Donald Trump is a “genius.” That’s the message delivered by Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie after an anonymous source mailed a tax return that shows Trump’s $916 million loss in 1995 means he could have avoided paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
This leads to a few questions.
If he weren’t a genius, how much more than a billion would he have lost in 1995? Does that mean that the tens of millions of Americans who do pay taxes are huge dummies? Trump has spent much of his campaign suggesting that he may not defend NATIO allies who don’t pay their fair share. Does this mean he will now give up his Secret Service detail? And if this loss is proof of Trump’s genius, why not show us all his tax returns to drown us in his brilliance?
Maybe because he hasn’t paid any taxes since 1977, as David Cay Johnston has suggested for over a year?
None of these questions or answers will likely convince Trump’s diehard Beliebers to abandon Donald.
They believe he’ll be ruthless for them and they also tend to believe things like Obama is a gay Muslim, Michelle Obama is a man, and their two kids were kidnapped to be used as props. Let’s just try to convince these people to keep their heads above the sneeze guard at the salad bar. There aren’t nearly enough of them to elect him president.
But there are millions of undecided Americans who are considering Trump or a third-party vote that could end up electing Trump. And the exposure of Trump’s massive yet legal scam to avoid taxes presents an opportunity to explain why a vote for Hillary Clinton — the best and singular option for defeating Trump — is necessary to stop Trump.
What Trump’s huge loses and massive gains through the tax system show is that a rich kid who was born into a system built to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else can’t really fail.
Trump’s ego is too big to fail, but his lies aren’t. He’s selling America empty promises the way he sold creditors on his failing casinos and the same way hucksters have been selling time-share and Ponzi schemes forevermore.
Yes, America needs improvement. Workers need raises. People in inner cities need better infrastructure and schools. No one should avoid the doctor for fear of the bills. These are real fears that Trump exploits. And his solution is simple: Give me power.
“You have 40 days until the election,” he told a crowd of supporters last week. “You have 40 days to make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.”
If your dreams are of an America where billionaires get more tax breaks, where Wall Street is unleashed to do exactly the same things it did to crash the economy last time, where polluters can wreck the climate and expect you to pay for it, then Trump is the Wizard of your Oz. But for Americans who lived through the Great Recession, we don’t need a George W. Bush-style economy combined with a trade war that could slice 10 to 12 percent from your retirement savings.
When the rich have never been richer, no one should be suggesting transferring trillions more to the rich. We should be asking them to pay more to rebuild America, as Clinton does. Trump will only make life easier for them.
We all want respect. But Trump is using that basic need to play us as suckers.
So before it’s too late, here are three things you might consider telling a potential Trump supporter.
1.He think rich guys don’t have to follow rules.
Trump’s big argument is that by using the system to get workers to subsidize him, he knows how to make it work for you. The problem with this claim is that he’s refusing to separate himself from his businesses even if he wins. They won’t be in a blind trust, but will likely be run by his daughter and will always have his name on them. He is his businesses and has never shown any ability to put anyone else’s interest above his own. He doesn’t feel the need to honor his sacred responsibility to this country or even the contracts he signed with the hundreds of workers who depended on his word. Instead, again and again he’s shown that he doesn’t think he needs to follow the law or even the basic constraints of decency. He rants against outsourcing after outsourcing everything he could put his name on. He rants against immigrants even though he hires them over citizens and won’t even clarify his own wife’s path to citizenship. He’s using “strategic racism” to bring out the rage in his supporters, while engaging in almost everything he preaches against. And there’s no evidence that would change should he become president.
2. His biggest fans would be his biggest victims.
Reminder: Immigrants didn’t bundle bad mortgages and crash our economy costing us millions of jobs. Rich guys like Trump did. So why does Trump want you so fixated on immigrants at a time when illegal border crossings and crime are near a generational low? Because then you won’t think about the real crisis America faces. Immigrants who want to pay taxes help the economy while billionaires who avoid them, help to gut it. “Perhaps no group bears more responsibility for the plight of the middle class than billionaires,” Richard Eskow reports. “An IMF study confirms that increasing inequality, especially at the very top of the wealth and income scale, is weakening economic growth.” The people who are especially hurt by inequality are Americans who don’t have college degrees. Their working-class parents — buoyed by strong labor unions and liberal governance that demanded the rich pay taxes — found an economy where they could prosper and retire. Workers today can expect no such hope without higher education. These older workers make up much of the Trump base and have seen their hope of raises diminish along with union membership. Now Trump fans see their kids, who are likely to equal their parents’ educational level, unable to compete. It’s the Trump Trap. Conservative economics built it and Trump is using it to scam the right’s biggest victims.
3. He’s cruel.
Trump’s politics of dominance require him to shame anyone in his way. This worked perfectly in the GOP primary, but as president it would mean we’re being led by a man who is in a never-ending war with his insecurities. Trump needs to defend his ego from every slight and sees criticism as a threat to his identity. This seems to provoke him to unleash unspeakable cruelty over and over. He lusts for war — and then lies about that lust as soon as it might hurt his image. But it’s his personal cruelty that should most terrify voters. “He willfully causes pain and distress to others,” The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf writes in an article ripe with example after example, from the ruthless mocking of women’s looks to cutting off the medical care of a nephew who developed cerebral palsy. “And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.”
Yes, Americans love winners.
But even more than winners who ruthlessly dominate their opponents, we love winners who are willing to give up power — leaders who know that the public good matters more than their private interests.
Look at the classic example.
When George Washington handed back his commission as commander in chief to Congress in December of 1783 after leading the colonies to independence from England, he vowed to return to his farm and never hold public office again.
The man whose forces Washington has just defeated, King George III, couldn’t believe it.
“If he does that,” the king reportedly said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
Washington did do that.
He only returned to public service when the loose bonds of the Articles of Confederation evolved into a new Constitution, requiring a chief executive who could be trusted not turn himself into a king. And then Washington willingly gave up power again, after two terms.
From our Republic’s birth, America has depended on leaders who saw beyond themselves and imagined a nation moving ever closer towards the founding promise that the powerless matter just as much as the powerful.
Trump is a man who feeds on personal power — and expecting that addiction to disappear when he’s the most powerful man alive doesn’t just threaten our peace and prosperity. It threatens the greater ideal America has always aspired to.
IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar