“So now we know why Trump’s so desperate to stay in the White House,” joked Seth Meyers on Monday night. “He needs the free housing. He needs a place to crash. He’s your deadbeat friend who refused to get a job because he’s still working on his idea for an app that tells you which Chipotle locations have the hottest cashiers.”
Meyers took A Closer Look at the weekend’s big news on Monday, namely the first of several New York Times reports on nearly two decades’ worth of President Trump’s tax documents. Revelations included that Trump effectively paid zero income tax for 11 out of 18 years thanks to massive losses on several of his many businesses, and paid just $750 in each of his first two years in the White House. If that wasn’t enough, Trump also scooped a massive tax refund of over $72 million back out of government coffers in the last 10 years. (The refund is currently subject to a decade-long audit by the IRS.)
“And we know Trump is already under investigation by both the Manhattan DA and the New York State Attorney General, with the DA’s office even suggesting Trump could be indicted for tax fraud,” noted Meyers.
“But to my mind, what’s legal is just as much of a scandal here: Trump took advantage of a labyrinthine tax system designed to protect his wealth and shield him from consequences. In fact, he and his allies have long argued that rather than be ashamed of this behavior, he should be proud of it.”
In Trumper circles, the reaction has largely mirrored Trump’s response to Hillary Clinton in 2016, when she pointed out already public records showed he paid zero tax: “That makes me smart.”
“It doesn’t make you smart,” Meyers said bluntly, after playing that clip. “It makes you powerful. There are plenty of smart people who pay their taxes in full every year because they don’t have the armies of accountants and vampire lawyers that rich people like Trump or companies like Amazon have.
“Regular Americans can’t get away with this stuff because the law or the IRS would come down hard on them. A ProPublica investigation found that the five counties with the highest audit rates are all predominantly African American rural counties in the Deep South. Meanwhile, the Trumps and Amazons of the world skate by without any consequences and that’s because the system is rigged to protect them.”
Not for the first time, Meyers pointed out that while Trump himself is certainly a problem, he isn’t the problem. The extra scrutiny that’s rightly applied to a president who happens to be a gold-plated huckster also lays bare exactly how rigged that system is.
“Trump is not unique,” the Late Night host concluded. “He’s the product and enabler of a corrupt system that shields the wealthiest and most powerful in our society while crushing everyone else. Ninety-one companies paid no federal taxes in 2018 — companies like Amazon, Chevron, or Starbucks. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans are out of work facing eviction, struggling to afford health care and waiting in line at food banks.
“Trump and his allies don’t just benefit from that system. They’re trying to preserve it, which is why they’re so deeply invested in making sure he stays in power any way they can.”