If you want to watch something both depressing and funny, watch a ‘libertarian’ dance around Trump’s taxes

The New York Times has revealed details about Donald Trump’s tax returns https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54323654

“The president paid just $750 (£580) in federal income tax both in 2016, the year he ran for the US presidency, and in his first year in the White House He paid no such taxes in 11 of 18 years of tax records examined by the newspaper The president has managed to lower his taxes through reporting hefty losses on his businesses After the success of The Apprentice TV show he did initially pay significant taxes – $95m over 18 years. But he later got most of that back via a $72.9 million federal tax refund. The refund remains under review”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54323654

People have speculated for several years now why Trump was hiding his tax returns and the general consensus was that they would show that he paid very little taxes due to claiming heavy losses. Those losses would damage his claims to be a successful business man and also imply that he might be cheating on his taxes. So the New York Times report is both a bombshell and also unsurprising. Trump is not the best liar in the land, he’s just the most enthusiastic. As deceptions go, this one was particularly transparent.

It is still damaging for Trump though and the reaction from his supporters has been notable. However, the world of US politics is not a simple binary one of Trump fans versus Trump non-fans. One of our many blog themes is that categories rarely have simple boundaries. Dividing the world into A and not-A reveals fractal spaces between the two: the hot dogs in the space of sandwiches, the submarines in the world of ships. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

Witness Larry Correia. Libertarian, gun-rights advocate and, according to Larry, a valiant defender of freedom and scourge of the big city New York elites. Larry has never had an easy relationship with Donald Trump. When Trump was nominated as the GOP Presidential candidate, Larry was angry:

“You ignorant low information bastards. Motivated by fear and anger, you overlooked every gain made over the last few cycles, and traded it in to a lying huckster democrat for some magic beans. So you could stick it to the establishment, by electing the shit bird who funded them.”

http://monsterhunternation.com/2016/05/04/on-the-election/

Larry was under no illusions about Trump’s capabilities except the same one lot’s of people were under: he thought Trump would lose badly. Fate had other things in store for us all and left Larry with a dilemma. Larry’s ‘libertarianism’ is little more than anti-leftism and with much of his readership and many of his more vocal supporters endorsing Trump’s policies, the overt anti-Trumpism was not going to sell well as a position. So Larry has fallen into a political position best characterised as anti-anti-Trump — itself an interesting example of somebody trying to occupy a conceptual space that naive logic would suggest is indistinguishable from being pro-Trump.

The anti-anti-Trump position is a tricky one because it largely requires its advocates to avoid talking directly about Trump and instead focus on the opponents of Trump. However, among many things, Larry is also a former accountant and the issue of Trump’s taxes is a hard one to avoid. Yet, Trump’s position is also essentially indefensible and indeed, consistent of Larry’s former description of Trump as a ‘huckster’.

The solution is to try and dance around the issue, claim nobody else knows what they are talking about, while never actually engaging with Trump’s situation at all.

“So big picture time…First off, “morality” doesn’t have jack shit to do with taxation. You pay what you legally owe. Nobody willingly pays the government more than they legally owe.This has always been this way since America has had income taxes. There is endless court precedent. You pay what you legally owe. That’s it. If you pay less than you legally owe, then the government will fine or imprison you. If you pay more than you legal owe, the government will laugh and laugh, because you are an idiot, and you deserve to be poor.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/09/28/no-you-idiots-thats-not-how-taxes-work-an-accountants-guide-to-why-you-are-a-gullible-moron/

Maybe Larry think taxation rates and tax laws are immutable or maybe he just thinks that for this part of his argument? Maybe, that’s a tendentious defence of a businessman’s taxes but…it’s not a very smart or insightful point to make when that businessman is the President of the USA. Meanwhile, back in reality, “fairness” is a common and reasonable standard against which to judge the outcomes of tax policy. Are very wealthy people paying less tax than much poorer people? That implies 1. an ethical problem 2. a social problem and 3. a really poor way of funding your government. That third point is true EVEN IF you think the overall level of taxation should be low.

“Is it unfair that rich guys can employ Gandalf level CPAs and take advantage of more complicated tax laws, while regular people use TurboTax? Yep. But in the meantime, as long as those tax laws are there, the rich guys would be utter fools not to take advantage of them.”

