Trump's Taxes, Hillary's Transcripts, Bernie's Truth Telling

Voters are fed up with runaway inequality and the policies which foster it. The super-rich have created a rigged economic system. We are being financially strip-mined by economic elites.

American capitalism took a drastic turn for the worse in the late 1970s when a new set of policies caught the fancy of politicians and pundits. Academics call it neo-liberalism. The idea was deceptively simple. Cut taxes, cut regulations, cut government social programs, and the economy will boom -- all boats will rise.

Both parties drank the Kool-Aid: Get the government out of the economy! The era of big government is over! Cut taxes to increase incentives for hard work! End welfare as we know it! Deregulate corporations so they can better compete! Let the free-market reign supreme, (especially on Wall Street!)

While policy makers and academics heralded the new economic philosophy, economic elites saw it for what it really was -- open season to slop at the government trough. The rich, large corporations, real estate moguls and financiers lobbied again and again for tax breaks, subsidies, and shady schemes that would divert public funds into their pockets.

As a result, the wage gap between the top 100 CEOs compared to the average worker climbed from $45 to $1 in 1970 to an obscene $844 to $1 in 2014. (From

  • As a result, the rich and large corporations hide trillions of dollars abroad paying miniscule taxes, if any.
  • As a result, the richest country in the history of the world, can't afford lead-free water for its children or health care for all.
  • As a result, we have a presidential race where two of the major candidates -- Trump and Hillary -- are living off of this colossal neo-liberal ripoff. Only Bernie is playing it straight.

Trump's Taxes
The Donald doesn't want us to see his tax returns. Maybe that's because it would show he's not as rich as he claims. But that's not the biggest problem. He can always explain away lower numbers by saying the evaluations on his many properties wildly fluctuate. And he will still seem plenty rich compared to the rest of us.

The real problem is that he probably pays very little in taxes. After years of the neo-liberal carving up of the governmental carcass, real estate interests have received all manner of deductions and tax subsidies. It may even be possible that he has what amounts to a negative income tax rate -- that he's getting money back, rather than paying any taxes at all. Like other billionaires, Trump definitely does not want us to see how greedy he actually is.

This is deja vu 2012, when Mitt Romney took a very long time to release his tax returns. Why? Because Mitt and his high priced lawyers were tinkering with his numbers to actually raise his tax rate to 14% so that he would not look like a tax cheat compared to the rest of us.

Trump's first line of defense is that "it's none of your business." He will also say that as a businessman he strives to pay as little as possible, just like everyone else. And as president, he'll know all the tricks so he can help the little guy from getting screwed.

But the sad truth is that he's been sucking the system dry for decades.

The Wall Street Transcripts
While Trump is so clearly connected to the "tax cut" part of the rigged economy, the transcripts of Hillary's Wall Street speeches would reveal her deep attachment to the "financial deregulation" part of the neo-liberal nightmare. She was the Senator from Wall Street. Her husband accelerated the deregulation of finance. In fact, under his watch, prudent New Deal controls were eviscerated, including the end of Glass-Steagall.

It's not just that Hillary received $675k for three Goldman Sachs speeches, or that its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, invested in her son-in-law's failing hedge fund, or even that her campaign gobbles up Wall Street donations. All of that is bad, but the most distressing part is that she believes these are the good guys -- her partners in "breaking all barriers." They will help her rebuild our economy...heaven help us.

  • Hillary and Wall Street do not want a financial transaction tax to fund free higher education.
  • Hillary and Wall Street do not want to break up the big banks.
  • Hillary and Wall Street believe in the neoliberal myth that a bigger and bigger financial sector is good for us all.

So as leading presidential candidates, we've got a tax cheat and a Wall Street true believer, both symbolizing how runaway inequality is ruining our society.

And then there's Bernie
He's the only candidate who never, for one second, bought the trickle-down ideology. Instead of tax cuts for the rich, he wants them to pay more, especially the" billionaire class." Not only does he favor more Wall Street regulation but he wants to bust them up -- the sooner the better. And rather than selling off the public sector bit by bit to greedy investors, he wants Medicare for All and free higher education.

That's why in poll after poll, the self-declared democratic socialist is beating the capitalistic pants off of selfish Trump. That's why Bernie is giving the Clinton machine a run for its money.

More and more Americans, especially young people and independents, are flocking to the one candidate who really wants to put an end to the financial strip-mining. Finally, we have a politician who never slobbered at the governmental trough. Finally, we have a politician who really wants to reverse runaway inequality.

Stop Attacking Hillary!
Oh I know. I've been told repeatedly that I shouldn't be saying these things about Hillary, or keeping up the hopes of the Bernie youth corps. I'm only hurting her chances against the evil that is Trump.

Yes, he's despicable, destructive and dangerous. But even if all the Bernie writers just penned loving odes to the wonders of "breaking all barriers," it would not move the needle towards Hillary. She teamed up with Wall Street and that's her problem, not Bernie's.

Actually, the problem is ours. Because of her infatuation with financial elites, and her willingness to take their money and promote their causes, we may get the calamity that is Trump.

It may be the 11th hour, but a big Bernie win in California could prevent that disaster .

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute in New York is working with unions, worker centers and community organization to build a national economics educational campaign. His latest book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice (Oct 2015), is a text for that effort. All proceeds go to support this educational campaign.