David Cay Johnston

Defeated Donald Trump is already tearing our government apart

This article was paid for by Raw Story subscribers. Not a subscriber? Try us and go ad-free for $1. Prefer to give a one-time tip? Click here.

America is entering a very dangerous time. For his next 11 weeks in office, Donald Trump will be in a position to exact revenge, a word that by his own account is his entire life philosophy. We should all hope that he goes into one of his down emotional periods for an extended time so that lethargy, not blind rage, dominates his behavior until Jan. 20.

Through phony charges of ballot-box stuffing, firing officials, issuing pardons to friends and family and other acts Trump can do great damage between now and Inauguration Day, when his shield against criminal prosecution vanishes. He can also hobble the transition to a Biden administration.

Trump's first act of post-election political vandalism came in the wee hours Wednesday morning. He claimed the election was being stolen (video at 8:00) through "a major fraud on our nation." He has yet to show a scintilla of evidence to support that lie.

One of the most destabilizing things Trump could do is refuse to release, or severely limit, funds to pay for the transition to a Biden administration.

That's the kind of immoral rhetoric that damages faith in democracy and furthers the goals of Vladimir Putin who aims to undermine every major democracy because he considers self-governance a joke.

Three Firings

On Friday, while the election outcome was still uncertain, Trump abruptly removed three high-level officials, two women, and a man of color.

In a reckless move, Trump forced the resignation of Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who since 2018 had run the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency whose duties include keeping high-grade radioactive elements, known as fissile material, out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states. Trump's Energy Secretary, Dan Brouillette, wanted to cut the budget for this work while Gordon-Hagerty sought increased funding.

Senator James Inhofe, a far-right Republican from Oklahoma, criticized the Trump administration for going soft on keeping nuclear materials from rogue states and terrorist groups. "People who should be doing all they can to support the critical work of the NNSA are instead trying to undermine it," Inhofe said in September.

After Gordon-Haggerty was ousted, Inhofe challenged the competency of Energy Secretary Brouillette, a rare break with the obsequious deference to Team Trump by Republican lawmakers over the past four years. The firing, "demonstrates he [Brouillette] doesn't know what he's doing in national security matters," Inhofe said.

Trump also fired Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in what appears to be a move to ensure that Islamophobes exercise greater power in the agency.

The third appointee, Neil Chatterjee, was demoted, from the chairmanship of the powerful Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to being just one of the five commissioners. Running diversity training, which Trump generally banned by executive order, was behind the demotion, Chatterjee told the Washington Post. "Guilty as charged," he told EE News.

However, it wasn't diversity, but Trump's love of dirty coal that was behind Chatterjee's demotion, both Green Tech Media and The Wall Street Journal reported. Chatterjee had supported a tax on carbon, which economists across the spectrum have said for years would be the most efficient way to create incentives that speed the shift away from fossil fuels.

Spewing More Pollution

In his remaining weeks, Trump can also speed his many actions to spew more pollution under the guise of ending overly burdensome regulations. That's an issue DCReport has covered intensely for the last four years.

One of the most destabilizing things Trump could do is refuse to release, or severely limit, funds to pay for the transition to a Biden administration.

The General Services Agency is charged with funding the office needed to prepare for a new administration, including hiring hundreds of temporary workers, many of whom will end up working in the Biden administration.

And he could really hobble the new administration by refusing to provide or limit the availability of FBI agents and other investigators to run background checks on the roughly 4,000 political appointees of the incoming Biden administration.

Let's hope the next 70 some days are marked by golf, lazily watching Fox and Trump's now well-known executive incompetence so that the vandalism he does commit is random and repairable come 2021.

This is the face of radical-Republican contempt

Joe Biden just won more votes than anyone else in American history, but the next four years may go down in history as the stymied presidency. That's because it looks highly unlikely that the Democrats will get a majority in the Senate, leaving the chamber under the iron-fisted control of Mitch McConnell, patron saint of polluters and profiteers.