It is unfair but taxation has nothing to do with morality? Hmmm, and also Trump isn’t just a random rich guy but the guy with distinct power over the taxation system. True, he doesn’t have the power to write tax legislation and these tax returns pertain mainly to before he was President but the records do pertain to his overall competence, his attitude towards public service and his public image.

“Your feelings don’t mean shit. Same as the rest of us, Trump owes what he owes. And the IRS will determine if that number is accurate or not.”

The feelings of US voters towards the US President in an election year shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly. What also should not be lightly dismissed is the extent to which Trump is using his office to enrich himself and shield himself from legal accountability. Further Larry skips neatly over one of the key reasons why Trump was paying so very little tax: Trump has significant debts. Those debts aren’t news but the New York Times story confirms much that was already know (eg see this 2017 piece https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/your-day-one-guide-president-trumps-conflicts-interest/ )

“But Vladeck, an expert in national-security law, says there’s a larger problem here. “More fundamentally, there’s the concern that a president who is personally on the hook for significant loans that come due while he’s the president might take official actions, or appear to take official actions, that are meant to alleviate the personal financial pressure he faces,” Vladeck tells Rolling Stone. “Indeed, there’s a reason why the federal government generally won’t give security clearances to those who have significant debt — it’s because they’re too much of a risk. So, too, apparently, is the President of the United States.””

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/trump-tax-returns-new-york-times-debt-deutsche-bank-irs-1067422/

The most powerful person in the USA is deeply indebted to numerous people. He may be in debt to the IRS as well. He may or may not be in debt to the Bank of China. The impact of all of these all compromise the decisions Trump makes regardless of ideological stance.

But, you are all stupid because Larry knows more about taxes than you do. Actually, I don’t doubt for a second that Larry knows a LOT more about the US taxation system than I do — it really would be hard for him to know less. However, what is notable is that nowhere in his two-thousand word defence of Trump does he ever point out anything that Trump’s critics are getting factually or technically wrong about taxes or taxation.

So why is this depressing? Larry Correia’s dislike of Trump is genuine but like so much of the US right, the entrenched opposition and hyper-partisan positioning means nothing will shift. The right has abandoned not just morality but also ideology, leaving only ties of allegiance.

48 thoughts on “If you want to watch something both depressing and funny, watch a ‘libertarian’ dance around Trump’s taxes

  1. I notice that most of the arguers are focused on “taxation is theft” and not on the question of “just how compromised and in debt is Trump?” As several folks I follow have commented, much lower levels of indebtedness and questionable loans are enough to deny ordinary people a security clearance.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I can confirm from personal knowledge that significant debt is one of the conditions which will cause someone to be denied a security clearance — but I have not been told what constitutes “significant debt”, and since I have no personal debts, I cannot say what amount might be considered acceptable.

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      2. As someone who has held a security clearance (and if I had stayed in the Army would have ended up working in the NSA building, true story) I can attest to this.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Further to my comment:

        A mortgage on a home, which is not in arrears and which is for less than the value of the home, would be fine (though if the value of the home is way out of proportion to the person’s income, that would be a red flag). Multiple large mortgages on multiple properties might be a red flag.

        A car loan which is not in arrears would be fine (though if it were for a Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini, that would be a red flag).

        $10,000-20,000 debt on a credit card, with a good payment record, would probably be fine. But tens of thousands of dollars of unsecured debt on multiple credit accounts, or a past bankruptcy, would almost certainly result in a clearance denial unless there was a very good reason for the debt/bankruptcy (such as a catastrophic medical event). A poor credit payment record, with numerous late or missing payments, would result in a denial.

        Having a credit account with a casino would almost certainly be a no-goer.

        With millions of dollars in debt, multiple past bankruptcies, a history of non-payment to creditors, and indebtedness and obligations to foreign entities, there is no way that Trump should have ever been given a security clearance (nor should any of his family members). Inordinate pressure has been exerted on the U.S. government’s security-clearance division to override the normal controls in order for the Trumps/Kushners to be given clearances. Knowing what I know about security clearances, that override is legally a crime and quite possibly a felony.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Fairly reputable word has it that after the American and German banks quit lending him money he had to borrow from Russia. So… yeah.

