimal.

    Thus, politically Trump has concluded that he is better off accepting the criticism for not releasing his returns then actually doing so. His political calculation is probably correct.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I really dislike the characterization of Trump as a member of “the 1%”. In my state, the threshold income to be counted among the top 1% is around $390K and the average income of the top 1% is just over $1M.

      In my role as trustee at a large nonprofit arts organization, I rub elbows with people in this wealth bracket all the time, and I can assure you they’re nothing like Trump. They pay their fair share, and give away excess wealth to organizations that enhance their community. Their political support goes to candidates who work for social good, not for private advantage.

      Trump’s wealth (if we take his claims at face value) is orders of magnitude greater, and his social conscience is nonexistent. He and his ilk are not the 1%, they’re the 0.001%.

      • Historian
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        It is a good thing that the rich (but not in Trump’s alleged category) people you know are generous in their private donations, but I submit that unless you’ve scrutinized their income tax returns, you have no idea whether or not they’re paying their fair share. Also, their conception of what is a fair share may differ markedly from yours.

        If somehow you’ve reviewed their income tax returns, I would be interested in knowing your definition of a fair share.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          The point is that by definition, the top 1% includes millions of people. So unless you’ve scrutinized their tax returns, you have no business characterizing them all as Trump’s fellow travelers.

          Rail against Trump all you want; I’m with you there. But don’t assume that everyone who makes $400K shares his arrogance, self-absorption, and obsessive acquisitiveness.

          • Historian
            Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            One can argue that the current structure of the tax code is such that the people you describe do not pay their fair share even if they do not take dubious deductions. It all comes down to how you define fair share. You would undoubtedly find vastly differing definitions even amongst people in the generally same income bracket.

            I did not imply that most people in the 1% are like Trump, since only a few are likely to be sociopaths. What I did say that if Trump revealed his returns then resentment against the 1% would grow in terms of the taxes they pay. Each person would have to decide whether the resentment is justified based on the person’s definition of fair share.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

              You did in fact talk about “him and his fellow 1%” as if they form a homogeneous bloc. And if disclosure of Trump’s tax returns causes resentment to grow against the 1%, it’s precisely because of that false perception of homogeneity promoted by careless use of the 1% shibboleth.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        The people you rub elbows with is self-selecting for their generosity. You can’t extrapolate from them to all the ultra-wealthy anymore than you can from Trump and his ilk. One percent of the U.S. population is over 3 million people.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          This is exactly my point. Three million people cannot legitimately be demonized for injustices perpetrated by Trump and his ilk.

  16. Marta
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    The poor, poor tiny-fingered vulgarian is not obliged to pay one penny more taxes than he is legally obliged to pay. This is elementary tax avoidance and perfectly acceptable.

    However, the cheetoed shit weasel may not use his “charities” (bwhahahahahahahahaha!!!!1!) to hide and slide regular business income, or use his “charities” (hahahahahahahah!11) to line his or his families personal pockets. This is tax evasion (among other things), and tax evasion is illegal.

    Also, too, it is really disgusting to fleece the public under the guise of doing charity, deliver a negligible percentage of that income to the group for which you claim to have collected it, and then also brag with your yuge, yuge, flapping pie hole that you paid no federal taxes because you’re “smart”.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Excellent! 😀

      Wish you’d chime in more often, Marta.

      • Merilee
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink


  17. W.Benson
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear!

  18. Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    A couple of thoughts.

    1) I’m not sure that the polarization is irreversible. These things are cyclic, although the cycle time is long. But there have been many vicious campaigns in the past, and the country has been at loggerheads before – the Lincoln elections and the civil war being on the extreme end.

    2) The smart response (but don’t look to Trump for smart) to the question of how much tax he paid would have been to say “every penny that was owed” and leave it at that – saying it’s smart not to pay anything might be true (from his position at the time – less so now) but is not going to endear him to anyone. I agree that the people who should be blamed for that situation are the various legislators who allowed it to happen. That being said misplaced anger has a long history of success in elections.

    3) The issues with the Trump foundation – the lack of appropriate certification, that I first saw something about yesterday, and its use to pay inappropriate “expenses” of one sort or another, seems to me to be a bigger story. At least the Clinton Foundation does something useful with its money. Trump’s use of his foundation apparently as a personal piggy bank seems to be a legitimate cause for investigation.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    So odious has Trump become that he now is the whipping boy for nearly everything …

    In your milieu maybe (in my milieu, too), but let us not forget that 42% of our fellow citizens support Trump, a good many of them so stridently that they wouldn’t waiver if he shot someone on 5th Avenue.

