Voters want an economics message. They are tuned to Radio WII-FM (What’s in It for Me?).
Candidate Trump had a brilliant message. It went along these lines: “Starting with almost nothing, I made loads of money. Soon I shall make loads of money for you.” Desperate workers in the Rust Belt lapped it up. He would Win Big for them, too!
He claimed modest beginnings. His father gave him a “small loan of a million dollars,” which he paid back. He became successful only through his hard work and his Midas touch. With complete mastery of America’s brainless media, he created a celebrity image as a businessman of immense wealth. Yes! He mastered The Art of the Deal!
It was all totally bogus. The New York Times recently released a blockbuster investigation with supporting documentation from leaked sources and public records. Trump’s wealth is all due to his father’s business savvy, not his own.
Trump received around $413 million in today’s money from his father, Fred. It mostly “came to Trump through dubious tax schemes he participated in during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.” Trump’s parents transferred over $1 billion to their children. This should have produced a tax bill around $550 million. Instead, the Trumps paid only $52.2 million.
Pulling it off was a piece of cake. “They play around with valuations in extreme ways,” a tax law expert told The Times. The tax returns were based on bogus real estate valuations. For instance, Fred’s 1995 gift tax return stated that his empire was worth $41.4 million. The Times however obtained a 2004 valuation of the same properties that came in at nearly $900 million.
Fred hoped that his empire would stay in the family. But Donald needed money badly in 2003. He sold the estate in 2004. His share was $177 million, around $236 million today. The Times found that banks had valued Fred’s empire at hundreds of millions more than the sale prices. Clearly, Trump was a useless deal-maker, mastering only The Art of the Dump.
The rest of Trump’s millions came mostly from shell games moving money around bogus companies and siphoning off bogus salaries. In this way, Trump became a millionaire by AGE 8.
My favorite Trump fraud involves gambling. Fred used a check for $3.5 million to buy chips at Donald’s rapidly failing casino. Mysteriously, Fred forgot to gamble with them. Donald kept the loot without paying tax. Russian oligarchs laundered millions this way also.
Between just the years 1989 and 1992, Fred dumped $8.3 million in today’s money into Donald’s black holes. Fred went along with the outrageous whopper that his prodigal son was a self-made millionaire. In reality, Donald squandered other people’s money by the billion, including bankers’ and bondholders’ money, on three failed casinos and over two dozen failed businesses. And he gained millions by ripping off his contractors. Over 4,000 of them sued him, only to be ground down with endless hearings on bogus motions.
Sadly, Trump will not go to prison for any of this. Prosecutions for fraud would be statute-barred. But the statutes of limitation do not apply to civil liability for tax evasion. New York state has revealed that it is “vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.”
David Cay Johnston is a tax expert. On The Rachel Maddow Show he confirmed that Trump had a huge problem. Daniel Goldman, a former U.S. attorney, agreed that Trump was liable for millions in back taxes and penalties. Trump’s sister — a federal judge, no less — was also implicated by the Times. Goldman said that she, too, could face penalties. In short, the Trumps could be liable for $420 million in unpaid state taxes, interest and penalties.
There is also federal tax liability. Of course, Trump could order the IRS to do nothing. But in 2021, sanity will return when a Democratic president takes office and cranks the IRS back up. Trump could then owe hundreds of millions more.
Trump committed tax fraud, a felony (though no longer indictable). His attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to paying Stormy Daniels for silence about sex, a felony under federal election law, making Trump an unindicted co-conspirator. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is in prison for multiple felonies. How such a swamp monster as Trump became president, with campaigns lasting 18 months, scrutinized by a free press, with TV debates, is another matter.
Regardless, commentator David Frum believes, “The country now faces a choice between the Trump presidency and the rule of law.” Question: Is America now a banana republic? Trump’s rabid supporters could not care less. But even the most moronic supporters would answer “Yes” to this question:
Should the president of the United States and a federal judge follow the law and pay taxes like the little people?