Monday, October 3, 2016

The 2016 Election & America's Trust Issues

Donald Trump has continued to fascinate, baffle, and enrage Americans as he infiltrated the American political system, repeatedly revoked traditional political norms, and continuously makes headlines with his nonstop shenanigans.  Like many other Americans, my initial reaction to the Trump campaign was laughter. I enjoyed every Republican primary debate as I watched Trump mock and immaturely attack other candidates. Over the last few months, the humor of the situation has slowly disappeared. I am now terrified at the thought of Trump becoming my president. I am horrified that he will send our country back 30 years socially. Instead of continuing our current upward trend of social progression, we will be stuck arguing over reproductive rights, same sex marriage, and bathroom bills for the next 8 years.

Despite my fear of Trump, I do not think Hillary Clinton in infallible. I believe that she will continue building upon the progressive social policies the Obama administration has accomplished. I do not think she is perfect, but I do believe she is currently the most qualified candidate for the presidency. (Obama does too.) Despite my abhorrence of Trump, I am continuously trying to understand the perspective of his voters. How can someone ignore his prejudice comments and support of structurally racist policies? In an attempt to gain a more neutral view on Donald, I read two different news articles (one liberal source and one from a conservative source) about the same topic: Trump’s admittal of tax evasion.

On October 2nd, The Washington Times published the article: Donald Trump’s team says his huge tax write-off shows ‘absolute genius’. This conservative news source highlights Trump’s ingenuity and business prowess:

“Mr. Trump’s a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the campaign said in a statement. “That being said,Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes, along with very substantial charitable contributions. Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.”

The article even raises the point that the request for Trump’s tax return actually “violates people’s privacy vis-a-vis the government”.  
Clinton’s tax returns are also discussed in the same article:
“Mrs. Clinton has released years of federal income tax returns filed jointly by herself and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, which included some eyebrow-raising deductions. The Clintons previously claimed charitable donations of clothes, including Mr. Clinton’s used underwear, valued at as much as $2 each. In their 2015 return, they deducted charitable donations, including a $1 million donation to the Clinton Family Foundation, which distributes money to various charities, including to the Clinton Foundation, which pays for some of the Clintons’ expenses such as travel.”
The article concludes with the point that Clinton is only pointing out this issue because she doesn’t want the media discussing her own problems.  There was one statement that included a financial figure:
“A 1996 state tax return obtained by The New York Times showed Mr. Trump claiming a $916 million net operating loss. The massive deduction could have shielded him from any tax liability for up to 18 years, according to tax experts.”
The remajority of the article discussed the allegations without any numbers or figures but statements from financial advisors and tax reformists. The Washington Post highlighted the legality of Trump’s tax avoidance and also stated that Trump never actually admit to any of the allegations.

On the same day, The Boston Globe published an article on the same hot topic: Trump fires back after tax revelations. This liberal news source contains a much different spin on the story - it describes the same incident as “ a new disclosure that shook the presidential race and capped an extraordinarily damaging week for Trump’s campaign.” This article attempts to use this information to argue that Trump may not be the expert business man that he claims to be.
The article discusses numerous situation in Trump’s career where he has had to apply for bankruptcy and losses due to Trump’s failed casino and airline endeavours.  The Boston Globe also attempts to explain why Trump is avoiding the release of his tax returns:
“The release of Trump’s returns would help determine several other lingering questions, beyond simply what taxes he might have paid. The return could show potential financial entanglements he might have with countries he would be negotiating with as president, for example. It could also provide indications of his net worth, as well as whether he is making the charitable donations that he has long claimed but so far have gone unproven.”
The article concludes with a infographic about “what he [Trump] might have paid and when” that highlights that Trump is suspected to not have paid income taxes for approximately 18 years.

Reading about Trump’s tax evasion reminded of the publicized tax evasion case of actor Wesley Snipes. This New York Times article provides a breakdown of the case and claims that Snipes “had become an unlikely public face for the tax denier movement”. The article also argues that “Instead of prosecuting all offenders, the Justice Department brings cases against well-known individuals, hoping that widespread news coverage will encourage compliance, a policy known as general deterrence.”
I’m not claiming to know the legal intricacies of the United States tax code. Regardless, I do wonder why Wesley Snipes was chosen as a “well-known individuals” instead of someone like Donald Trump. Could Snipes race be a factor? Is anyone considering jailing Trump? Despite committing the same offense, Trump somehow avoids prosecution by going through legal loopholes.

