The New York Times deserves a Laurel and Hardy handshake for its 18-month investigation that led to a “bombshell” story (in the words of many breathless broadcast reporters) about the finances of President Donald Trump and his family. The people who took the time to read the story and associated material came away two important points: 1) the Trump family had and continues to have lots of money, and 2) the president engages in bombastic and shameless self-promotion. If you found either of these revelations startling and new, then rest assured that someone on a back street in New York can arrange for you to purchase the Brooklyn Bridge at a reasonable price.
Media organizations across the land were not happy when Trump refused to turn over all of his tax records, The New York Times included. The Gray Lady, as with many a scorned woman, set out to extract her revenge, obtaining by hook or by crook tens of thousands of Trump family documents and tax records going back to when the president was a toddler.
People who report about people with money know they are like the rest of us in some ways and not like the rest of us in other ways. People with money like their money, just like the rest of us. People with money want to keep all of their money, just like the rest of us. Unlike many of the rest of us, people with money have people who will help them meet their financial goals to make more money and keep it.
The question then becomes: so where’s the story?
The paper also wants us to gasp in horror at Trump’s outlandish claims that sometimes sound like Dr. Evil in group therapy (“My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon. Luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets.”). Again, people who report about New York real estate developers know that inflated claims of greatness and wealth are part of the game, the shtick, where only the most pompous and pretentious survive. Trump, as we know, did quite well on the mean and gilded streets of the Big Apple.
So where’s the story?
The real story is about the complete failure on the part of state and federal tax auditors, the folks whose only job is to sift through tax records in search of funny business. People with “huge” financial assets sometimes wonder why tax auditors come knocking every few years. It’s because something raised a red flag, like, say, a three-year-old earning a yearly salary of $200,000.
I know a man who was not vastly wealthy, but he was doing all right. A new IRS auditor showed up every year to examine his books. The auditor was not looking for errors or fraud. The IRS sent new auditors to this man for training, because his books were examples of how to keep good records and what to look for from people who didn’t keep good records.
In the end, The New York Times wanted the public to see how rich people get rich; how rich people hang on to their riches; and that Trump is a grandiose, overblown, egotistical (and successful) rich man. At the same time, the paper prefers that the public does not look behind the curtain and ask why auditors failed to question what the paper says are incidents of long-term financial and tax fraud committed by the president and his family going back a generation.
The paper also prefers that no one ask how its reporters could turn up tens of thousands of pages of financial and tax documents going back decades related to the current president but have yet to find a single page from a college transcript belonging to the former president.
Mundus vult decipi – the world wants to be deceived.
(Originally published on American Thinker on October 4, 2018)