With apologies to Benjamin Franklin who usually gets credit for the “death and taxes” line…I’ll admit I don’t know enough about the IRS to assert that Donald Trump has broken the law, though it appears that his refusal to share his tax returns may mask crimes or violations that would be not merely embarrassing but exclusionary to his currently held office. Still, as we all know, he is not obliged to share those documents.
The talk among experts is that he has jobbed the system, but whether the machinations reach the level of crime we can’t seem to ascertain. It seems reasonable to infer that there are facts that Trump wants to remain hidden. Add to that his boast that he could kill somebody in the middle of Manhattan and nobody would arrest him, and I wonder just how damning these facts might be: he brags about his impunity and struts about spewing bold silliness, he remains fearful of releasing his taxes.
As with my knowledge of the IRS, I don’t know enough about immigration either (although all of us are learning fast). I know that calling America a land of immigrants has become more of a meme to needle Trump than an expression we consider deeply, but I say that with no cynicism: we are, indeed, a land of immigrants.With that in mind, I wish the American people and their elected officials would attack Trump’s tax history with the same ferocity with which he seems bent on closing our borders. Instead we’ve relegated that responsibility to an ethics group, to journalists (on whom Trump has already declared war) and to bloggers (who write in more than 140-word projectile tweets and therefore outstrip the “president’s” attention span).
The talk this morning, a scant week after one of the the most botched and embarrassing executive orders in history, centers on a new plan to shore up the borders. If it is well thought-out and enforceable as it pertains to actual human beings on a case-by-case basis, then fine. He is, after all, the so-called president; and we are a nation of laws. But someone like Trump who cannot countenance compromise will not go that way. Instead we will face a zero-tolerance approach which will rip families apart and leave parents and children in untenable positions.
I have always maintained, even in the classroom, that zero-tolerance is an abdication of responsibility. When teachers do it they give up their decision-making skills which adulthood is supposed to have provided. When a politician does it, the result is the same: decisions become little more than rote restatements of others’ decisions—the work has already been done. Remember, the judges who overturned the Muslim Ban actually used judgment. We can certainly hold ourselves responsible for doing the same.
So here we are with two seemingly disparate problems, both of which come down to the rule of law and how far we’re willing to go to enforce it. Trump seems willing to the ends of the earth to fulfill a pointless and frivolous campaign promise about immigrants. I wonder why we’re not willing to hold our representatives accountable for the same kind of pertinacity in seeking Trump’s financial disclosures. He is not above the law: he merely thinks he is.