Mountains, Molehills, and Trump Taxes

I’m pretty well established when it comes to my feelings of Donald Trump. (They’re about as negative as they can get.) So if there was something Drumpf did or said that made him look like an idiot, I’d be all for shouting it from the rooftops. (And I suppose I’ll note that he seems to feel the same way, judging by how often he decides to shout out stupid things to as wide an audience as possible.)

But this tax return leak? There’s no “there” there, folks. No matter how much we might wish there were enough to sink Trump, wishing doesn’t make it so.

Trump didn’t do anything illegal. He used tax laws to his advantage. It would have been quite surprising if he’d done anything differently. How many people out there when they’re doing their taxes pause in the middle or at the end, look at how much they’re paying, and try to find ways to pay more?

Maybe I’m just not altruistic enough, but when I’m using TurboTax or whatever each year, my goal is to see me get as big of a refund (or as small of a tax payment) as possible. If I somehow managed to find a trick that made that refund go up by a few grand, would I take it?

You betcha. Assuming it was legal. That money could pay for my second bathroom, yo.

Of course, people with as much money as Trump can afford something a bit better than TurboTax. They can hire fancypants accountants who know the tax code inside and out, and use that ninja-level knowledge to pay even less in taxes. And one can certainly argue that isn’t fair, just as one could argue that having the money to pay for lobbyists to ensure there are those loopholes to begin with is also not fair.

But there’s a big gap between “not fair” and “illegal” or “scandal.”

The Trump tax leak highlights a few things. First, it shows he’s had at least one incredibly off year as a businessman. Losing almost a billion is less than good. He could argue that he did better the other years. (An argument that would be more valid if he, you know, actually released his tax returns.) But where’s the assurance he wouldn’t have an off year or four if he got the keys to the White House? For a man running on his business acumen, admitting he lost that much could be damaging.

The tax leaks certainly highlight the fact that our tax laws are too complicated, in my opinion. Wouldn’t it be easier to have something straightforward and understandable? Less open to shenanigans by certain parties, at least? But complaining about the rules of the tax game when you’re in the middle of a round doesn’t mean a whole lot. If we want to fix those rules, we have to wait for the round to end at least.

But the real question to me is what does this leak do to the election? Who does it persuade to change their minds?

  • Trump supporters seem fully entrenched at this point. I don’t think there’s anything that could come up that would change their minds. Even something really damaging would be spun as the “mass media” spreading lies about their candidate.
  • Clinton supporters/Trump haters (not necessarily the same people, but they share a common goal at this point) are likewise entrenched. This might make them more angry and hate the man even more, but does that really change anything?
  • Undecideds are the real category that matters. And I don’t see these tax returns doing much to them. If they’ve sat on the fence this long, how does this change their mind? Trump used legal tricks to pay less in taxes. A real scandal would be if Trump had lied on his tax returns. Or if he made a whole lot less money than he claimed. (Losing a whole ton of money in one particular year isn’t, alas, enough to prove a pattern.)

Then again, if there’s anything Trump has taught me so far, it’s that there’s a difference between reality and the truth. The truth doesn’t always create reality. Sometimes you can drown out the truth by just shouting louder. So perhaps by just yelling over and over “THIS TAX LEAK IS A MAJOR SCANDAL AND CHANGES EVERYTHING” it actually will change everything. As long as that “everything” means Trump isn’t elected, I’ll be a happy man.

Here’s hoping, I suppose . . .

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