        No way would he have gotten a security clearance with his financial records. No security apparatus worth its name would allow someone with that much debt and kompromat access to classified material.

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      5. In order to get my court approval as a translator, I had to provide proof that I had no debts I was seriously behind on repaying, no past bankruptcies and the like. This is standard for pretty much any remotely sensitive position.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. To volunteer (not even work!) for my local police department writing tickets for illegal use of handicap parking spaces (and ONLY that — no other tickets, no arrests, no weapons), I had to have several eminently respectable references AND they had to run me and my fingerprints through the FBI.

        So me and all the retired folks who thought we’d spend a few hours a week driving around parking lots had to live up to higher standards than the (p)resident.

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      7. In Germany, there are lots of jobs and voluntary positions where you have to provide a police clearance certificate. For example, if you’re working with minor in any capacity (teacher, social worker, but also volunteer coaches for children’s sports teams), you have to provide one of those certificates to make sure that they’re not accidentally hiring a suspected or convicted pedophile. The certificate always needs to be up to date, too – you can’t reuse the one from two years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually think it’s a valid point that Trump’s tiny tax bills don’t say anything about his personal ethics (with the exception of dubious deductions like paying Ivanka a consultant fee). But yes, the demonstration he’s actually not a superstar businessman — these aren’t the kind of paper losses some business people exploit, they are real, hemorrhaging losses — undercuts his image as Donald Trump Superstar Dynamo.
    And yes, the debts are obviously a window of vulnerability for anyone who wants to target him.
    If nothing else, watching him rant on Twitter about how the press ignore his fabulous assets and how he’s going to release an incredible financial statement (the very best, most perfect statement) of his holdings any day now is quite amusing. He knows we know the emperor has no clothes, and it’s freaking him out.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I get the impression that the $70,000 is over the whole run of the Apprentice. If so, if you convert to a per episode figure it may seem more reasonable.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. But that should have been folded into the overall budget for the show and not paid by him. Network TV shows don’t have actors doing their own hair and makeup at the crack of dawn; they have people for that.

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  3. I haven’t seen anyone mention that the IRS struggles to investigate things like this because the Republicans have successfully reduced their funding year by year. One of the best things the Democrats could do under Biden would be to fully fund the IRS–up to the point of diminishing returns.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Huh. Cute that you’re leaving out the important factor that Larry was an accountant before his writing career took off, but OK.

    Regardless, while significant indebtedness is a disqualifier for security clearance for the average person, this is not the case with the office of President. You see, winning a national election for president means that you are immediately granted security clearance based on that fact alone and are considered a primary data owner for all classified data. Any information the president chooses to share is, due to his position, declassified. The people who determine who can obtain security clearance ultimately answer to the president. Not the other way around (despite what the generally arrogant bureaucrats think).

    Source: I performed DIACAP security audits for the DoD

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    1. //Cute that you’re leaving out the important factor that Larry was an accountant before his writing career took off, but OK.//

      Huh? I say overtly that he is a former accountant: “However, among many things, Larry is also a former accountant and the issue of Trump’s taxes is a hard one to avoid. “?

      //Regardless, while significant indebtedness is a disqualifier for security clearance for the average person, this is not the case with the office of President. //

      Yeah, we know. That doesn’t change that this level of indebtedness means the man is deeply compromised. That the President doesn’t go through the same clearance procedures doesn’t change the fact that he is manifestly a risk.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. acbrownit: Huh. Cute that you’re leaving out the important factor that Larry was an accountant before his writing career took off, but OK.

      I see that you have a severe reading comprehension problem.
      from the main post:
      Larry is also a former accountant

       
      acbrownit: The people who determine who can obtain security clearance ultimately answer to the president.

      Which is, as I pointed out, how his family members got security clearances they aren’t qualified to have. In a just America, the President doesn’t get to override the law whenever he feels like it. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not a just country right now, and a lot of people, including many in Congress, have been willing to let him get away with breaking the law repeatedly.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. On Facebook one of Larry’s sycophants was complaining because this post was the third result when they searched for ‘Larry Correia taxes’ 🤣

        Apparently, he also got a boost by being retweeted by Scott Adams.