    You’re certainly correct that, if Trump lawfully paid no income tax, people’s ire should be directed primarily at the tax code. But you can’t blame the American people for spreading some of that ire, as well, to a self-proclaimed multi-billionaire who brags incessantly about how much money he makes (hundreds of millions of dollars per annum, he claims) — especially when that billionaire has proposed a tax plan that would give those of his ilk even greater tax breaks.

    If Trump’s tax returns didn’t contain something devastating to his candidacy, he would’ve released them already, his bogus excuse about an audit notwithstanding. It may be, as you speculate, that he’s paid no taxes or made negligible contributions to charity. I suspect they may also contain embarrassing information regarding sketchy foreign sources of income, foreign investments, and offshore banking accounts.

    • Historian
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      The reason the 42% stridently support Trump is because for them culture is more important than economics. Trump’s support is overwhelmingly from white people. Fueled by racism, xenophobia, religious values, and, yes, white privilege in danger of evaporating their fear of an America rapidly changing demographically makes them turn to the demagogue. Issues such as his tax returns or tax policy in general do not concern them. I suspect they hardly think about them.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Oh, I agree. Trump’s primary appeal is to the core in the GOP base for whom the emotionally resonant issues are immigration, law & order, and political correctness — or, to be frank about it, for those who are driven by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny.

        The Trump dead-enders are beyond reach, by anything that might be revealed about him, let alone anything in his federal income-tax returns. But there remains a small but crucial percentage of volatile voters who would be appalled to find that Trump hasn’t paid any income tax, or has made negligent charitable contributions, or has sketchy overseas entanglements. It is for fear of alienating these voters that he’s offered his incoherent excuse concerning an audit for not releasing his returns.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Not so sure that’s entirely the case this time around. The whole Tea Party phenomenon has been far more concerned with tax-&-spend and fighting big gubmint than social issues, and IIRC the NYT recently had an article about evangelicals not knowing what to do this election, since Trump is anything but the Family Values candidate.

        • Historian
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          Here is a Pew poll from September 13, 2016.
          “The country’s religious landscape also has been shifting over the past few decades. One of the most fundamental changes has been the increase in the share of voters who do not affiliate with a religion (from 8% in 1996 to 21% in 2016).
          The increase in the share of voters who do not identify with a religious group is occurring faster within the Democratic than Republican Party, moving the religious profiles of the two coalitions further apart from one another.

          In 2016, nearly three-in-ten (29%) Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – up from just 10% in 1996. Overall, 11% of Democratic voters are white mainline Protestants, 10% are white Catholics and 8% are white evangelical Protestants; all three of these groups make up much smaller shares of all Democratic voters than they did in 1996. Black Protestants make up 15% of all Democratic voters and Hispanic Catholics account for 6%; there has been no decline in the shares of these two groups.

          Shifts in the composition of the Republican Party have been more modest and GOP voters are now even more likely than Democratic voters to affiliate with a religion than they were 20 years ago. About a third (35%) of Republican voters are white evangelical Protestants, 18% are white Catholics, 17% are white mainline Protestants and 12% are religiously unaffiliated. The share of GOP voters that is unaffiliated has risen six points since 1996. There has been little change in the share of all GOP voters who are white evangelical Protestants or white Catholics over the past two decades, but the share who are white mainline Protestants has declined 12 points.”

          The Republican Party is the party of religion and the evangelicals will overwhelmingly vote for Trump despite their reservations about Trump. For them, anybody is better than the devil Hillary.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 1, 2016 at 12:28 am | Permalink

            Nothing like some good data to settle the issue. 😉

  20. darrelle
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I agree with you, Jerry, on most of what you’ve said here. But I don’t agree with you regarding the deification of Hillary Clinton. What I mean is, from what I see and hear of public discourse from my perspective those that want to deify Hillary and tell others who criticize her to STFU are a minority. I hardly ever hear that kind of thing. Nearly everything I hear ranges from rabid, irrational hatred to, “I don’t like her but I’ll vote for her against Trump.” I know there are deifiers out there but as far as I can tell they are not a significant voice. I’d guess our differences on this are due to “environmental” differences. Perhaps you’re seeing more deifiers than I am.

