Talking points

A foun­da­tion of tax fraud

The Week (US) - - News 17 -

A “block­buster” piece of in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism has evis­cer­ated Pres­i­dent Trump’s rep­u­ta­tion as a “self-made busi­ness­man,” said Paul Krugman in The New York Times. Few of us be­lieved that Trump, the son of a real-es­tate mogul, made his for­tune “from hum­ble roots,” as he tells gullible sup­port­ers. Yet it’s still as­ton­ish­ing to learn that Trump’s father gave him an an­nual al­lowance of $200,000 in to­day’s dol­lars when he was 3 and had made him a mil­lion­aire by age 8, as my Times col­leagues learned in a year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion. By scru­ti­niz­ing more than 100,000 pages of Fred Trump’s tax re­turns and busi­ness and bank records, the Times found that Fred fun­neled his son $413 mil­lion in to­day’s dol­lars through at least 295 in­come streams and shell cor­po­ra­tions, “many of them il­le­gal on their face,” said Jonathan Chait in The statute of lim­i­ta­tions may have passed, but there’s a word for “peo­ple who make large sources of money from il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity: crim­i­nals.”

All wealthy peo­ple dodge taxes, es­pe­cially in­her­i­tance taxes, said Hol­man Jenk­ins in The Wall Street Jour­nal. “Show me a wealthy en­tre­pre­neur” whose fam­ily paid the full es­tate tax, “and I will show you an en­tre­pre­neur who died un­ex­pect­edly.” No won­der this story landed “like a lead bal­loon,” said Jonathan Tobin in Na­tion­al­Re­view .com. No­body needs a 15,000-word in­ves­ti­ga­tion to know that “the son of a man whose wealth was es­ti­mated in the hun­dreds of mil­lions wasn’t a Ho­ra­tio Al­ger hero.” Trump sup­port­ers ac­tu­ally ad­mire and envy the tac­tics the Times un­cov­ered: He “out­foxes” the IRS and “thumbs his nose at the gov­ern­ing and chat­ter­ing classes while do­ing so.”

Legally out­fox­ing the IRS is one thing, said Paul Wald­man in Wash­ing­ton­, but we now have hard ev­i­dence that the pres­i­dent par­tic­i­pated in schemes to break tax laws “on an ab­so­lutely gi­gan­tic scale.” The White House called the story “very bor­ing,” hop­ing it would be quickly for­got­ten in the flood of Trump scan­dals. But New York city and state of­fi­cials are al­ready ex­am­in­ing the Times’ ac­cu­sa­tions, and Trump could face mil­lions in civil fines. More im­por­tantly, with years of his busi­ness deal­ings still a mys­tery, it’s be­come even more es­sen­tial that Amer­i­cans see the pres­i­dent’s tax re­turns. If Democrats take back the House, that must re­main a top pri­or­ity, “no mat­ter what else is com­pet­ing for our at­ten­tion.”

Don­ald and Fred: A lot to laugh about

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