The New York Times broke a story last night on Trump’s income taxes. They claim to have the entirety – or at least very close to the entirety – of the records of fifteen years, including the final amounts he paid to the government. Those numbers are low. Catastrophically low, for the President. According to the story “Long-concealed records show Trump’s chronic losses and years of tax avoidance“, he paid $750 in taxes during the year he took the Presidency, and another $750 in his first full year as President. These paltry sums are more than he usually paid: in ten out of the prior fifteen years, he paid no taxes at all.
This is not a unique event in Trump’s life; rather, it has been demonstrated to be a near-constant for the man. The same paper released a story last year after obtaining his tax records for the 1980s and 1990s from his niece, Mary Trump. That story, “Decade in the Red“, showed that even at the supposed height of Trump’s success he was constantly losing money.
He has been a pyramid scheme without the pyramid. He has convinced creditor after creditor to give him money, predicated on a false trail of success. He then wastes that money through bad investments and mismanagement, while skimming a portion off of it for subsidence.
His targets have been prosperous businessmen, oil-wealthy princes from Saudi Arabia, national and international banks, and lower-middle-class Americans with a drive to take part in the American dream. He has been an equal opportunity grifter.
It is too early to call him a tax cheat, although that is an obvious possibility. Trump’s preferred method of operation opens the door to the notion that he is merely an astonishingly bad investor and businessman. His judgement, his self-heralded “gut”, may direct him to consistently terrible choices which he then tries to cover using lawsuits, threats, lies, self-aggrandizement and bluster.
There are a variety of reasoned takes on the revelation of his tax woes. None of them are positive.
He owes hundreds of millions of dollars which are due to creditors over the course of the next four years. This renders him beholden to external interests to such a degree as to make him a risk to national security. He may be engaging in serial felonies related to tax evasion. His lies and attempts to keep the information from getting released, independent of his indebtedness, leave him open to blackmail from foreign nations.
America has had Presidents of modest means in the past, and some former Presidents have gone bankrupt. The lack of wealth is independent of the value of a person. On the other hand, dishonesty, deep indebtedness and undisclosed potential felonies do indicate a person’s fitness for office, and Trump has been found wanting.
This is the circumstance headed into the first debate… a situation coupled by the revelation that an internal investigation into potential mishandling of the Clinton Foundation probe by the FBI found no wrongdoing.
(The Clinton Foundation revelations demonstrated how wealthy and influential people can abuse the system to their benefit. Rich donors, both domestic and foreign, gave money to the Foundation, which in turned performed charitable works in a very inefficient fashion. The Clintons were able to tap that money for personal use, provided that when they did so the needs of the Foundation were served. The Clintons could travel, purchase new clothes and vehicles and buildings, and hire subordinates with that money without fear of legal jeopardy because it was useful to the continued functioning of the Foundation. The fact that national and international donors were pouring money into a charity which wasn’t particularly successful raised obvious suspicions of attempted influence-buying with a future President, suspicions which were heightened when donations dropped precipitously after Clinton’s failed Presidential run. But nothing there was illegal. It was merely taking advantage of the letter of the law, something the Clintons had already presaged when he was revealed to have taken tax deductions for donating his previously worn underwear to charity.)
The Clinton Foundation probe did reveal one thing: that charitable foundations are convenient wellsprings of liquid assets for prominent people, and one has to be not merely corrupt but effectively incompetent to get one shut down for illegal activities (like the Trump Foundation was.)
This is exactly the sort of thing to which I was referring when I wrote “No Fear” two weeks ago. The taxes are a bombshell… and they will resonate with the independents in a way few other topics will… but they are not going to be the only one. Trump is a deeply corrupt individual and he has had four years of scorched earth against both traditional enemies and old allies. There will be more stories to drop in the month ahead.
Trump cannot win.
This is not to say that he cannot get the majority of the votes on election day. But it will take efforts by Biden and Democrats to lose.
Biden needs to avoid appearing blatantly incompetent during the debate. He needs to remain healthy.
Democrats need to focus on any of the many hammers that Trump has handed them instead of allowing the national attention to shift to social issues. Politicians and corrupt pundits need to be attacked, and only them.
Democrats need to avoid becoming complacent. They need to assume that they’re going to lose, and mobilize accordingly.
If these three things happen, Trump is voted out in November.