    I also disagree about criticizing Trump for his taxes. Perhaps if his response was something like, “Yes, I think I should pay more taxes and if I’m elected I’ll revise tax laws so that the wealthy pay their fair share.” But that’s not the kind of response he gave. There are wealthy people out there who say just that kind of thing and who don’t twist the law and do questionably legal or flat out illegal things in order to avoid paying taxes.

    I think differences in magnitude do matter. I think it is a very different thing when a middle class person takes an available deduction which is a significant fraction of their income and of the basic costs of living compared to when a multi-millionaire sets up a convoluted tax shelter for the sole purpose of avoiding paying taxes that would have a completely insignificant impact on their ability to afford a decent living.

    It isn’t just that Trump may not have paid taxes. It’s that he thinks that is the way it should be. And if he becomes president he will try to even further reduce taxes for the wealthy in order to enrich himself further at the expense of worsening wealth inequality even further beyond the record highs we enjoy today and almost certainly leading to another major recession. In context I don’t see anything wrong with criticizing him for not paying taxes and I don’t think him not paying taxes is equivalent to me claiming standard deductions.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      The only problem I see with your logic is that it gets into degrees of morality about the tax code. For the average person such as most of us, this tax code is generally a one a year thing we work on or think about. However for some people and nearly all the rich people they have professionals who watch over their finances and businesses 365 days a year. Almost every decision they make is rapped around some tax law or another and what affect it has on their business. So they are paying people to get them the best results possible.

      The vision is not the same even though the occasional Warren Buffet stands up and says the rich are getting away with murder and the poor guys is getting screwed. You cannot live on some scale of morality. You think smart like the voters should and then do something about it….like vote and change the system that put us here in the first place.

      • darrelle
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure I’ve understood you completely accurately, but I do think that people need to take their duty to vote more seriously and that we all bear some measure of responsibility for the system that we have. I think that applies to the Trumps of the US as well. They also bear some responsibility, very arguably more because their influence is magnified by their wealth.

        My main point was that unlike Jerry I think it is perfectly appropriate to criticize Trump for not paying taxes. Not in the general case of a wealthy person not paying taxes, but in the specific case of Trump and all the context that goes with it. I’ve got plenty of criticism left over for the government and my fellow voters. I’ve got pretty much a bottomless supply.

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

          Well-said points both about the alleged “deification” of Hillary and the suggestion to lay off criticizing Trump’s tax attitude.

    • Historian
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I agree with you that the deifiers of Clinton are in a minority. Her most ardent supporters take this position. But, so what? In every election the most ardent supporters of a candidate portray the person as a paragon of virtue while the opponent is the devil incarnate. Certainly, Trump’s ardent supporters view him as a deity and not just for political reasons (I think some actually believe it). It’s politics as usual. As long as there are democratic elections this will always be the case.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      “I agree with you, Jerry, on most of what you’ve said here. But I don’t agree with you regarding the deification of Hillary Clinton.”

      Commented before I read this. I agree, people who deify her would argue there is little or nothing to criticize her for. Saying “don’t criticize her because it could help elect Trump” is an implicit acknowledgment that that she is worthy of criticism, and hardly deification.

      • darrelle
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Good point.

    • Scote
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      “It isn’t just that Trump may not have paid taxes. It’s that he thinks that is the way it should be. And if he becomes president he will try to even further reduce taxes for the wealthy in order to enrich himself further at the expense of worsening wealth inequality even further”

      This. Trump is a billionaire. And he pays less Federal income tax than I do. That’s just not right, legal or not. And as president he will work to get the system to be *even more favorable* to himself and his family. (He’ll be the US president with the most financial conflicts in history.)

      As to the idea that avoiding taxes is smart, well, Trump has set up more that 500 hundred companies to launder his money in ways that reduce his tax burden, hence why his return is 12,000 pages. Regular Americans can’t do that. I don’t think it is right to be able to dodge taxes through means so complex it takes 12,000 pages of returns *every year*.

      The presidency should be about ability and trust. There is no reason to trust Trump at all, on anything. Well, there is one thing we can trust, that he’ll do anything and everything that is Good for Trump, including insuring that he continues to never pay Federal income tax. His dodging of Federal income taxes, and pride in it, should be a count against him.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      And he thinks it’s the way it should be because he feels it’s all a game and he’s winning. This is exactly how sociopaths think – tell me the rules of the game and I’ll play to win. So, if there are tax rules I can manipulate, then tell me the rules so that I can win at playing the game. Sociopaths don’t care about ethics; they care about winning.

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        “And he thinks it’s the way it should be because he feels it’s all a game and he’s winning.”

