Donald and his Deadbeats

Tea Party stampDonald Trump loves America, right? Wants it to become “great again.” Funny sentiments from someone whose behavior suggests he’d rather see it starve. He made an economic speech earlier this week that, if economic experts are to be believed, would give little if anything to the poor and middle class but would dish out  juicy new tax loopholes for his billionaire cronies, adding trillions to the national debt.

I will leave the actual details to the economists. But the net effect of his proposals is twofold: He would allow those with the fewest resources to continue to foot the bill for living in this country, and he would give the people best able to support this so-called greatest nation on Earth a pass.


Full disclosure: Because I am the descendant of a low-level robber baron, I can be considered among that dreaded 10 percent. I live comfortably, not lavishly. I appreciate the freedom my resources provide me. I also  accept the idea that, because of my good fortune, I am obligated to help others as  I am able.

Money is energy, nothing more, nothing less. I can use  that energy trying to make things better  or I can spend that energy trying to make my life better. How I direct that energy demonstrate my priorities. As they say, follow the money.

I pay taxes. Willingly. Of course, I take every legitimate deduction I can, but I don’t go out of my way to seek shelters or to avoid paying what I legitimately owe. I see taxes as the price I pay for living in the greatest nation on Earth. My accountant looks at me with bemusement when I sigh and pay a particularly high bill. I’m not thrilled to pay it; I’m as prone to greed as the next human being. I also know I am not going to starve. I pay the bill. Willingly.

Donald Trump and his ilk seem to think that living and working in the United States should be a free ride. Of course, we don’t know how free a ride Trump has been having because he won’t release his tax returns. But by spending so much time and energy avoiding taxes, it’s clear they don’t care what happens to the rest of us.

I have been reading the thoroughly delightful and well-researched book, Lafayette in these Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. It is the story of the American Revolution told via the words and letters of the people who actually fought it. She reminds me that this nation was founded on a, shall we say, skeptical attitude toward taxes. The Tea Party, those rascals who have managed to convince a sizable portion of Congress that brains have no place in politics, take their name from the incident that fired the national imagination and led almost inexorably to the war for independence.

The Disney image of all those colonists running around in Indian garb smashing tea chests and dumping them in Boston Harbor may not historically accurate but it is deeply rooted in the national psyche. Lest we forget, however, the issue wasn’t taxes per se. It was taxation without representation. Last time I looked, we have plenty of representation when it comes to our taxes. Of course, what passes for representation today might not fly  with the discerning taxpayer, but we always have the opportunity to change  representation. The point is this is not 1773 and this is not pre-Revolutionary America suffering the dictates of a Parliament on the other side of the Atlantic. The issue is who should support this country? As I see it, all of us  have a piece of that bill.

A friend in the counseling business decries the drastic increase in the numbers of fathers who, at the end of a marriage, walk out the door without the slightest intention of supporting their children. It’s particularly galling among those men with means. They don’t accept that feeding, clothing and educating their children remains their responsibility even after a divorce. They don’t mind being known as deadbeats. Worse, they have the means to avoid the nasty consequences rightly heaped on poorer parents who abandon their kids.

It’s the same mentality among those individuals and corporations (I know corporations are not people, and you know they’re not people, but so far, corporations seem to be getting the people treatment, so allow me a little anthropomorphism here) who blithely take their profits and stash them where Uncle Sam can’t touch them.

By hiding their wealth, they are saying it’s OK to freeload on all the benefits of living in this country and exploit the economic, security and educational infrastructure of this nation to get incredibly wealthy. To hell with the rest of us.

The light company doesn’t  give away electricity. The gas company doesn’t give away the methane it rips from the ground. Even Donald’s deadbeats charge for whatever widget they manufacture, or hedge fund they set up or idea that catches fire. They don’t give their things away yet they gladly skate on their obligation to the rest of us.

The government doesn’t always get it right. There have been too many documented IRS abuses that have destroyed lives. There is a lot of room to fix the way we pay for this national enterprise. But unless you’re Grover Norquist and really want to see an emaciated national government drown in some giant bathtub, we have to keep the enterprise afloat in order to make things better.

The Donald and his Deadbeats can’t see any farther than the end of their noses. They have come to believe that because they are rich, we owe them. We should be in such awe of their accomplishments that they are relieved of the obligations of citizenship.

Au contraire. Because they have benefited so greatly from this magnificent country, they should be first in line with their thank you gifts. These supposedly smart people (and corporations) should be able to see the connection between their prosperity and the place where they created it. They have a stake in making sure it stays healthy; to keep the good times rolling

Deadbeats delude themselves by thinking wealth is somehow an indicator of self-worth. On the contrary, wealth is simply a measure of accumulation. How it is used is a measure of character. It’s not what you have but what you do with it that shows the world how you measure up as a human being.

As far as I can see, these deadbeats are big fat zeros.