Tax dodging: It takes a village
Others helped Trump family scams
“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.