        Yeah I don’t think the outrage directed at Trump is because he pays no taxes. It’s the fact that he seems to be proud of it.

  21. Mark R.
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I believe the main reason DT won’t show his tax returns is because he’s not nearly as rich as he boasts. I think it’s more about ego/narcissism than the amount of taxes he pays or how much in charity he gave. He couldn’t bare to have the perception of his “billionaire status” destroyed.

  22. Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    “But I also dislike the deification of Hillary Clinton—adulation that has gone so far that one is not allowed to criticize her lest, her adulators say, such criticism could help elect Trump.”

    I would hardly classify people rightly saying you should avoid criticizing Hillary because it could help elect Trump as “deification”. I mean implicit in that sentiment is that there is much about her that one could criticise, which is the opposite of “deification”.

  23. Flemur
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    45% of Americans pay no federal income tax

    Rich people pay nearly 87% of all federal individual income tax in America

    Income level Share of total federal
    individual income tax paid Average income tax bill
    per person

    Lowest 20% -2.2% -$643

    Second lowest 20% -1.7% -$621

    Middle income 4.2% $1,743

    Second richest 20% 12.9% $6,285

    Richest 20% 86.8% $50,176


    Check link for a more readable chart…

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      While I agree that civility in contemporary politics is in short supply, I sometimes wonder if people aren’t pining for an era when politics was free of vitriol that never actually occurred. Yes, campaigns could and should be far more civil than they are, they could and should also be more substantive than they are, but there will always be acrimony to some degree. That acrimony has existed in Federal politics in the US since Jefferson and Hamilton. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I think one is waiting for politics to become a civilized, rational discourse that revolves around public policy, one will have to wait a great long while.

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        Woops, I didn’t intend to post that as a reply, my mistake.

      • Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        I agree. We are just able to see it more readily because of our better communication technology. I also see it as not improving because a) the vast majority of people are stupid and b) marketers know how to target and they do it with ruthless effficiency.

        • Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I think you’re accurate on both counts there.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Just a quick check of your stats may sound good to the rich but all it says in general is that rich people pay more taxes than others do. But most of the rich folks make their money from capital gains. The rate they pay on capital gains is 15%. What is the rate for the average joe who works for a living. not much different.

      Ask who has the net worth and financial distribution of wealth in this country.
      In 2010 it looked like this:

      Top 1% – 35% of the net worth
      Bottom 80% – 11% of the net worth

      Top 1% – 42% of the financial wealth
      Bottom 80% – 5% of the financial wealth

      That is what we call inequality…and it gets worse every year.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      This has little importance. The top 20% richest would still be doing fine if they paid 100% of the federal individual income tax.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        It’s a typical rightwing talking point when the rich are carping for more.

  24. Merilee
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    +1 GB

  25. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Many excellent points have been made above, by musical beef and others, about how the tax code has been gerrymandered specifically to benefit people like Trump at the expense of regular folks.

    I’d also add that many regular folks do in fact pay more in taxes than they strictly need to. For instance, when you donate a load of used clothing and household items to Goodwill, do you insist on an itemized receipt for tax purposes? You’re entitled to, but most people don’t. So it seems most people don’t mind paying the government a little bit more than they have to.

    Let’s say this adds up to maybe $100 a year in missed deductions for a typical taxpayer. Trump’s net worth is probably 1000 times that of a typical taxpayer, so he ought to be OK with paying, say, $100,000 more in taxes than he needs to. My guess is that Trump would rather pay that $100,000 to a tax lawyer to help him avoid paying it to the government.

    So no, he’s not doing just what any of us would do.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      For instance, when you donate a load of used clothing and household items to Goodwill, do you insist on an itemized receipt for tax purposes?

      You are entitled to deduct the value of the used clothing. Some would instead deduct the cost of the clothing when it was new. I have little doubt that Trump would fall in the latter category.

      • Merilee
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Not to virtue signal, but I would never do either. I am more than happy to give stuff I don’t need away for free ( even to Syrian refugees, which I did recently ).

  26. Posted September 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Just a quick response, without ticking the box.

    The objection isn’t to Trump’s perhaps-legal gaming of the tax laws.

    The objection is to his glee at having done so, and his obvious happiness that the system is working as it should.

    Because it makes it painfully clear that, were he elected, he’d do everything he could to ensure that he himself would be exempt from taxes, as would all his fellow kleoptocrats, thus perpetuating the very corruption which has created the mess we’re in.