Even before noon on Jan. 20, 2021, Donald Trump will be in a position to do enormous harm that will complicate the Biden presidency. Indeed, we should expect Trump is already looking for ways to use his last eight weeks in office to punish our nation—or at least the states that voted for Biden.

Advertisement:


That assessment comes not from me, but from Trump himself. His life philosophy is a single word: revenge.

Trump wrote that in his book Think Big. Then he went on for 16 pages about how what gives him pleasure is ruining the lives of anyone who does not do as he asks. His long diatribe was intermingled with observations about his desires to do violence, especially against women, some of whom he has named like actress and talk show co-host Rosie O'Donnell.

"If you don't get even you are just a schmuck!" Trump, via his ghostwriter, wrote. "I really mean it, too."


Seething Trump

That Trump ruined the life of a woman executive at the Trump Organization simply because she declined, for solidly ethical reasons, to make a telephone call, you can imagine the vengeance he is thinking about as he smolders in his easy chair watching even as Fox News mocks some of his ridiculous claims about vote fraud and his winning the 2020 popular vote.

And if you think Trump might have changed his views against Christianity and renounced revenge since his book was published 12 years ago, consider this: At this year's National Prayer Breakfast he rejected forgiveness, a foundational tenant of the Christian faith he falsely claims to embrace.


But whatever havoc Trump can wreak in the next two months, McConnell will be in a position to do lasting damage until at least Jan. 3, 2023, the next date when Democrats might seat enough senators to make McConnell minority leader.

No respect

McConnell's conduct shows that has no respect for the will of the people, unless it matches his views. This is the same Mitch McConnell who declared that he wanted to make Obama's first term his only one and a failure, who sent three right-wing senators to plot against Obama on the night of Jan. 20, 2009, to ensure that the presidency of Barack Obama would be a one-term failure. As The Washington Post headlined a column by Jonathan Capehart, "Republicans Had It In for Obama Before Day 1."


That 2009 meeting, secret at the time but since acknowledged by most of the 14 participants, was just one example of how McConnell's evil lust for power has held back progress in America for most of this century. McConnell literally looks down his nose when asked by journalists about imposing his narrow mined and corporatist views on everyone else. A trust fund kid grown old and very rich, McConnell regularly displays his utter contempt for, our Constitution except for the parts that allow him to impose his will on America.

Just as McConnell refused to give an audience to Merrick Garland, the exceptionally qualified and centrist federal appeals judge whom Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, the senior senator from the Bluegrass state can refuse to confirm Biden's nominees to the cabinet and more than 1,000 other political appointments requiring the advice and consent of the Senate.

Power to block

Under Trump, McConnell has looked the way at the gross disregard for federal laws governing appointees. Just consider how Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as the de facto attorney general even though it violated our Constitution and a host of federal laws.

McConnell also has the power, assuming Republicans retain control of the Senate, to refuse any further coronavirus relief to be unemployed, landlords and small business owners. You can be absolutely sure that he will use his position to grant as little relief as possible while pushing for more of the lopsided coronavirus relief we saw last spring and summer when big business made out very nicely.

Elections have consequences. Welcome to the consequences of split government. Witness the power of one man—elected by just a portion of the people in a state with fewer than 5 million people—to thwart the will of the more than 71 million who voted for Biden.

Vengeful Trump and his Republican cronies are plotting to make life hell for everyone

This article was paid for by Raw Story subscribers. Not a subscriber? Try us and go ad-free for $1. Prefer to give a one-time tip? Click here.

Joe Biden just won more votes than anyone else in American history, but the next four years may go down in history as the stymied presidency. That's because it looks highly unlikely that the Democrats will get a majority in the Senate, leaving the chamber under the ironfisted control of Mitch McConnell, patron saint of polluters and profiteers.

Even before noon on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will be in a position to do enormous harm that will complicate the Biden presidency. Indeed, we should expect Trump is already looking for ways to use his last eight weeks in office to punish our nation — or at least the states that voted for Biden.

