Trump's Taxes Aren't the Problem
Why, exactly, are Donald Trump's federal income tax returns important to anyone beyond the fact that he has broken no laws?
It's unlikely we'll ever find that Donald Trump has done something illegal with his taxes. Hillary knows that. What is being suggested is that he has done something not legally wrong, but morally wrong by exploiting "loopholes" in order to pay less to the government than he could have, or than he supposedly should have. The revelation has been that he has paid high-priced CPAs and attorneys, who helped him reduce his taxable liability to the very least he is legally required to pay.
If you happen to find such a thing offensive, please review your own tax returns. Do you write anything off when you file your taxes each year? The interest on your home? The cost of childcare? Home office expenses? Mileage on your vehicle? All of those things? Even more to the quick, do you arrange your tax return in such a way that your tax liability is even the slightest bit reduced for any reason whatsoever? Could you have paid more to the government than you were legally required to pay, and if so, are you to be criticized for not having done so?
Of course you could have paid more than you did. And of course you've nothing wrong by not doing so. Only in the unique ideological prism of the leftist political elite and the envious grumblers they carry in tow could it be assumed that you have done something wrong. What you've done is legal and, dare I say, smart.
Trump's taxes aren't the problem, and neither are yours. The real problem is the misguided, bloated, and incompetent government that collects them.
You see, this whole issue boils down to a fundamental difference in how progressives and conservatives see the world and, more peculiarly, the purpose of federal taxation.
If you are a progressive, you largely view the government as a charity with boundless charge, and you see taxation as the ever more necessary coerced "contributions" to that charity.
If you are a conservative, you likely see taxation as an unfortunate necessity for the functioning of government. And you likely see the federal government, in particular, as having very few distinct (yet important) responsibilities, each of which is clearly delineated by that document called the United States Constitution.
And as a conservative, you likely see the scope of taxation through a lens of proportion. Dr. Ben Carson spoke of the fairness of the conservative viewpoint at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, as Barack Obama (who thoroughly disagrees with this concept of fairness) squirmed in his seat.
"God has given us a system," Dr. Carson declared, speaking of tithing. He continued:
There must be something inherently fair in proportionality. If you make ten billion dollars, you put in one billion. If you make ten dollars, you put in one. Of course, you gotta get rid of the loopholes. [Laughter] But, now, some people say, "Well, that's not fair, because it doesn't hurt the guy who made ten million dollars as much as the guy who made ten." Where does it say you have to hurt the guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot!
If you are progressive, that likely doesn't make sense to you, and that is because progressivism is a faith that supplants religious faith and even clouds the simple secular logic that supports Dr. Carson's statement. After all, Trump would have paid a lot of taxes in such a system as Carson describes. But what would be the point of a system of taxation that doesn't hurt the guy who makes more and benefit the guy who makes less, thereby striving toward some mystical balance of fortunes for all people, everywhere?
In case you haven't noticed, the left makes a serious issue of the "fair share" that high income earners owe the government but fail to pay (despite financing the greatest part of the government's endeavors). Hillary mentioned this several times in the debate with Donald Trump, prefacing her later attack on him with the suggestion that he hasn't released his tax returns and that this fact alone should be clear evidence that he, being the rich guy he is, doesn't pay his "fair share."
The conservative argument is, again, rooted in true "fairness" – that everyone should pay an equal percentage of his income to the coffers. The progressive argument, by contrast, is predicated upon the notion that the reality that regulates economic activity is so fundamentally unfair that rich elitists in Washington must disproportionately seize more wealth from those with higher incomes and subsequently provide that seized wealth to those who earn less, thereby making the disproportionate seizure of wealth somehow "fair."
It's not a new notion by any stretch of the imagination. A "progressive, graduated income tax" is one of the Ten Planks of Communism, as described by Karl Marx in his Communist Manifesto. The left repackages this concept each election cycle, each time presenting it as if it's some new idea to save the world, rather than an idea which has led to over 100 million deaths at the hands of socialist tyrants in our immediate 20th-century rearview.
It is with such twisted ideological standards as ballast that Clinton is now pitching government as a charity for the lesser among us and taxation of the rich as the path to redistributionist Nirvana.
This is not the purpose of our government at all, and it never has been. But what's most bothersome about all of it is not that Hillary and her ilk believe that their role in governance is charity. What's most bothersome is that they actually believe that government is, or even could be, good at it.
Government is wasteful. If it were measured as a charity, a business, or any other institution, it would undeniably be deemed an inefficient mess.
The government's balance sheet is wildly out of whack, with nearly $20 trillion in debt, with almost half of that accrued in Obama's tenure alone. Social Security is in peril, and Medicare is in even worse shape, and (surprise, surprise!) the only suggestions to make them more viable involve demanding that rich people pay more to the government to keep these Titanics afloat amid the demographic icebergs of reality. Obamacare has proven to be an absolute disaster; not only didn't it allow Americans to keep their doctor, but prices and health care premiums are rising at unprecedented levels. People, and particularly people in poverty, whom this redistributionist government is meant to serve, are more unhappy, anxious, and angry than ever.
There is nothing good that can come of us giving more money to the Wizards of D.C., allowing them to take more of our money behind the curtain and funnel it through distribution channels to special interests in the guise of the "greater good" of public redistribution. This practice has been tried and has proven to be ineffective, expensive, and not least of all, an anathema to the very concept of liberty.
Don't believe me? Barack Obama has, for the last few years, taken in more revenue in tax receipts than at any time in American history that came before. Why, if lack of ample taxation and government revenue is the problem, has government debt continued to climb these past years? Why is the debt needle not moving the other direction? Why is Hillary Clinton back at the pulpit telling the country that we need more revenue from rich people, who need to pay their "fair share," and that, somehow, more tax revenue is the answer to all our problems?
Donald Trump said in the debate that he is proposing "the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan." The beauty of Reagan's tax cuts, and the prosperity they fostered, is that they put wealth, and the decisions of what to do with it, in the hands of people who have a vested interest in being wise and efficient with their money – namely, businesses and individuals.
Business and individuals just like you.
Is your money not better serving your families and communities in your hands, rather than the government's? If it is not, why do you write off you mortgage interest every year rather than sending it to the federal coffers?
Trump did likewise, and he has kept more money in his own hands. He explained why he did it over a year ago. "I fight like hell to pay as little as possible for two reasons," he said:
Number one, I'm a businessman. And that's the way you're supposed to do it, and you put the money back into your company and your employees, and all of that. But the other reason is I hate the way the government spends our taxes. I hate the way they waste our money. Trillions and trillions of dollars of waste, and I hate it.
That's the message. It is better that money be in our hands than the government's, plain and simple. And Trump shouldn't stray from it when it comes to his taxes.
William Sullivan can be followed on Twitter.