    A principled response from somebody in Trump’s financial position would be to minimize the tax burden, calculate how much the median taxpayer would have paid without gaming the system, and donate the savings to worthy causes — perhaps even including lobbying to reform the tax code.

    Also noteworthy is that this comes in the same context as Trump’s bragging about stiffing contractors. He repeatedly agreed to pay people a certain amount for goods and services rendered. The goods were delivered and the jobs completed on time, but Trump still refused to pay the full amount due. Trump thinks that, too, makes him smart and a good businessman rather than the thieving deadbeat he really is.

    Frankly, I’m amazed his kneecaps are still intact.



    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      “The objection is to his glee at having done so, and his obvious happiness that the system is working as it should.”

      My sentiments exactly.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I think a lot of people here aren’t paying attention.

      First, in August of 2015, Trump actually followed up his “I’m smart because I’m rich” with a statement that set off a bit of a firestorm that the rich should pay more in taxes and that he’s getting away with murder. Now you argue if he’d really implement more taxes but he is on record as having said they should.

      Second, obviously some folks here are not paying attention to the right wing themes on display here. If you do not rejoice in Trump’s wealth, and think he should pay more, you are a “taker” and reviled, even if you are living in poverty. It is anathema to consider removing money from the “Job Creators” and further, talk of that is part of the politics of envy.

      Some research has suggested that the reason that people are opposed to taxing the wealthy more is due to some idealism of the American dream. Yeah, he’s rich and yeah, he’s gaming the system, but if only I could get the takers out of the way, I could be rich too. It’s their fault I’m not joining Trump in my level of wealth.

      So yeah, Trump pays less in taxes but that enables him to create jobs for people like me unless the Democrats and liberals screw it up. And I repeat, the vast majority of people are stupid.

      • darrelle
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Wait a second. Did you mean to say that you believe Trump would raise taxes on the wealthy if he becomes president? If so, well, even if he hadn’t already revealed his tax plan and talked about it many times I’d have to call that naive. But he has released his tax plan and talked about it many times and his plan is to cut taxes for the wealthy significantly.

        And trickle down? The experiment has been run and the data is clear. Has been for some time. Trickle down does not work. It is massively detrimental. The trickle downer’s had the reins fully in their grasp and the result was a recession to rival the worst depression in US history, the highest rate of federal debt increase in US history and the highest degree of wealth inequality in modern US history. All you’ve got to do is set aside the ideology and look at the data.

        People like Trump aren’t job creators. I’m a job creator. Trump and those like him are parasites.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        2015… with a statement that set off a bit of a firestorm that the rich should pay more in taxes

        The way I remember it, he did come out with a completely unrealistic tax plan, and did say something about certain rich people should pay more. I believe he singled out hedge fund managers for some reason. He seems to have a penchant for incorporating his personal grudges into his campaign.

        Since then (Sep 2016, post-nomination), he came out with a second, slightly less unrealistic tax plan that looks more like what the Republican Party has been pushing for years.
        Donald Trump’s tax plan now favors the ultra-rich even more

        So yeah, Trump pays less in taxes but that enables him to create jobs for people like me…

        It’s trickle-down! What jobs has Trump created, and does he actually pay the people he has work for him?

    • Posted October 2, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      It’s amazing that he gets away with promoting himself as a great businessman, when the latest news is that he’s claimed losses close to $1 billion.

      “Reckless’ must be his middle name.

  27. Shep
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    The fault is that he wears his lack of tax paying as a badge of honour, during a presidential debate, in front of a tax paying citizenry. It makes him “smart” which makes the rest of us “stupid”.

    • Scote
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      ” It makes him “smart” which makes the rest of us “stupid”.”

      Unfortunately, I think a lot of the votes for Trump are inspirational. “I want to be rich, and when *I’m* rich I don’t want to pay any taxes! Just like Trump!”

      People voting for trump are blind to the fact that Trump’s in it for Trump, and there is no trickle down. If you aren’t a powerful, rich, or a hot chick, you aren’t on his radar. The disaffected white people who will vote for trump will be objectively worse off under Trump’s tax cuts for the rich policies.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      And he’s going to tell that huge audience of tax-paying citizenry that he wants to use their tax money (not his) to do various things: improve airports, fix up the military, etc.

  28. Vaal
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I think many have made excellent arguments against Jerry’s position on Trump and taxes in this post, so I don’t feel the need to add.

    But I am left, like some others, sort of scratching my head as to who Jerry is directing his rancor, in terms of Hillary being “deified” and held above criticism.

