If you watched Donald Trump’s speech in Pueblo — and let me now speak in praise of C-SPAN, which is how I watched it — you saw a remarkable thing.
Trump didn’t deny anything in the New York Times blockbuster scoop on his 1995 tax returns, which showed that he claimed losses of $916 million — you know, like nearly a billion dollars — losses that he apparently was able to use in order to avoid paying federal tax for as many as 20 years.
Trump not only didn’t deny it. He embraced it. It’s why he’s running to be president of the United States, he says. Just as he used rich-guy tax loopholes to rebuild his own business, he would use … something … to rebuild the United States.
“The unfairness of the tax laws is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been talking about for a long time, despite, frankly, being a big beneficiary of the laws. But I’m working for you now. I’m not working for Trump. Believe me.”
So, there it is. He’s “brilliant,” as he told the crowd. He has unique “talent” — “lot of talent,” as he told the crowd. Only he — “I, alone” — can fix the country. He came back in business and, believe him, he’ll pull the country back to greatness. (He didn’t mention, as the Washington Post did, that the effective tax for real estate entrepreneurs is 1 percent. Not as good as zero, but still pretty good.)
To Trump’s credit, he didn’t call himself a “genius,” as his surrogate sycophants had done over the weekend. Modesty apparently forbade him from going past “brilliant.” Of course, we’re still five weeks out from Election Day.
And even though we learned so much about his business brilliance from three pages of a 1995 state income tax return mailed anonymously to the New York Times, Trump continues to insist there’s nothing more to learn if only he would release the rest of his tax returns as every other major party candidate over the last 40 years has done.
But he nonetheless did take the Times-provided opportunity to explain how he “brilliantly” took advantage of the tax codes, which only he can fix because no one knows how to manipulate taxes like he does.
It’s not just anyone, Trump explained to the cheering crowd, who could run his business badly enough to lose nearly a billion dollars — which he blamed on a Clinton-era housing recession, although Trump’s losses were from 1993 when Clinton had just entered the White House — and then take advantage of the big-investor-real-estate loopholes to avoid paying taxes over nearly two decades of federal-tax-free billionaire living.
That he lost other people’s money, that he stiffed ordinary workers, that he stiffed small businesses that he nearly ruined, that he didn’t apparently foresee the market bubble, that he lost four businesses to bankruptcy, that he paid back debts with pennies to the dollar, that (according to yet another New York Times story) he borrowed tens of millions from siblings and (we know the story) his father bought $3 million of uncashed chips as a loan (a loan that’s not exactly kosher) is all apparently beside the point.
That it shows, as Bernie Sanders couldn’t wait to point out, how the system is rigged in favor of people like Donald Trump, is the point. Of course it’s rigged. No one knows that like Trump knows that. (Interesting, in a Monday night debate, Republican New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte called Trump a wonderful role model in response to a question, only to later say she “misspoke” and that he’s, well, Donald Trump and therefore no role model at all.)
Back to Pueblo. We haven’t got to the good part yet because this Pueblo rally was quite a show. At one point, Trump described Clinton as a “ringleader of a criminal enterprise that has corrupted our government.” The crowd chanted “lock her up,” and I half-expected Trump to go from calling her Crooked Hillary to Ma Clinton and instead of naming people killed by undocumented immigrants, as he usually does, he could go to the internet and name all those people killed by the Ma Clinton mob.
He told the crowd he was up in the polls in Colorado even thought that morning, a Monmouth poll had him losing by 11 points. Brilliant.
But the most brilliant bit was Trump’s insistence that what the New York Times story really shows is that he’s the “comeback kid.” That when the chips are down, when his back is to the wall, he’s the guy you can depend on.
“Many people have said over the years I perform better under pressure than anyone they have ever seen,” Trump said.
He was down a billion. Well, America is down $20 trillion (although with all the assets it needs, but that’s another story.) He came back, and now, many people say, he can bring America back, even though the polls show him slipping badly after his terrible debate night and the Miss Piggy/Miss Universe fiasco.
He doesn’t say exactly how he would bring America back to greatness, except to renegotiate trade deals, keep out immigrants, build a wall and use his secret plan to defeat ISIS. Trump’s plan for his own business empire was to stiff a lot of people, to join the so-called 47 percent who don’t pay federal taxes, star in a reality-TV show and license his name on buildings and steaks and vodka and Trump University.
Would he license America’s name? (It’s already on a lot of buildings, although rarely in neon.) Would he provide all taxpayers with the Trump deal and make Mexico pay for it?
It’s no wonder Trump is up all night. He’s got plans. And the beauty of America is that you could lose a billion here or there and no one would even notice.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr.