In another largely uninformative interview, former Bill Clinton political advisor and Clinton Foundation donor George Stephanopoulos asked GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump about his decision not to release his tax returns for public inspection.
Here is part of the exchange:
TRUMP: I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your tax rate?
TRUMP: It’s none of your business. You’ll see it when I release. But I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.
Naturally, this answer provoked much condemnation from liberals, because for many of them, taxation is the rite of democracy from which all goodness springs. As Joe Biden, whose yearly charitable donations average nearly $370 per year, once claimed: paying taxes isn’t simply patriotic, it’s a religious experience. Trump’s answer allows Democrats to restart their class-war fictions: secretaries pay higher tax rates than billionaires, wealthy people are not paying their fair share, etc.
So, as much as I cringed writing the first three words of this headline, Trump’s position on paying as little as possible in taxes is probably the least offensive thing the golden-haired demagogue has said since he declared his candidacy.
For starters, like Trump, most Americans do everything within their power to pay the bare minimum to the government. Trump didn’t say “I will do illegal things to avoid paying taxes.” You probably take every deduction available to you, so why shouldn’t he? I commend you on your attentiveness, America. It’s every decent person’s patriotic duty to do everything within the bounds of the law to avoid enriching a wasteful, bloated, and intrusive state.
Second, although we may never know what’s in Trump’s returns, liberals should be comforted in the knowledge that GOP’s standard bearer almost certainly contributes a vast amount of money to the public till. But every dollar he avoids handing to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be invested or lost to someone else or used to consume some extravagant good that will help the economy in ways that Bill de Blasio or Barack Obama never could.
Now, presidential candidates should release their tax records—as well as their college transcripts and cronyistic Goldman Sachs speeches, and all other details of their public and intellectual lives—because they’re asking the American people to bequeath them tremendous power. Moreover, Trump had promised to release his taxes before the election. He’s made complaints about the IRS one of his political issues. So let’s see them. Why won’t he? Probably because they prove he’s less wealthy than he claims, or maybe it will show that he’s involved in business dealing that would reflect poorly on him –- although I can’t imagine his fans would care. Will anyone?
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post—in a piece headlined “Trump just boasted that he pays as little in taxes as possible. No, really”— takes a deeper dive into the political dimensions of Trump’s comment. Much of what he writes likely rings true from a liberal perspective:
The crux of the matter here is that Trump is betting he’ll be perceived very differently from Mitt Romney. The latter was a venture capitalist with an aloof, patrician, plutocratic manner, while Trump brashly flaunts his wealth and invites all of us losers to have a cut of it. But Dems will likely adjust their attack accordingly: While Romney was depicted as a heartless outsourcer and symbol of the cruelties of global capitalism, thus revealing his true governing priorities, Trump will be depicted as a sleazy fraud who is selling voters an economic scam.
These kind of attacks are successful. In fact, much of the same economically illiterate protectionist scaremongering that went into sinking Romney is now being effectively used by Trump. Also, he will almost certainly be depicted as a sleazy fraud. But he shouldn’t be depicted as one for being adamant about taking his deductions or moving his money offshore. As I argued a couple of weeks ago, liberals have mastered attacks on perfectly legal behavior by creating the false impression that you’re doing something unethical when engaging in perfectly legal behavior that the Democratic Party doesn’t approve of.
Like paying your taxes correctly.