That assessment comes not from me, but from Trump himself. His life philosophy is a single word: revenge.

Trump wrote that in his book Think Big. Then he went on for 16 pages about how what gives him pleasure is ruining the lives of anyone who does not do as he asks. His long diatribe was intermingled with observations about his desires to do violence, especially against women, some of whom he has named like actress and talk show co-host Rosie O'Donnell.

"If you don't get even you are just a schmuck!" Trump, via his ghostwriter, wrote. "I really mean it, too."

That Trump ruined the life of a woman executive at the Trump Organization simply because she declined, for solidly ethical reasons, to make a telephone call, you can imagine the vengeance he is thinking about as he smolders in his easy chair watching even Fox News mocks some of his ridiculous claims about vote fraud and his winning the 2020 popular vote.

And if you think Trump might have changed his views against Christianity and renounced revenge since his book was published 12 years ago, consider this: at this year's National Prayer Breakfast where he rejected forgiveness, a foundational tenant of the Christian faith he falsely claims to embrace.

But whatever damage Trump can wreak in the next two months, McConnell will be in a position to do lasting damage until at least Jan. 3, 2023, the next date when Democrats might seat enough senators to make McConnell minority leader.

McConnell's conduct shows that has no respect for the will of the people unless it matches his views. This is the same Mitch McConnell who declared that he wanted to make Obama's first term his only one and a failure. sent three right wing Senators to plot against Obama on the night of January 20, 2009, to ensure that the presidency of Barack Obama would be a one-term failure. As The Washington Post headlined a column by Jonathan Capehart, "Republicans Had It In for Obama Before Day 1."

That 2009 meeting, secret at the time but since acknowledged by most of the 14 participants, was just one example of how McConnell's evil lust for power has held back progress in America for most of this century. McConnell literally looks down his nose when asked by journalists about imposing his narrow mined and corporatist views on everyone else. A trust fund kid grown old and very rich, McConnell regularly displays his utter contempt for, our Constitution except for the parts that allow him to impose his will on America.

Just as McConnell refused to give an audience to Merrick Garland, the exceptionally qualified and centrist federal appeals judge who Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, the senior senator from the Bluegrass state can refuse to confirm Biden's nominees to the cabinet and more than 1,000 other political appointments requiring the advice and consent of the Senate.

Under Trump, McConnell has looked the way at gross disregard for federal laws governing appointees. Just consider how Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as the de facto attorney general even though it violated our Constitution and a host of federal laws.

McConnell also has the power, assuming Republicans retain control of the Senate, to refuse any further coronavirus relief to be unemployed, landlords and small business owners. You can be absolutely sure that he will use his position to grant as little relief as possible while pushing for more of the lopsided coronavirus relief we saw last Spring and Summer when big business made out very nicely.

Elections have consequences. Welcome to the consequences of split government and the power of one man elected by people in a state with fewer than five million people to overcome the more than 71 million who voted for Biden.

Trump asserts dictatorial power over top government employees

In a major power grab, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Oct. 21 that asserts he has vast new authority to punish federal employees with demotions or firing without cause. It's a Trumpian assertion of a right to cronyism and personal fealty to him.

This executive order purports to grant Trump dictatorial-like power over thousands of career federal managers and executives. They are now at risk of losing their jobs and careers unless they blindly follow Trump's agenda with abject loyalty to his whims.

This Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service, if allowed to stand, largely will overturn an 1883 law that was passed to reduce corruption among federal government executives by creating a career civil service based on documented merit. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, passed in 1883 in the unexpected presidency of Chester A. Arthur, covers most federal employees, who earn promotion via competitive exams.

Instead of patronage positions, these civil servants are protected from demotion or firing for political reasons, though they can be disciplined for serious misconduct.

In effect, this would extend the rules governing the roughly 4,000 political appointees each president is entitled to hire — people who serve at the "pleasure of the president" — to apolitical career managers and executives.

