SOAKING THE POOR-As many of us already have seen, The New York Times was able to obtain President Trump’s tax information for the past twenty years.
In the report detailing their contents, The Times detailed how he had managed to avoid paying taxes for 10 out of 15 years before he was elected President, and only paid a grand total of $750 for 2016 and 2017. Aside from that, he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with bills coming due in recent years. To be honest, I didn’t find the information revealed in these reports particularly surprising. While it’s certainly satisfying to have the proof and detailed analysis, they essentially revealed what many of us had already assumed to be true.
In response to the revelations, House Representative and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal said:
“It appears that the president has gamed the tax code to his advantage and used legal fights to delay or avoid paying what he owes.”
For me, the real story is that he was able to get away with it so easily.
It should go without saying that the fact that a man with such considerable wealth paid less in taxes than the overwhelming majority of the American public should anger each and every one of us. There are no real words to describe how disgusting it is that there are teachers only able to deduct up to $250 dollars in the money they spent personally on supplying their classrooms while a billionaire was able to deduct $70,000 in hair styling costs. But can there really be an honest critique of what he did without railing against the system that allowed him to get away with it in the first place?
A recent study found that between 1974 and 2018, the top 1% was able to steal 50 trillion dollars in wealth from the bottom 90%. The Time piece addressing the matter written by Nick Hanauer and David Rolf states:
“This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP — enough to more than double median income — enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.”
Brett Wilkins with CommonDreams also addressed the study, writing:
“. . .the median worker salary would be around twice as high today as it was in 1945 if pay had kept pace with economic output over that period.”
As far as I’m concerned, Donald Trump isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.
If Donald Trump was and continues to be able to get away with this, what are the even richer and more intelligent people able to get away with?
This is more than an indictment on the President. This is an indictment on the entire system that allowed him to do it in the first place. It is frankly useless to condemn the idea of Donald Trump paying only $750 dollars in taxes, without also condemning George Bush’s tax cuts that allowed him to do it, and frankly Barack Obama and Joe Biden for making those same tax cuts permanent.
There is nothing that would please the wealthy more than for the American people to think that this ends with Donald Trump. It would be all too convenient for us to focus our rage solely on him. They want nothing more than for us to forget that they are benefitting from the very same system that he does, and many of them I’m sure in ways even more detrimental to the American people.
Perhaps the biggest mistake we could make when considering Trump’s taxes is that he’s in some way unique. If Donald Trump has been able to get away with robbing the American people, what do you think the billionaires who fund the campaigns of both candidates for the Presidency are currently getting away with? What are they getting away with not only in terms of their personal finances, but their businesses and stock portfolios as well? And of course, perhaps most importantly, what are the lengths they will be willing to go to continue?
Mark my words: we’re barely scratching the surface.
(Lauren Martinchek is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx. This appeared on Medium.) Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.