I was right there with you, watching that disaster unfold on the Rachel Maddow show last night. Not to brag, but I had a sneaking suspicion it wasn’t going to live up to the hype even before the show started:

In general, if something is truly-earth shattering news, they will tell you about it right away, not tease it out with a countdown clock. That’s why election night coverage isn’t: “You’ll be shocked when you see who won the Presidency! Details at 11.”

David Cay Johnston, the journalist who says he received the tax forms in the mail, allowed that it was possible that Trump himself might have leaked them. However, the fact that Trump has tweeted angrily about it afterwards has led people to think that he probably didn’t leak them after all:

People, in my opinion, are way too gullible.  The wording of Trump’s tweet is highly suspicious. For one thing, he phrases it in the form of a question–he doesn’t say it didn’t happen; he just asks if people believe it.

Now, I admit: I myself am a bit skeptical of Johnston’s story. He says he got a package in the mail that contained these tax returns.  Apparently, he doesn’t know who sent it to him or how they obtained it.  Which would raise questions as to its veracity, except that the White House almost immediately verified it last night!

Either Johnston is an idiot who didn’t think it was worth looking into why he got the President’s tax returns in the mail–very unlikely, since he’s a Pulitzer-winning journalist–or he’s lying to protect a source.

So, Trump (a) knew immediately that it really was his 2005 1040 form and (b) questioned Johnston’s story as to how he got it. This strongly suggests that Trump knows perfectly well how Johnston got it–which in turn suggests that some agent acting on orders from Trump gave it to him.

As Johnston himself admitted, the tax forms are actually favorable to Trump. They prove he did pay taxes for at least that one year, and show little evidence of nefarious dealings.

The end result is that Rachel Maddow got humiliated. (I’m sorry; I usually like Maddow’s work a lot, but she really screwed up here.) More importantly, though, Trump can now use this episode as an excuse to brush off all further questions about his taxes. Journalists won’t ask about it because they don’t want to screw up like Maddow did.

And what’s worse is that if anyone does somehow get hold of more of his taxes, people will be less inclined to pay attention to it. “It’s another publicity stunt,” they’ll say.

It’s true: I’ve always found the whole Trump-won’t-release-his-taxes story to be a bit overhyped. Yes, it was bad and a violation of historical precedent that he didn’t release them. But, on the list of “things that are bad and violate historical precedent” that Trump has done, it’s far from the worst.

And then there’s fact that there can’t be anything that damning in them.  They are taxes. They go to the Federal government. Logically, Trump is not going to put down anything illegal that he might be doing in his taxes.

As a thought experiment, let’s say the absolute worst conspiracy theories about Trump are true, and he’s actually colluding with the Russian government.  He’s not going to put that in his taxes.  There is no box that asks “Are you a spy for Russia?” on tax forms.

Furthermore, any circumstantial evidence that would suggest illegal activity by Trump, he would also not put in his taxes. If someone is already willing to commit crimes, he’s not going to hesitate to commit tax fraud to cover them up.

I’m not saying Trump has done any of this, but even if he has, there won’t be hard evidence of it in his taxes. At best, there might be circumstantial evidence, which Trump can dismiss with a simple “FAKE NEWS. Sad!” tweet.

President Obama–the same President Obama who is allegedly engaging in “class warfare” and supposedly out to tax “job-creators”–has announced a plan to “lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%.” Read all about it.

One thing to keep in mind before arguing about what this plan means is that it is a plan that is being proposed. Meaning that if anything ever does come of it, it will probably be completely different than it is now, once all the different interests have hashed it out.

But, just for fun, let’s talk about it. Apparently, idea is that in exchange for these tax cuts, “corporations would have to give up dozens of loopholes and subsidies that they now enjoy. Corporations with overseas operations would also face a minimum tax on their foreign earnings“, according to the Associated Press article.

Okay, but here’s the thing: ultimately whether it comes under the label “taxes”, “loopholes”, “subsidies” or what have you, there is ultimately only one question: do the corporations get more money as a result of this plan or less? I’d like to see some sort of estimated balance sheet that gives some idea whether corporations, if treated as a monolith, win or lose from this plan. I won’t hold my breath, though, because it’s going to be virtually impossible to get good reporting on that.

More to the point, even if you somehow did find that out, we would then have to drill down into the details of which corporations will lose and which will win, and then try to figure out if they’re the right ones. Which is always a gamble, because it’s basically the same problem as trying to pick winners. And then of course, as the AP article points out it is unlikely that any of this will happen in an election year, and thus, even assuming Obama does get re-elected, it’s unknown what the Congress will look like next year.

This is why the idea of getting rid of the whole tax code appeals to people. It appealed to me, in my Libertarian days, until I realized that since taxes in some form are necessary to run a government, there would have to be new one installed, and in the course of installing it, all the same problems would immediately recur.

While we’re on the topic, why is Obama doing this, if such a class-warrior he is? Is he just as beholden to the corporate interests as his Republican opponents. I don’t know, but I know some Democrats who are going to think so.

Long-time readers might remember when I asked the question “was Theodore Roosevelt a socialist?” I said at the time that I thought T.R. “was merely a pragmatist, and found that the easiest way to thwart radical socialism was to allow for moderate socialism.” The same argument could apply here, if we ask “is Obama out to aid the corporations?”* Well, yes, but not as much as the Republicans are. The easiest way to thwart radical corporate tax cuts is to allow for moderate ones.


*I did not ask “is Obama a Capitalist?” for reasons which are long and complicated. The short version is that, in my view, very few people can actually be said to be “capitalist”, as almost all countries, governments, and corporations engage in some scheme of artificial wealth redistribution, which, according to some Republicans makes them “socialist”. By their definition, almost everything short of anarchy is socialism. Also, of course, helping corporations isn’t quite the same as being a capitalist, but it’s not being a socialist either.