The executive order states "faithful execution of the law requires that the President have appropriate management oversight regarding this select cadre of professionals."

In common language, this means Trump claims the ability to fire career public servants via Tweet. His executive order ignores 137 years of law and personnel regulations, allowing him to run roughshod over job protections for career government employees. Under the order, he can fire them on a whim.

Who is affected

One of the most prominent federal employees affected by this change is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert. Trump first admired Fauci then called him an "idiot" and said last week he would fire him except for the political uproar it would cause. The order also covers officials, scientists and staff of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This creation of "Schedule F" employees effectively gives the president the power to fire any current employees working in the broad categories as managers and executives covered by his order. He can treat them the same as private-sector workers whose employment, absent a personal or union contract, is "at-will."

Federal employee unions promptly denounced the order even though it is aimed at management, not line workers. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said he will develop legislation that would restore protections for federal employees. Boyd, whose district is in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, represents more federal workers than any other member of Congress.

If Trump's order stands it would be a major expansion of presidential power. Under threat of loss of employment and reduced or no retirement benefits, department heads might bend to Trump's mercurial whims. Any department head who pushes back would be subject to immediate discharge even if Trump's instructions were illegal.

The long-term consequences for our government would be disastrous. Many civil servants took federal jobs because they favored stable employment and a focus on their professional interests. Removing that security would make recruiting talent more costly and less successful. And for what? To satisfy the petulance of Donald Trump?

Whitlock case relevant

Trump acted just as DCReport published its investigation into the firing of Warren S. Whitlock, one of the highest-ranking civilians in the U.S. Army. Part One Why This Man Lost His Top Pentagon Civilian Job and Part Two Out On The Street After Two Secret And Illegal Investigations detailed the racism and machinations behind the removal of Whitlock, an equal opportunity and diversity specialist with a track record of successful changes to discriminatory government actions and policies. The broader impact was explained in Racism In The Pentagon And Higher.

In the Whitlock case, there is clear evidence of discrimination and unlawful termination. In future cases any possible protection someone like Whitlock may assert will not exist if Trump's executive order stands. Trump and the department heads he names will not need any reason whatsoever to fire anyone who is re-classified as an at-will worker.

"You're fired!" is of course the signature line of Trump's faux reality television shows that made him famous. Those who watched carefully noticed he sometimes fired the best performing person and praised those whose performance made them likely candidates for leaving the show. Not aired were scenes in which he demeaned people, ogled women including making one twirl for him, and engaged in other boorish sexist behavior.

The executive order reclassified many federal employees from regular civil service status to "excepted service" status if they are involved in policy-determining, policymaking or policy-advocating.

It's difficult, having studied the man for 32 years, to imagine a federal Qualifications Review Board would accept Trump a senior executive service member.

Political termites

A related strategy Trump undertook in 2017 to impose his will on career civil servants was detailed in my 2018 book It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America. Trump put in key management positions, the very lobbyists and executives who had worked against those agencies, contradicting his campaign promise to "drain the swamp" of special interests. Because they eat away at the substance of our federal government silently and generally unseen by the public I called those appointees "political termites."

This newest power grab by Trump is more of the same with a major addition. People who never signed up for tenuous employment at the pleasure of the president would become at-will employees with no job security.

This is exactly what the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was supposed to prevent. That law was enacted when Vice President Chester Arthur unexpectedly became president after the assassination of James A. Garfield just six months into his term in 1881.

President Arthur had been a major gear in the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine in New York. His cronies scurried down to Washington licking their chops at all the graft they anticipated. To their shock, Arthur told his longtime pals to never again darken the White House. Arthur promised to run a clean administration, which he did, abandoning the old "spoils" system of hiring cronies and party loyalists and embracing the creation of our merit-based federal civil service.

Trump's executive order will certainly be challenged in federal court. But unless and until some judge blocks it, this executive order is in effect.

How Trump gets away without paying taxes

To understand how Donald Trump got away with paying little to no income taxes for many years, even after he forged at least one income tax return, it helps to first understand the risks wealthy Americans face for cheating.

