“We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” — Leona Helmsley
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. there are 36 days to go until Election Day, and then 78 days until the Inauguration.
I know I’m dating myself with a reference to Helmsley, whose reign as the “Queen of Mean,” in the 1980s has been eclipsed by so many more deplorable villains. At the height of her notoriety, Forbes later wrote, “she was as big as Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian.”
Her comment that “Only little people pay taxes became America’s version of ‘let them eat cake.’” In 1992, she was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion.
Unlike Trump, Helmsley was not considered a “populist,” in any sense of that tortured word. And yet, her attitude toward the rich paying taxes will become a talking-point throughout TrumpWorld today.
Trump paid virtually nothing in taxes? It was because he was so smart. This is what hyper-successful businessmen do.
Actually, no. Trump avoided the taxes because he lost so much money and because his businesses were on the brink. The New York Times reports that “his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed.”
So now we know why he has fought so long and hard to keep the taxes secret. It is not just that he paid only $750 in income taxes in 2017, or that he paid zero income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. We pretty much knew (or suspected) that.
These tax documents “tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public.”
Here is the killer line:
“Ultimately,” writes The Times, “Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.”
I’ll leave it to others to figure whether this “matters,” but it is worth noting that for a substantial number of his voters in 2016, Trump’s business acumen was one of his most attractive selling points. It was always a swindle, but he created an aura of success and even competence.
We’ve had four years to see how that worked out, but the new revelations paint a picture of flim-flam all the way down.
According to The Times, his long-concealed tax records “reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on ‘The Apprentice’— that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.”
This is the key takeaway from the New York Times story:
It’s not just the taxes.
It’s the failure and the fraud; a reminder that pretty much everything about Trump is a ruse, especially the populism of a man who evidently thinks that paying taxes is for losers and suckers.
You should read the whole story, but suffice it to say, it is filled with dazzling details like this:
Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs — including fuel and meals — associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties. Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.
Undoubtedly, this is what the disaffected working class voters from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan were hoping for when they backed him four years ago, right?
Then there is the question of the $300 million debt. Who does he owe it to? And how is that shaping his presidential kleptocracy?
Many of us knew it was all a lie back then. But the last four years have revealed it time and time again.
They never cared about ensuring that the forgotten man got a bigger slice of the pie. They never considered running up their own tab to give a hand up to the working stiff.
Trump and Bannon just wanted to be the ones on the inside running the scam. Making sure they got theirs.
The tax returns are the final reveal that proves the case. And now Joe Biden has all he needs in the final weeks of the campaign to reveal the con to the “losers and suckers” whom Donald Trump forgot about.
The numbers are relatable. Stories about billions and trillions can make voters’ eyes gaze over. But by a weird alchemy of politics, smaller numbers can have a bigger impact because average folks can easily put them into context.
Check out Twitter today, as people compare their tax bills.
And on and on and on…
How is this playing? Here is Drudge (which was once basically the assignment editor for right wing media):
Biden is wasting no time.
White knuckle polling update: ICYMI, four polls over the weekend.
*NYT/Siena had Biden up 49-41… and a solid majority of voters saying that the senate should wait until after the election to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.
*Wapo/ABC had Biden up by 10 among registered voters and up by six among likely voters.
A sizable gender gap continues to fuel Biden’s lead, with women making the difference in the current state of the race. Trump has a lead of 55 percent to 42 percent among male likely voters, but Biden has an even larger 65 percent to 34 percent advantage among female likely voters. Trump’s lead among men is about the same as his margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Biden’s lead among women is more than twice as large as Clinton’s was then.
*NBC/Marist poll had Biden up big-ishly in Michigan and Wisconsin.
WASHINGTON — Majorities of likely voters in Michigan and Wisconsin say the winner of the 2020 presidential election should get to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Democrat Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in both states.
Those are the results of two new NBC News/Marist polls of these two battleground states, which show Biden ahead of Trump by 8 points among likely voters in Michigan, 52 percent to 44 percent, and by 10 points in Wisconsin, 54 percent to 44 percent.
*CBS poll showed tight races in Georgia (!) and North Carolina.
Noteworthy endorsements. ICYMI: Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge broke ranks over the weekend.
Speaking of endorsements:
There are 36 days to go.
1. Wisconsin Went Full Malkin. You Never Go Full Malkin.
Make sure you read my friend James Wigderson today in the Bulwark. (James is the editor of Right Wisconsin, which I founded about five centuries ago.)
Regardless of the embrace of Rittenhouse’s mother by Republicans, the more disturbing figure in attendance was Malkin herself.
Malkin was formerly on the roster of speakers for the Young America’s Foundation (YAF). She was let go last year after she began speaking at alt-right events defending “the Groypers” and their anti-Semitic leader Nick Fuentes. She encouraged their attacks on “Conservative, Inc.” and defended them as their “mommy.” She is also a defender of the “Proud Boys,” the right’s violence-in-the-streets answer to Antifa.
We shouldn’t be surprised about Malkin’s “turn” to the anti-Semitic right. This is the same Malkin who parachuted into Ryan’s district in 2016 to endorse racist Paul Nehlen in the GOP primary. Nehlen restricted his insults to Hispanics during that race, but by 2018 he had embraced anti-Semitism, too, and even Breitbart News had to stop backing him.
2. Make It About The Election
Barrett’s nomination and the rush to install her ahead of November 3 are all about the election. Period.
So, why are the Democrats so intent on pretending otherwise? President Trump and his top Republican allies in the Senate aren’t. They are brazenly upfront about their belief that Barrett should be confirmed to resolve any disputes over the 2020 elections in Trump’s favor.
“I think this [the election] will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” Trump said last Wednesday. “I think it’s better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling—it’s a scam—this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham backed him up on that count, too. “Now, we may have litigation about who won the election, but the Court will decide and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result.” Emphasis on how Graham deliberately said, “the Court will decide.”
1. Just Land The Plane, People
2. An Obligatory Biff Tannen Reference
(Actually, the writer of ‘Back To the Future” has said that Biff was modelled on Trump. His dystopian vision, however, did not include electing Biff president of the United States.)
1. Can We Stop America’s Free Fall?
It is quite telling that when Trump talks about throwing out ballots, or refuses to commit to a peaceful transitional power, elected Republicans remain silent. No doubt they believe, correctly, that their base is more attached to Trump than to democracy.
All the professorial pieties about guardrails holding and the strength of our institutions are increasingly self-delusional. The Constitution is not self-executing; absent a critical mass of politicians and citizens determined to uphold it, it is simply another piece of paper.
As the institutions of democracy fail, so does the popular understanding of what democracy is—and the means or will to protect it. Too few Americans venerate the Bill of Rights or understand the separation of powers. Too many long for a strongman to control the political other.