The late New York City hotelier, Leona Helmsley, once famously said "Only the little people pay taxes." Now, decades later, another New York City hotelier is proving her right.
Donald Trump, who a mere four years ago was goading Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to release his tax records, is now in the spotlight himself as a Republican presidential nominee who, like Romney, would rather not share his tax strategies with the little people - the ones who actually do pay taxes.
But last week a crack developed in the Trump tax dam. Some nefarious soul - possibly wife number two or the offspring of wife number two - gave the New York Times a copy of Trump's 1995 tax return - a document showing that his businesses lost an amazing $916 million that year. Tax analysts were quick to point out that if Trump took full advantage of the tax code, that loss could have resulted in him paying no taxes at all for up to eighteen years.
After the blowhard's initial fury at the unauthorized peek into his private finances subsided, he seems to be warming to the idea that avoiding taxes is a measure of his business cunning, and that ordinary people admire bigshots who openly shirk their responsibility to help fund the government that has already given them so many breaks. Governor Chris Christie, a man who is Trump's equal in body fat, and former NYC mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a man who is Trump's equal in philandering, both seized on the developing tax story and tried to re-label it at a sign of the presidential candidate's "genius." Trump himself told a group of knuckle-draggers in Colorado yesterday that he had "brilliantly navigated the tax code."
Trump also responded to Hillary Clinton at the debate when she asserted that he hadn't paid taxes with "That makes me smart."
(Just how smart is a fellow who could lose $916 million in a single year?)
But Trump thinks he's smart, and Christie and Giuliani consider him a genius - and they are probably all three right. Donald Trump takes full advantage of everything the government has to offer, and he makes a practice of paying as little as possible for the use of those benefits. He is a moocher, a freeloader, and a big, bloated welfare king. Us little people pay taxes and keep the country running so important people like The Donald don't have to. We perform our civic duty, and he reaps the rewards.
The U.S. tax code is a patchwork of crazy loopholes and special exceptions that was pieced together over many years by legislators looking out for their own peculiar self-interests as well as those of their rich constituents. It is a gilded tribute to the power of wealth and privilege - and a hoary testimonial to the fact that Leona Helmsley was right.
I am proud to pay taxes and do my fair share to keep our country functioning, even if that makes me a little person - and I am ashamed of Donald John Trump. He represents little more than our basest instincts.
Trump is taking a free ride while the rest of us pull the wagon.