Let's start with IRS audits of the 23,400 richest American households, average income $30 million each. In 2018 the Trump administration audited seven. You read that right—seven. That's an audit rate of 0.03%.

If American police detected murders at the same rate it would mean that they would become aware of just five of the 16,214 reported homicides that year. Of course, not everyone is a tax cheat, but audits are about detecting taxes due, whether through error or intent.

Under Obama in 2015, America's richest households were 270 times more likely to be audited than under Trump.

It also helps to know that about 1 million rich Americans didn't even bother to file income tax returns during Barack Obama's last years in office. America's tax police, the near toothless Internal Revenue Service, are so short-staffed that the inspector general says they aren't even trying to make the scofflaws pay the estimated $47.5 billion they owe.

There's no question Trump is a tax cheat because he has done it again and again. He cheated on New York City sales taxes in 1983, for which Mayor Ed Koch said Trump should have served 15 days in jail. He went to extreme, even farcical lengths to evade $3 million of payments he owed in lieu of taxes to New York City.

Trump has been tried twice for civil tax fraud. He lost both times, a story I broke four years ago but you may not know about because America's major news organizations have not reported it except for one passing mention in the wedding announcement section of The New York Times. Two years ago, however, that newspaper did an exhaustive report showing years of calculated gift tax cheating by two generations of Trumps. In recent weeks income tax information that newspaper reported revealed many badges of tax fraud.

So why hasn't Donald Trump been brought to justice? After all, everyday radio and television commercials tell us of the power the IRS has to garnish our wages, seize our bank accounts and even take our homes. Surely brazen tax cheats live in fear of arrest and losing their mansions, jets and yachts, right?

[action]

This is the first of four articles examining the failure of our country to adequately tax and police the wealthy, like Donald Trump. Next: The suspected tax cheats our Justice Department does pursue, and why.

[/action]

Auditing the Working Poor

Now let's compare the audits of people in Trump's income class with the working poor, defined as households with incomes under $25,000. They were the subject of almost a third of all IRS audits even though average income was just $12,600.

The audit rate for poor families is 0.28%. That's nine times the audit rate for the richest Americans.

This is a dramatic shift from the recent past. Under Obama in 2015, America's richest households were 270 times more likely to be audited than under Trump, my analysis of IRS Data Book tables data shows. That year 8.16% of these households had their tax returns audited, not 0.03%.

These vast disparities are just one aspect of a many-sided story about the myth of the all-powerful IRS and how a particular class of rich Americans, a class that includes Trump, almost always wins when they play what in tax world is called audit roulette.

The cold hard truth is that the richest Americans today face a teensy-weensy risk of being detected if they cheat. The hardest tax cheating to detect involves people in a particular class. It is a class with privileges Donald Trump lobbied for and testified about to Congress. The taxpayers who are by far the hardest to identify as cheats share these characteristics the IRS is ill-equipped to address:

  • Own their enterprises lock, stock and barrel, giving them total control with no independent verification of revenue
  • File tax returns that appear on the surface to be accurate, even clean as a whistle
  • Make use of hundreds and in some cases thousands of separate corporations and partnerships in many different locations, a tax evasion helper that will be explained later in this series
  • Operate domestically and abroad where tax treaties, rules on delaying reporting income on tax returns and mismatches between rules of different governments create opportunities to hide money
  • Own commercial real estate because the gains from selling property are not automatically reported to the IRS, unlike wages and dividends

Trump fits those conditions to a T. Later in this series, we'll explore just how he always benefitted from the ways our Congress has instructed the tax police to operate.

Presidential Powers

Now add to all this Trump's powers as president. He appoints the Treasury secretary and the IRS commissioner, who had been a Beverly Hills specialist in helping suspected tax cheats avoid indictment. Trump also recommends how much money the IRS gets and how it will be allocated among various functions such as processing refunds and collecting unpaid taxes. This and more means Trump exercises enormous power and influence over which potential tax cheats, if any, will be found. Because he also appoints America's attorney general, Trump influences which suspected tax cheats will be prosecuted.

