So the New York Times asserts that Donald Trump paid zero taxes for many years.
But won’t release the information on which it’s basing this dynamite claim less than six weeks before an election – and right on cue for the first televised debate.
Uh huh. Shocking charges made against The Donald based on thinly sourced or withheld information? Where have we heard that one before?
Naturally, President Trump and his legal team deny the allegation. But that doesn’t matter.
Because even if the account is true, the only appropriate response is: good for him, on several counts.
Note the headline: “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance.”
Let’s parse that formulation, shall we?
“Long-Concealed.” Another phrase for that: “private.” The Grey Lady says it won’t release the backup for its reporting to protect sources “who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public.”
“Enormous personal risks” such as either breaking the law or violating a fiduciary obligation to The Donald. Either way, it’s despicable behavior in which the Times is complicit.
By the way, one of the key “findings” – read, “leaks” of stolen information – in the story is that a tax refund is under audit. Which happens to be the reason the president has advanced for not releasing his taxes, to much derision and skepticism.
“Chronic Losses.” Anyone remember what business the Trump Organization is in? Oh, yeah: real estate. The entire name of that game is generating losses. (Don’t believe it? Google “real estate generating losses.” You’ll only get 123 million results in less than half a second.)
If, with worldwide real-estate holdings and branded properties, the president’s company can’t generate paper losses for tax purposes, his message to his entire legal and accounting team should be, in true “Apprentice” style, “You’re fired.”
And even if Mr. Trump’s losses were mostly due to bad decisions, that doesn’t mean he should pay taxes on those losses.
Which brings us to “Tax Avoidance.” Ah ha: the nub of the story. Notice the paper does not allege “tax evasion.”
Other than the questionable tax refund, the Times appears to be alleging that, in addition to running his business badly, The Donald has apparently found legal, if potentially questionable, ways to capitalize on the law.
The real problem is not the president’s actions, but rather, as usual, stupid government. In this case, government taxing the wrong people for the wrong thing in the wrong way.
As this commentator has noted previously in responding to annual expressions of indignation that some big-name corporation paid zero taxes, the true scandal is that Congress has apparently made it more profitable for Mr. Trump to invest in generating losses than in productive businesses (although his initiatives doubtlessly employ thousands around the world).
If Congress wanted money-losing businesses – whether truly or artificially – to pay taxes, it shouldn’t be taxing income. Since, by definition, companies with no income will not pay income taxes. (Duh.)
But then taxing income, of whatever kind, is colossally stupid in the first place. Generating income, as opposed to losses, means someone has put either human or financial capital to work, often to the benefit of others as well as himself. Society is punishing its most industrious, conscientious and selfless citizens, often to reward people who are none of the above.
Payroll taxes? Even more imbecilic. On top of taxing people for working, we’re taxing companies for hiring them?
Not to mention that tracking income gives the Internal Revenue Service enormous power to intrude in the lives of everyday Americans as well as the rich and famous – and access to the kind of personal information being splashed all over the pages of the nation’s most famous journalistic enterprise to shame the president.
The truth is that by hook or by crook, and who cares which, Mr. Trump may (and considering the source, that’s an essential phrasing) have arrived at the correct level of income taxation for corporations and individuals alike: zero.
And if that’s the case, again, good for him. And maybe us.
Not only because the president has fulfilled his duty to his business and its stakeholders to use the code to full advantage. But also because it creates the opportunity to have a “conversation,” as the Democrats’ wannaveep would have it, about the real issues behind Mr. Trump’s taxes – and the reader’s as well.
By all means, let’s discuss whether our galactically stupid government should persist with a wantonly destructive, complex and opaque tax regime that creates the incentive to conceal wealth instead of create it. That penalizes hard work and risk-taking, rather than focusing on consumption.
That by one estimate runs up compliance costs of $1 trillion a year, as it so frightens the citizenry that a majority uses tax preparation services to pay a simple bill for government services.
And that gives the government the power to poke into and wreck the lives of the people it is supposed to serve.
When is the New York Times going to report that story and shame the out-of-touch elitists who perpetuate this abomination? Don’t hold your breath.