During Monday night’s debate, Donald Trump pretty much admitted, without directly saying so, that he doesn’t pay income tax, and he’s very proud of it. Here’s an excerpt from the debate transcript:
CLINTON: Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.
TRUMP: That makes me smart.
That kind of response by people accused of shirking their responsibilities to pay income taxes isn’t new to me. I have heard people say that avoiding paying taxes is like a sport to them. They think of it as a challenge, and they put their all into the game.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t think that’s a good game. She kept talking over his interruption and said:
CLINTON: So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. And I think probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide.
Charles Krauthammer, longtime conservative Republican pundit for The Washington Post and Fox News, is on the record for not supporting Trump for president. Trump’s self-satisfied statement about avoiding income taxes provided him with more evidence for why Donald Trump is not presidential material. Via Media Matters:
[Donald Trump] couldn’t resist the temptation to be the smart ass and to show that he’s clever. Look, the pride he has is his success. That’s how he defines himself, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that he could have done this. He was actually conceding that he may not have paid any income tax. Now, in a boardroom with a bunch of other CEOs and you’re boasting about your success, you say that. You don’t say it in a presidential campaign. Whereas Hillary said today, if it’s smart not to pay any taxes and you’re a billionaire, well what about the rest of us? And I think this thing could have legs, first concession that he may not have paid taxes.
Or to put it another way, in the words of The Rude Pundit:
And she wiped the floor with him on his tax returns. I cannot remember a more bizarre moment in a debate than Trump saying, proudly, about not paying any federal income taxes, “That makes me smart.” No, motherfucker, that makes you a pathetic worm who gets all the benefits of the government without contributing when you brag about how much money you have.
Right. He wants to “Make America Great Again” but he doesn’t think he should pay taxes, and his tax plan is to cut taxes for all his billionaire friends that aren’t smart enough to figure out how they can pay nothing.
However, I did find a post on Crooked Timber by Corey Robin who thinks that Trump’s boastful comment about avoiding taxes may have been to his advantage:
On the other hand, there’s a not so small current in American politics that would hear that, that Trump didn’t pay his taxes, and think, with him, that he was indeed smart for having outsmarted the system. And would want to align themselves with him as a result. In the hope that they too could learn these tricks some day or that they too could one day be rich enough not to pay their taxes.
This is a nation of con men (and women), as everyone from Melville to Mamet has understood. A nation that dreams of, and longs for, the quick buck. The more crooked the path, the more glorious the payoff.
I can only hope that for all of our sakes that Charles Krauthammer is right (I can’t believe I just typed that) about how Trump not paying taxes will turn away voters, because most people, including most of Trump’s supporters, don’t like freeloaders (especially the non-white, non-Christian ones).