Tax Evasion Doesn’t Make You Smart

During last week’s presidential debate, Donald Trump all but admitted to federal tax evasion. When flat-out asked by reporters after the debate if he was paying federal taxes, Trump avoided the question.

There has been no legal action taken against the billionaire.

In the same week, black teenager Ryan Turk was arrested and accused of stealing a carton of milk. He was entitled to the carton of milk, by the way, as part of a free school lunch program.

The 14-year-old faces criminal charges.

How is it possible that a man can stand on live television and all but admit to federal tax fraud and evasion, while a public school student is charged with disorderly conduct and petty larceny for drinking milk?

If middle- or lower-class Americans suffer severe economic losses, they are unable to just write off taxes like Donald Trump can.

Donald Trump is in the middle of being audited. The likeliest outcome is that his tax reports will come back clean, since Trump—along with other super-wealthy Americans—found a specific tax loophole called “smoothing”. Using this loophole, an individual can basically claim any business losses against their own personal income. Since Donald Trump owns and operates many different business ventures, he was able to stack up corporate losses so high that they would entirely exempt him from paying individual taxes.

Not only is this loophole nonsensical, but it is also infuriating. If you think it was stumbled upon by accident, you’re mistaken. There are loopholes and cheats all through American legislature that allow the super-wealthy to become even wealthier. Corporations and their associated lobbyists often have a big impact in politics. As long as this impact remains, loopholes that support the increased growth of corporations and the financial growth of their executives are not going away anytime soon.

On Donald Trump’s website, he plans to “Eliminate special interest loopholes, make our business tax rate more competitive to keep jobs in America, create new opportunities and revitalize our economy” as a part of his vision for America. Why would someone who has directly benefited from tax loopholes want to eliminate those very same loopholes?

This is Trump’s way of covering himself. Plenty of presidential candidates have promised to make changes that could never be enacted, and Trump is no exception. He does not actually want to eliminate loopholes. He wants to make himself seem like the rest of us, just a hard-working American who started from nothing and made it to the top. Since working-class Americans do not benefit from legislative loopholes, Trump would like to pretend that he does not benefit either. At least, that was the case until the debate.

When Donald Trump was directly asked about his tax evasion, he tried to change the topic to Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. This was a poor attempt at deflection, since the email scandal was already overused by Trump’s campaign. When the debate moderator did not take the bait, Trump switched tactics.

Hillary Clinton pressed him, saying, “Maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.”

In response to this, Trump leaned in towards the microphone and interrupted her. “That makes me smart,” he said.

Trump supporters are blindly cheering for his so-called intelligence, but what they do not realize is that Trump’s tax deflection has hurt them.

The bulk of Donald Trump’s supporters are white, middle-class Americans. This demographic includes many people who benefit from federal- and state-funded programs, whether they realize it or not. Middle-class Americans go to public schools, benefit from social security, fight in the U.S. military and are enrolled in government-run healthcare programs. And yet, they are applauding a man who is withholding his share of taxes that support those programs.

That Donald Trump has apparently evaded taxes for so long throws into question several components of his platform. As the Republican candidate for presidency, Trump naturally supports more military intervention. On his website, he claims he wants to rebuild the U.S. navy, increase the number of active duty soldiers and invest in a missile defense system.

The funding for all of these programs comes from federal taxes. If Trump genuinely believed in supporting the military, he would pay taxes like every other American. It is likely that Donald Trump really does support the military—as long as he personally does not have to pay for it.