One could argue that Trump is the modern day embodiment of Grinner’s S.C.W.A.(A).M.P. Trump is Straight, Christian, White, Able-Bodied, American, Male, and Property Owning. It seems like most of his appeal to voters appears to come from this attributes. His prejudice comments accentuate his whiteness and american citizenship - he spent 5 years questioning President Obama’s citizenship status. His maleness is extremely apparent (especially considering his history with female beauty pageants). Trump constantly references his numerous properties and assets as a symbol of his ability to run a country. Does Trump's appeal come from the alignment of his identity with S.C.W.A.(A).M.P.? The political cartoon below points out the privilege that Trump experiences due to his whiteness. Trump is allowed to make bold claims and critique the U.S.A. however he wishes. Meanwhile, athletes of color have received absurd media backlash and criticism for doing the same thing. Does Trump's S.C.W.A.(A).M.P. privileges carry into the media's reaction to his tax evasion?

Debatably more interesting than both of these articles were the comments - it seems like that people speak their personal, unfiltered truths through anonymous usernames on comment pages.

Washington Post commenter Moon2 argued in favor on Trump’s tax decisions:
"It does show genius. I can't tell you how jealous I am. Giving one red cent to the absolutely corrupt federal government and politicized thoroughly corrupt IRS-Nazis is like throwing money at the enemy of the American people to be wasted and abused at their folly."
Boston Globe commenter, MissionAccomplished2003 heavily disagreed:
“As a businessman, Trump has been an abject failure who has been bailed out by taxpayers time and time again. Yet his supporters want to elect "The Face of Crony Capitalism" to fix the problem of crony capitalism.”
Both commenters display an extreme amount of distrust in our societal structures. Moon2 claims that our current issues are the fault of the “corrupt federal government”. MissionAccomplished2003 believes that “crony capitalism” is the major concern. I think the appeal for Trump may come from this important distinction.

One who is untrusting of the federal government would see Clinton as the embodiment of that organization and would therefore not trust her to lead the country. On the other hand, one who is untrusting of corporations and other large capitalist structures would see Trump as the embodiment of those organization and would therefore not trust him to lead the country.

What about the Americans who do not trust the federal government or capitalist corporations? Who should they vote for? Will we have another Ralph Nader Fiasco in which a 3rd party candidate takes votes from the candidate most similar to them resulting in the victory of the candidate with the opposing views. Either way, this election is stressful and I cannot wait for it to be over. 

As a final comment, this music video, "F*ck Donald Trump" by YG & Nipsey Hussle has over 9 million views. (CAUTION: EXTREMELY INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE.) YG and Nipsey Hussle are two hip-hop artists who operate out of Los Angeles. Bloods and Crips are rival gangs in L.A. and most hoods in California. While YG is a Blood and Nipsey is a Crip, they have a common enemy— Donald Trump. Despite the harsh language, the song is about unity and coming together. YG says in his verse:
"It wouldn't be the USA without Mexicans
And if it's time to team up, sh*t, let's begin
Black love, brown pride in the sets again White people feel the same as my next of kin"
I believe that this song represents a subversive and unpublicized perspective shared by many Americans. As Nipsey Hussle says in his verse:
"I'm from a place where you prolly can't go Speakin' for some people that you prolly ain't know"
This song and these specific lyrics really make me think about candidate representation.
Who is Trump speaking for?  Who is Clinton speaking for? 
Are either candidates speaking for the communities that YG and Nipsey Hussle mention? 


  1. I love the song you included at the end of your blog. It is so amazing to me that these 2 rival gangs could come together to stand up for something they both stand for.

  2. "For the next 8 years!" Oh goodness! Hopefully if the "wrong" candidates gets in, there will be a better candidate to nominate in four! :) That is my hope at least. However, we haven't had a one-term President since the first President Bush. Just like the Patriots haven't been shut out at home since 1993. :(

    Your political cartoon with Trump and Kaepernick was extremely powerful. Both individuals are saying the same thing, but they are getting entirely different responses from the country. Your collection of articles/resources flowed nicely and sent a strong message.

  3. Mason...Very informative. You did put many issues in perspective. The idea that Trump fits the Grinner's S.C.W.A.A.M.P. Profile is right on.
    Your comment at the end of this blog made me think... Are they just puppets and will their cabinet members help improve our crucial issues?