        Oh, here’s another good one “love his assertion that an indebted president shouldn’t have security clearance. Because the president apparently answers to the bureaucrats now and not the other way around.” <- when you've got no good arguments, just make shit up.🥰

        Liked by 2 people

      2. camestrosfelapton: Oh, here’s another good one “love his assertion that an indebted president shouldn’t have security clearance. Because the president apparently answers to the bureaucrats now and not the other way around.” <- when you've got no good arguments, just make shit up.🥰

        Never mind the fact that the bureaucrats don’t answer to the President. They answer to the American People. As does (should) the President. 🙄

        Liked by 4 people

  5. Eh you know Larry’s still going to vote for him happily.

    Because a tax-cheat adulterous atheist failed businessman with a loose concept of reality and no morality whatsoever is SO much better than a decent religious family man who understands science and politics. Especially when the latter is friends with Black people.

    (I’m voting for Kamala, like I have in every election I’ve been able to.)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My favorite Tweet:

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
    @AOC
    ·US House candidate, NY-14
    Sep 27

    Last year Republicans blasted a firehose of hatred + vitriol my way because I treated myself to a $250 cut & lowlights on my birthday.

    Where’s the criticism of their idol spending $70k on hairstyling?

    Oh, it’s nowhere because they’re spineless, misogynistic hypocrites? Got it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I also vaguely remember an uproar about Bill or Hilary Clinton’s hairstylist bills years ago. So apparently spending a lot of money on one’s hair is only a problem, when it’s a Democrat who does it.

      I also wonder why it’s possible to deduct hairstyling from your taxes in the US, because it sure as hell isn’t poissible to deduct hairstyling and personal grooming in Germany. I asked my accountant whether buying an evening gown to wear at the Hugos would be tax-deductible (since I earn money with my writing, Worldcons are a business expense for me). She said no, clothes are only deductible, if they’re explicitly work clothes.

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      1. The rule on clothes is much the same here. As a general rule, if it’s something that can serve as off-the-job wear, you can’t deduct it, even if you’d never wear it off the job (e.g., me and a tie).

        Like

  7. In a diatribe filled with incorrect statements, I think we need to bring up this gem produced by Larry:

    Nobody willingly pays the government more than they legally owe. This has always been this way since America has had income taxes.

    This is simply wrong. Many people willingly pay the government more than they legally owe. First off, a lot of people give gifts to the government, either in property or cash. This happens often enough that there are numerous federal statutes concerning what sorts of gifts agencies can accept and under what conditions and how they are supposed to treat those gifts. In addition, there are numerous people who give voluntary contributions to the Treasury along with their taxes, oftentimes optimistically offered to “reduce the government debt”. This happens often enough that there is an entire section in the GAO Redbook about how such voluntary contributions should be handled by the government.

    That is the most direct way people voluntarily pay more than they legally owe. In a lesser sense, there are a lot of people who decline to take deductions or write-offs they might be entitled to – many wealthy people decline to take deductions they consider to be legally or morally dubious and consequently potentially pay more to the government than they would otherwise owe.

    The notion that “nobody willingly pays the government more than they legally owe” is a lie that amoral people like Correia tell themselves to justify their sleazy outlook on life.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I don’t take the deduction for my charitable contributions, minor as they may be in the scheme of things. And the State of Nebraska gives one the option of donating some of one’s tax refund to a state conservation fund for non-game birds and I also toss money into that each year. So, yeah, it’s not difficult or painful to give the government more than one legally owes.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I take off business mileage. Don’t itemize currently so I can’t deduct charity.
        I’ve seen one Trumpite on FB defending Trump with “if this wasn’t legit, the IRS would have busted him!” as a defense.

        Like

      2. The vast majority of charitable donations I give are not deductible anyway (in person donations, GoFundMes, fan fund donations and the like are not deductible), so if I have one that is, I usually do claim it, unless I forget.

        Also, since I’m single, don’t have children, don’t have a home loan and am self-employed, the German tax code simply isn’t made for people like me, so I can deduct almost nothing from my personal income tax. I work from home and don’t have a dedicated office either, so I do take whatever business deductions apply. And since I earn money from my writing, this means that every book I buy as well as con memberships are tax-deductible for me. And yes, I do claim that, because I have almost nothing else to claim. I don’t mind paying taxes, because I do use government services, but I don’t want to pay an excess amount of them either.

