My expectation yesterday was that he’d spin the NYT story the same way he spun his corporate bankruptcies and his patronage of Democratic pols, treating his tax liability as yet another way that he’d exploited a system set up by, and for the benefit of, snotty coastal elites. That’s the one patch of common ground that Trump the rich kid turned billionaire playboy has in common with his blue-collar base: They’re both palpably disdained by America’s political class, so much so that many Americans have come to the false conclusion that Trump was born into a family that was middle-class, lower-class, or even poor. The truth is the opposite, but between his “political incorrectness” and the contempt that the political and media establishments have for him, he can get away with selling himself as the average guy who’s outwitted the corrupt snobs and is now exploiting their cushy legal loopholes for his own benefit. Surely no one would hold that against him, would they? Why, you’d do the same thing yourself if you were in his position.
He had that shtick working pretty well today in Colorado.
This is not the fault of the IRS, but the political class that is owned outright by the special interests and lobbyists, believe me. It is these politicians who wrote the tax code and are constantly adding, revising and changing an already over-complicated set of laws, all at the behest of their favorite donors and special interests, who want certain provisions put in. And they won’t take no for an answer…
The unfairness of the tax laws is unbelievable. It is something I have been talking about for a long time, despite being a big beneficiary of the laws. But I’m working for you now I’m not working for Trump…
I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone. And that is why I am one that can truly fix them. I understand it, I get it. That is what I commit to do. With fairness. We want money brought in, and we want money to be spent when it goes out. Because they spent our tax dollars so unfairly and unwisely. Remember that.
As a businessman and real estate developer, I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit. And to the benefit of my company. I have brilliantly used those laws. On the campaign trail I have often said that I have a fiduciary responsibility to pay no more taxes then is legally required. Put another way, to pay as little tax is legally possible.
I don’t know what he means at the end there about fiduciary responsibilities. He has a fiduciary duty to his investors to maximize profits by paying the minimum possible corporate income taxes, but the returns obtained by the Times were his personal returns. He can do whatever he likes with his individual tax liability. He could have taken the loss in 1995, paid no tax that year, but then declined to carry the losses forward once his wealth had rebounded. (And he may have done just that. We’d know if he’d release his returns, as 73 percent of the public wants him to do.) The fiduciary stuff here is a red herring, presumably designed to confuse people into thinking he was under some legal obligation to minimize his own personal tax burden when he really wasn’t. But never mind that: The rest of it is straight “subverting the rigged system from the inside” populist spin, with Trump in the role of the master criminal hired by the police to solve murders because he supposedly understands the criminal mind better than anyone. His base will be fine with it, I assume. How about undecideds?
If you read the full transcript of what he said, you’ll find that he went on to note that while his 1995 $900 million loss may seem steep, he rebounded to become the yuuuuge financial success he is today. That’s much better spin than sending Giuliani and Christie out there yesterday babbling about what a “genius” he was to have avoided tax liability in a year that he, um, lost nearly a billion dollars. Here’s Trump from today’s rally, followed by Clinton knifing him predictably for having not paid his fair share. Exit question: Is this really a guy who should be lecturing about fiduciary duties? He’s not known for putting his shareholders’ welfare above his own.