The Shadow Government To Which Donald Trump Loves To Pay Taxes
Ever since the news came out this weekend, confirmed by Donald Trump’s own bragging about it, that Trump likely made billions of dollars of income while paying no tax at all, for years, there’s been a counter-reaction to the story. After the initial outrage, some Americans have begun to express a kind of respect for Trump’s massive avoidance of civic responsibility. Trump supporters sprout wicked grins before telling reporters, “I like to pay less on my taxes too. If I could figure out a way not to pay any taxes, I would, so why should we ask anything different from Donald Trump?”
Every time I hear this, I worry about the moral reasoning behind tax avoidance. I struggle to pay my taxes, but I do my best to pay them, making sacrifices in the quality of my life in order to do so. I do this because I recognize that I depend upon the democratically-established government to keep society running effectively. We all do, and at least in this country we have the power, through elections and other mechanisms of democracy, to have some say about how the collective investment is directed. Finding sneaky ways to avoid contributing to society isn’t just selfish. It’s disrespectful to democracy itself.
When I think about the issue more deeply, I realize that Donald Trump isn’t really avoiding paying taxes completely. What he’s doing is avoiding paying taxes to America’s official, above-the-board, democratically-elected government.
Trump doesn’t merely want for wealthy people like himself to pay no taxes. He wants big businesses and rich American dynasties to both pay no taxes and to control the government with their money. In order to make this possible, Trump is happy to pay a form of taxes to a form of shadow government, one that stands behind American democratic government, warping its activities for its own benefit.
Trump brags that he has been able to buy control over local, state, and national government by making contributions to politicians in return for political favors. Trump makes many of these payments, and in return, he gets special individualized services to help him expand his wealth. These payoffs to politicians can be thought of as a kind of alternative tax.
Donald Trump isn’t the only person who does this. Other wealthy people do it too, as do powerful international corporations. They purchase control over members of Congress, and over the President, with unlimited “independent expenditures” flowing between networks of committees and foundations that have become impossible to track.
These corrupt payments amount to taxes to a shadow government of elected officials who serve elite donors rather than American voters. If you make a $20 contribution to a congressional campaign fund, you help the election a bit, but you don’t buy any political access in return. When Donald Trump pays $20,000 to a shadow PAC supporting that same congressional candidate, he obtains a bundle of access. For the shadow government set up through this system of taxation-by-independent-expenditure, votes count a lot less than dollars.
Donald Trump hasn’t really been choosing not to pay taxes. He’s been choosing to pay taxes to this shadow government of plutocracy rather than to America’s democracy. For decades, Donald Trump has been helping to establish a rotten system that abuses working people for the benefit of the small number of individuals and corporations who control most of the wealth. He has been a member of an elitist movement that undermines government of the people at every opportunity.
Donald Trump has characterized himself as an outsider who is challenging political elites, but his history of paying shadow taxes shows that he is nothing of the sort. He’s one of a small number of insiders who have been creating an undemocratic shadow government controlling the U.S.A. By running for President on a platform of practically eliminating above-the-board taxes on the wealthy, Donald Trump is merely moving to consolidate his power, by bringing the official American government and the plutocratic shadow government together, under his own tight fist.