October 10, 2020 - Douglas Myser

Trumps taxes show system problem. The New York Times got its hands on decades of President Trumps tax information, and it paints a portrait of a man who used every tool at his disposal to avoid a bill from the IRS. According to the Times, he paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017--$76 dollars less than the $826 I paid when I made $10,500 as a freelance writer in 2018. But while it may seem like Trump is an outlier, he's simply part of a system that rewards the wealthiest Americans, and lavishes loophole after loophole on them. The mega rich and the corporations they run know how to manipulate the system to keep their piles of money safe, while the rest of us suffer the consequences. Trumps taxes show system problem.

In 2016 and 2017, according to a blockbuster New York Times investigation, President Donald Trump--alleged billionaire, business magnate, friend to the powerful, and owner of a $54 million New York penthouse--paid $750 in federal income taxes. For 10 of the 15 years before, he paid no income taxes. When I first saw Trump's tax bills, a full $76 less than what I paid as a broke, self employed writer, I laughed. Trump's crookedness is notorious. This is a man who spent thousands intended for charity on a portrait for himself and a signed Tim Tebow helmet, after all. But there was something about the brazen absurdity of it all that struck me. The nation's most powerful person gave less than the cost of a new iPhone to the country he runs. Trumps taxes show system problem.

The humor soon curdled into seething anger, however. I started seeing my own story everywhere. A 9 year old paid more taxes than Trump. A part time Starbucks employee paid more taxes than Trump. People I know paid more taxes than Trump. But instead of seeing these tales as incidental failures, it is better to reckon with the tiny tax bills for what they are: the product of a broken system intentionally warped to help the wealthy and powerful.

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