Tax dodg­ing: It takes a vil­lage

Oth­ers helped Trump fam­ily scams

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Doug Thomp­son Doug Thomp­son is a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and colum­nist for the North­west Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. Email him at dthomp­son@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWADoug.

“We don’t pay taxes; only the lit­tle peo­ple pay taxes.” — Leona Helm­s­ley

The most scan­dalous thing ex­posed by the

New York Times’ story about tax dodg­ing by the pres­i­dent’s fam­ily is how many peo­ple were ei­ther in­volved or com­plicit who were not named Trump.

The IRS, state tax au­thor­i­ties, ac­coun­tants, ap­prais­ers, con­trac­tors, busi­ness as­so­ci­ates, you name it: They all played along. That in­cludes jour­nal­ists who ea­gerly bought the myth and cov­ered fa­vorite son Don­ald Trump’s glit­ter like it was gold, his style like it was sub­stance. The big­gest group of peo­ple who tried to cry foul were ten­ants in daddy Fred Trump’s rent-con­trolled prop­er­ties. They knew they were get­ting gouged. They were ig­nored. Any­one check­ing one of their com­plaints should have smelled some­thing fishy.

The Times story is not com­pli­cated, just long. The Trumps used ev­ery trick in the book. De­scrib­ing all those tricks takes a while even though most are sim­ple. My fa­vorite was how Don­ald Trump was “earn­ing” what would to­day amount to $200,000 a year in in­fla­tion-ad­justed dollars by the time he was 3 years old. He was a mil­lion­aire by when he was 8.

Un­scrupu­lous busi­ness­men all over the coun­try were prob­a­bly the most avid read­ers of the Oct. 2 ar­ti­cle. They must have soaked up ev­ery word, nod­ding and say­ing to them­selves some­thing like this: “Done that. Done that. Tried that. Owww. I need to try that.”

The ar­ti­cle is on­line. I highly rec­om­mend it: https://www.nytimes.com/in­ter­ac­tive/2018/10/02/us/pol­i­tics/don­ald-trump-taxschemes-fred-trump.html.

I re­mem­ber the White­wa­ter “scan­dal” of the 1990s and ar­ti­cles in the Times then talk­ing about what a tight, in­ces­tu­ous lit­tle hovel of in­sider deal­ing Arkansas was. I re­mem­ber scoff­ing at how more money changed hands in dirty in­sider deals on any block in New York city than in the whole state of Arkansas. Had I known how right I was, I would have scoffed much more loudly.

The sec­ond most scan­dalous thing in the lat­est story is a ridicu­lous dou­ble stan­dard it high­lights.

Last month I watched a young man who is a new father get sen­tenced to six years in fed­eral pri­son. His lit­tle girl will be halfway through kindergarten be­fore he has a chance to be re­leased. His crime was tak­ing about a quar­ter of a mil­lion dollars in fees, most of which he passed along as kick­backs. But they were pub­lic dollars, or at least the grants that started the whole process were.

Over the course of decades, the Trumps avoided turn­ing mil­lions upon mil­lions of dollars in taxes over to New York state and the U.S. gov­ern­ment. But the money never got to the pub­lic trea­sury. Once money gets there, though, some­thing mag­i­cal hap­pens. Steal­ing it be­comes a se­ri­ous crime.

So dodge, evade and com­mit fraud to keep from turn­ing money over. You can even brag about how smart you are. But take any money paid out af­ter it passes through the gov­ern­ment’s hands and you are a dirty crook.

In 1992, the Trump fam­ily set up a dummy com­pany called All County Build­ing Sup­ply & Main­te­nance. That com­pany did noth­ing but claim to ne­go­ti­ate con­tracts for Fred Trump’s real es­tate busi­nesses. Fred Trump never turned any of that over. He kept ne­go­ti­at­ing with con­trac­tors di­rectly just like he al­ways had. But All County charged him for ser­vices it never per­formed. The money Fred Trump paid went to All County’s own­ers — Fred Trump’s kids, plus a will­ing flunky. Since the feds who fi­nanced the apart­ments ap­proved rents based on costs, Fred Trump upped the rent on his ten­ants with the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval.

Fred Trump was a smart, hard­work­ing man but the hun­dreds of mil­lions he earned by those brains and that hard work was never enough. He squeezed low-in­come renters for no other pur­pose than to pass the money along to kids al­ready set for life.

As for his son Don­ald be­ing a busi­ness whiz, the ar­ti­cle knocks that idea flat. His daddy bailed him out of bad in­vest­ments con­stantly — un­til he could not any more.

Fred Trump worked his whole life to forge an em­pire. He went to great, pos­si­bly il­le­gal ex­tents to pass the em­pire to his heirs — and Don got the oth­ers to agree to sell it for less than three-quar­ters of what it was worth not long af­ter his par­ents died.

The Times piece is a very sad story which­ever way one looks at it.

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