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    2. I pay double taxation on my income, to the US (my country of citizenship) and the UK (my place of residence) despite being well under the threshold where doing so is requisite. Partly I do this because it’s just easier than filing the paperwork to claim an exemption. But partly it’s because at my income level, all my US taxes go to Medicare and Social Security, both of which I’m quite happy to help fund.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. To be honest, many of the arguments in the text goes for Democrats too. Many of them have also abandoned morals and ideology, otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen Biden as candidate. And they almost never try to defend Biden’s support of genocidal wars and puppet dictators, instead focusing on Trump and Republicans. That is how people deal with bad situations.

    Having said that, it is fun to see how Correia tries to avoid talking about how the “Drain The Swamp” candidate *is* the swamp.

    In Sweden, our most successful author – Jan Guillou, who is also a socialist – decided that tax avoidance was immoral, even though he had means to entirely skip paying taxes. Instead he decided himself what he thought was a reasonable percentages and ordered is accountants to aim for that. If I understand correctly, that’s how Jimmy Carter did too.

    We also once had a minister of finance who was forced to resign, because of tax planning. Those were different times. I wish they’d come again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Notably he’s happy to criticise Congress: “Now, it is perfectly okay to get mad at congress for writing stupid laws and needlessly complicating everything with their endless meddling. ” …but not the US President…

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Wasn’t it Keynes who said, “When the facts change, I change my opinions. What do you do?” This isn’t an option for right-wingers. The conclusion is predetermined: whatever Trump does must be declared acceptable. The only question is what legal and moral gymnastics you’re going to put yourself through to get to that declaration.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “To be honest, many of the arguments in the text goes for Democrats too. Many of them have also abandoned morals and ideology, otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen Biden as candidate. And they almost never try to defend Biden’s support of genocidal wars and puppet dictators, instead focusing on Trump and Republicans. That is how people deal with bad situations.”

      That’s not quite the situation – for example, Trump’s full-throated support for the Saudi war on Yemen is so fervent he’ll veto bipartisan actions Congress takes to reduce US involvement in and supply for that war https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/us/politics/trump-veto-yemen.html Whereas Biden would be unlikely to veto a measure passed by Republicans and Democrats that would do so, and would be unlikely to support the Saudis in such a venture in the first place.

      In the choice between no war and war, the US political system doesn’t have any significant actors in favor of no war. This is both unfortunate and immoral.

      However, if the choice is between more war and less war; in Yemen, Syria, and Iran/Iraq, not to mention the renewal of New START nuclear arms limitation negotiations with Russia, Biden is clearly the candidate of less war.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously, Phantom, can you not read? As clearly stated in the article, those payments were applied to *future possible* tax liability — not to the taxes he claimed to owe in 2016 and 2017.

      And there’s a good chance he recouped that money later through further claims of losses in the following years — I didn’t continue studying the article to see those additional details.

      Of course, this is all moot according to Trump, since he claims that the numbers are all fake anyway. Which makes it rather curious that he *also* claims that he wants to ferret out whoever leaked his returns. Things that make ya go hmmmm.

      Like

  9. I am so sick of these claims to high principles when it all boils down to selfishness and wanting to keep as much money as possible.

    Here in Canada, there is a front page story today about the founder of one of the iterations of the Conservative Party — a guy called Rob Anders (from Alberta, of course!) who held seat for nearly 20 years, in with the Reforms which was equivalent of the Tea Party, small govt, low taxes, no regulation crowd, and their “principled” platform included a promise not to take any government pensions. Seems the dude is “set to collect a $100,000/year pension when he hits 55 and has been charged with multiple-year tax evasions”

    I am so, so sick of the selfishness dressed up as high-mindedness. They use the same services as everyone — probably at a higher intensity even — and they don’t want to pay. They are thieves and a$$holes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Meanwhile, Cam, somewhat off-topic, but at least puppy-related —

    Have you noticed any comments about Jemisin’s MacArthur grant coming from the puppy gallery? I’ve been wondering!

    Like

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