Books by Arthur

Social Networks
Article Index [A-Z]

I Don't Pay No Freakin' Taxes: A Trumpian Paradox

There was an intriguing moment in last night’s Clinton-Trump debate. Clinton hinted that one reason (among several) why Trump is refusing to release his tax returns is that, just perhaps, he hasn’t paid any Federal income tax. She noted that the few times his returns were made public (back when he was applying for a casino license in New Jersey) he did, in fact, find ways to avoid paying any tax — despite the loudly offered claim that he was hugely wealthy with enormous income in the hundreds of millions.

Trump interrupted her (as he did some two-dozen times in a mere 90 minutes) by saying, “That makes me smart.”

Now that was quite a remarkable moment and it remains to be seen how it played with the electorate. But I do have two thoughts.

One, it shows he is a member of the group he has publically derided: the ‘takers’ who feed off the public trough, the ones dependent on government largesse. These ‘takers,’ goes the argument, use the roads, schools, police, firefighters, the military. They drink safe water, breath clean air. And the rest of us pay for it.

In the standard rhetoric from the right, it’s lazy welfare recipients, those on food stamps, the unemployed who’re the cheaters.  But here was Donald proudly announcing membership in this loathed category — and its those poor bastards who can’t hire expensive lawyers and free-ride their way to wealth and the good life who are footing the bill.

You’d think the recognition of this selfish and blatantly hypocritical message would doom him with the impoverished angry, those who feel that the system has failed them — the very people his message has resonanted with. 

Then again, this crack lets others see him as a shrewd, if marginally ethical, businessman, a cleverly devious operator who has managed to do what so many would love to pull off. It produces a kind of odd admiration, the sort of thing we see for a Willie Sutton who robs banks and laughs in the face of law enforcement or a John Gotti who parades his Mafia bone fides as a thug and a murderer. And they want to be like him and hope they will be some day.

It’s reminiscent of one of the reasons why an income tax was voted down in my home state of Washington. Although it wouldn’t kick in until a rather high income threshold was reached, a majority of lower-income folks voted against it because they planned/hoped/dreamed they’d be making that kind of money some day and were damned if they’d pay that tax.

So we have this odd paradox. Trump’s backers can easily see that he’s a hypocrite, that he actually is a huge ‘taker,’ one of those they’ve consistently attacked as they rallied around him. But they want/hope/dream/plan to be that person themselves, to be able to twist the truth, avoid the governmental regulations, defy convention, game the system.

They’ve convinced themselves that he is precisely what we need our president to be.



Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>