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A Truly Trumpian Tax Bill

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Good point about how the No Billionaire Left Behind Act loots America in the same way as the President has looted shareholders, contractors, and countless other marks over the years:

It takes a lot more than Donald Trump to orchestrate the kind of feeding frenzy that’s currently playing out in Washington. Nothing about this would work if not for the fact that hundreds of Republican Party members of Congress wake up each morning and decide anew that they are indifferent to the myriad financial conflicts of interest in which Trump and his family are enmeshed. Moral and political responsibility for the looting ultimately rests on the shoulders of the GOP members of Congress who decided that the appropriate reaction to Trump’s inauguration was to start smashing and grabbing as much as possible for themselves and their donors rather than uphold their constitutional obligations.

But it really is true that in this case, the fish rots from the head.

Trump has always operated in businesses in legal and ethical gray areas — during the transition, he had to pay out a $20 million fraud settlement arising from a fake university he used to operate, and the fraudulent part wasn’t even that the university was fake. [At least he didn’t legally use a private email server! –ed.] His all-purpose excuse for shady, greedy behavior was, to quote the man himself, “that makes me smart.”

Yet in his business career he did once undertake solemn obligations to people other than himself, as the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.

Trump never turned THCR into a profitable business. But he did profit mightily from running it, bilking shareholders by transferring his personal debts onto the corporate balance sheet, having the public company pay extravagant sums to buy Trump-branded goods from separate companies that he owned personally, and of course paying himself a lavish salary for his troubles.

This is looting on the corporate level, tunneling financial assets out of the company the shareholders control into entities controlled by the CEO. Like many things Trump did over the years, it’s probably illegal, but enforcement of white-collar criminal law is spotty. Trump was fined by the Federal Trade Commission and separately by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then separately again by the Treasury Department’s financial crimes division, but not in ways that were serious enough to put him out of business.

And in truth, we have no clear picture of the full extent of Trump’s personal corruption, since in violation of decades’ worth of tradition he’s refused to give us a clear sense of his income streams or financial interests. It would be trivially easy for congressional Republicans to force Trump to disclose his tax returns, but instead of holding his feet to the fire, they are taking their cues from him — even though many of them spent the 2016 campaign openly recognizing that he was unfit for office

Well, be thankful that the 2016 elections were the death of neoliberalism.

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