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It may not surprise you that when I came upon The New York Times’ bombshell reporting on Trump’s tax returns, my reaction was:
Plutes gonna plute.
Because Donald Trump is the head of the snake of this corrupt system. First things first, he needs to be ejected from office and criminally prosecuted. But The Times’ revelations are also a portrait of the system.
Others will point out the particular accounting methods involved, which are a revelation but not a surprise. But I see so many of the familiar moves of the plutocracy here.
One is the Arsonist-Firefighter Paradox. Trump claiming that he uniquely could fix government when he was causing it to break. The cause of a problem reinventing itself as solution is flamboyant here, but also what Zuckerberg and Bezos and Dimon do, just with more class.
Another key move of the plutocrats is to try to divorce their stratospheric living with you being down there. Sure, they're sad you're down there, but, they say, it's not because they're up there. They want you to rise up AND them to rise up, too. Win-win. Well...
This story illustrates elegantly, starkly that the up is inextricably connected to the down. That money he didn't pay in taxes could have been a research grant that resulted in a cure for your chronic fatigue. Or a tuition break you didn't get. Or school funding for your kids.
You had to work longer hours to help the government make up the bills it has to pay regardless, so that guys like him could pay less. You had to read fewer books to your kids, watch fewer movies curled up beside someone you love, so that you could make money to subsidize him.
Another thing the plutocrats do is set themselves up as champions of the free market and you up as welfare mooches. Yet this story makes clear, again, that it is plutocrats like Trump who make use of giant refunds they're not entitled to and other methods of state largesse.
Another plutocratic move is to claim that wealth taxes are too complex to administer, unconstitutional, what have you. Really, they just don't want to pay them. And all these other taxes are clearly gameable, too. So we might as well do a big ole wealth tax.
Finally, I would say this story illustrates a central, sometimes overlooked truth: Yes, a thousand bad things have happened to American public life over the last generation. The plutes' hijacking has been multi-pronged. But it's really all about taxes. Taxes are the story.
Sure, they wanted that chemical deregulation or that oil permit. But taxes are the meta-story and the purpose of it all and the reason they would tolerate Trump into the second-term gulags. For them, it's about the opportunity legally to defraud America.
And if the fundamental ideology of neoliberalism is the "win-win," the nonzero-sum game, taxes are very zero-sum. Their paying less means you pay more, your life is harder, your back aches, your children fail to rise, your dreams wither, your hours vanish.
But there is one thing working in your favor. There are so many more of you than there are of them. Get in formation.
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Photo: Eric Baradat/Getty