That loud sound you heard last night was not your usual, run-of-the-mill thing that goes bump in the night. That was The New York Times dropping the explosive–just explosive!–scoop on the American citizenry that Donald Trump’s tax returns, a copy of which the Times managed to obtain courtesy an anonymous benefactor, reveal that he might not have paid taxes for twenty years (if the ‘size’ of his ‘enormous’ deduction for business losses incurred is any indication.) The consensus reaction appears to be that this is the torpedo that will finally send the H. M. S Trump to the bottom of the political ocean, even as the skipper’s orange toupee continues to defiantly flutter from the bridge.
I’m afraid such reactions are entirely unwarranted and redolent of the same absurd misplaced optimism that has resulted in the American nation not taking the Trump candidacy seriously. Trump is not an American villain for not paying taxes; he is a hero. Not paying taxes is as American as apple pie; the trickster and the joker who does not pay taxes might not have featured in a Bob Dylan song, but that kind of conman is a folk hero nevertheless. He really sticks it to the Man (in this case, the rest of his fellow social travellers.)
Consider that the Republican Party, a serious player on the American political landscape, has ensured its political longevity by ensuring that–besides racist dog whistles–it keeps a generous supply of tax-cutting promises stashed away in its grab-bag of vote-for-me tricks. Every four years–or rather three, because the election season begins earlier every year–we are reliably assured that a Republican candidate will hit the hustings with this old wine in its newest bottle and be greeted with hosannas praising his sagacity and love for the American people.
Consider that this nation’s finest tax schools offer specialized courses of post-graduate study in American tax law, which are geared to producing tax attorneys who can aid their clients reduce their tax ‘burden.’ (Oh, the crushing inhumanity of living in a social space and paying your share to instantiate the virtue of reciprocity!) These attorneys go on to highly paid positions at Big Law tax firms where they will be asked to prepare ‘tax vehicles’ for their corporate clients. The task here is simple–and can be understood as what computer scientists like to call a ‘constraint satisfaction’ problem: this is the US tax code, these are the details of how we do business; tell us how we can pay the least tax possible. (Splurging on a tax accountant who will save you the big bucks by devising one devious deduction after another is widely regarded as the smartest expenditures a household can indulge in.) This maneuvering through legal loopholes is what the tax attorney is paid big bucks for; it is a talent valued highly by the corporate world.
Trump is not an outlier; he is the corporate norm. Little folks dream about not paying taxes and elect the big fellas who say they won’t have to anymore. The true heroes just find a way–by any means necessary, including the legal ones–to not pay taxes. It’s the American thing to do; we’re not Scandinavia, fer crying out loud.