    I’m sure there ARE some section of Hillary fans who act like that, as there will be for any presidential candidate. But outside the fanatics…who else? Not people here, as far as I can tell.

    I’ve been watching the debates all over the web on the election, in different forums etc, and I don’t remember encountering the attitude Jerry is describing. It’s far more common to see people acknowledging that they have issues with Hillary, but will be voting for her because she is still preferable to Trump.

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      “But I am left, like some others, sort of scratching my head as to who Jerry is directing his rancor, in terms of Hillary being “deified” and held above criticism.”

      Yeah I’d actually appreciate an answer to that question. It would help me to understand why he holds an opinion that I see as almost demonstrably incorrect. I have Fox, CNN, or MSNBC playing in the background almost all the time, and even her public spokespeople more often than not concede she’s made mistakes, even Hillary admits she’s made mistakes, (email server for example) unlike Trump.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      + 2

  29. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I’d echo the comments of almost everybody here. Even if the Donald’s convoluted financial affairs were all legal (or at least not illegal), just because one *can* doesn’t mean one *should*.

    And saying ‘Don’t blame Trump, blame the tax laws’ doesn’t nullify the criticism. If the laws are defective, which candidate is the more likely to correct them?


  30. Andy
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    To me, this is really the issue: That big business and paid-for politicians set up the tax laws in their favor.
    Trump claiming that not paying taxes makes him “smart” highlights this well.

    Here’s a useful link:

    It’s also worth pointing out that if you search online, you can find a copy of the reports for his gambling application that Clinton based this claim on.
    To me, the best thing is *how* he avoids paying taxes; obviously by claiming business losses, but it’s worth looking at the reasons!
    He made large “cash disbursements” and payments to his own family members.

    Yup, I think what he’s done is illegal, but like with Trump U., prosecutors/politicians who drop cases against Trump soon end up with large campaign donations. What a coincidence! (The most egregious example is probably Bondi, but there are several others).

    His excuse that he cannot release his current returns because he’s being audited is also a blatant lie.

    Still, the one thing that reassures me a little is that the Feds were eventually able to nail Al Capone for tax evasion! But I probably shouldn’t compare Trump to Capone; after one was a criminal who ran a vast empire based on alcohol and gambling, but avoided prosecution by bribing public officials, and that’s totally different…

  31. John Altman
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    How about turning this into a question for a debate:

    “Mr. Trump. You’ve noted that having no tax liability makes you smart. What specific changes would you make in the tax code so that people as wealthy as you pay your fair share?”

    • Posted September 30, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      I assume the his answer will be “Zero tax rate for anyone as wealthy as me.”

  32. Posted September 30, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Even granting that Trump may have legally paid zero taxes, that doesn’t make him smart: that just makes him rich enough to afford the laywers and tax accountants who can bring his taxes down to zero, using loopholes that other rich people have carved out in the tax code.
    And then this guy who is worth billions of dollars and pays no taxes to the government, has the gall to complain that the government is going bankrupt.
    And I really hope that the Clinton people take “that makes me smart” and work with it, because although there may not be anything illegal behind it, this comment makes Trump look like a stereotypical rich self-centered jerk (and deservedly), and not many people like stereotypical rich self-centered jerks.

  33. Mike
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Anyone will try to reduce their Tax Burden, the only one I suspect who doesn’t is the estimable
    J.K Rowling for whom I have the utmost admiration, as for the rest of us ,we all try to do it , but as the Government make it easier for the Rich to get away with it.well, blame the Government ,but good luck in trying to change anything, as the people who could do it are from the very echelon who avoid it the most.

  34. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Donald Trump’s history of corruption: a comprehensive review

  35. Posted October 1, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    One friend of mine even wrote that she had a “storied career”!

    Well, she certainly tells lots of stories. That’s why it may be good advice to Vote for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger – It’s Important.

    • Posted October 1, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Huh, messed up the link If this try doesn’t work I give up.

      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Great article!

      • Posted October 3, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        “Because the left is so insignificant as a political force, the reality is that most, if not nearly all, of our votes will be for some lesser evil…”

        I’d suggest that we on the left are simply more realistic in our estimation of candidates. We acknowledge the warts on our candidates; the right doesn’t. So while the right is chanting (mostly; I know there are exceptions) “our candidate is perfect”, we on the left look like we’re saying “eh, lesser of two evils” by comparison. But you can find “evil” in anyone. I think it’s a perception thing, not a reality thing.

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