In addition, Trump's administration is violating an anti-corruption law enacted 96 years ago after the Teapot Dome scandal. That law gives certain people in Congress the same right he has to inspect any income tax return. At least three staffers on the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation work at the IRS just to inspect tax returns, especially those seeking individuals refunds of $2 million or more, for badges of fraud. Trump got a nearly $73 million refund; he recently confirmed the IRS wants it back.

Trump refuses to allow the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes our tax laws, to inspect his tax returns. The committee is suing for access. It is the only known case of a tax return being withheld by any president since 1924 when Calvin Coolidge was president. That sentence is qualified only because the IRS is stalling on DCReport's Freedom of Information Act request for a single number – how many times has the IRS refused or declined to turn over a tax return request in writing by the appropriate lawmakers and staff.

Who Gets Audited

That 0.03% audit rate for America's richest families is misleading. It overstates the risks to people in Trump's situation.

Many in that highest income group have very limited opportunities to cheat. About a sixth of these rich Americans are CEOs of publicly traded companies or otherwise employed at huge salaries. Their pay is independently reported to the IRS. This means that they are more like Joe and Joan Sixpack whose taxes are withheld before they get paid.

Opportunities for workers to cheat almost nonexistent, even for those making more than $50 million in salary and bonus as more than 200 workers have each year under Trump.

We cite these facts to give you a lens through which to focus as this DCReport series examines the state of Trump's taxes and the capacity of the Internal Revenue Service, our national tax police department, to enforce the tax laws.

DCReport's investigation into how Trump and others like him enjoy robust opportunities to cheat on their taxes with little risk of detection shows how for decades Congress has handcuffed our tax police. It's as if your local mayor and city council told their police officers to focus on tricycle thefts, not violent crimes, and wouldn't pay for testing equipment and chemicals in the crime lab.

We relied in part on a database maintained by the TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. DCReport donors generously contributed money to purchase access to that database and to pay a Rochester Institute of Technology student to organize the data for analysis. Much of the data TRAC gets had to be extracted from our government through litigation over the public's right to know what our government is doing.

Tax Prosecutions Vanishing

From various official documents and interviews with tax officials, tax defense lawyers and accountants we found our government operates a system of tax law enforcement with these features:

  • Tax prosecution, never a major government activity and generally slipping for decades, collapsed under Trump
  • In 2016, the last Obama year, the IRS referred 2,744 tax cases for prosecution. Since Oct. 1, 2019, the IRS has referred just 231 cases
  • Justice rejected 162 of those cases, or 70%, for "insufficient evidence," an extraordinarily and hard to believe justification since on average each case involved more than a year of detective work
  • Justice rejected an additional 28 cases because prosecuting suspected tax criminals isn't a "national priority"
  • Justice Department's own data shows it is pursuing just 29 new cases
  • More than half of IRS criminal cases in the last decade were about illicit proceeds from narcotics trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activity, not tax cheating by people who underreport their income from lawful activities or overstate their deductions
  • Last year Justice Department prosecutors obtained just 530 guilty pleas and convictions after trial, making the odds of an American adult being found guilty of a federal tax crime about one in 473,000
  • The public never heard about most of those cases because the Justice Department failed to publicize them
  • Almost 900,000 high-income Americans didn't even file a tax return in the last three years of Obama
  • Virtually no effort is being made to collect the estimated $47.5 billion these prosperous-to-rich Americans owe. An Inspector General report says the IRS already dropped 42,600 cases and it is unlikely that any of the others will be pursued

Defunding America's Tax Police

The reality is Congress has defunded America's tax police. The IRS in 2018 had less than half the resources it did, relative to the size of the economy, as when Ronald Reagan was president in 1988, my analysis of federal budget data shows.

Over several decades, as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist persuaded Republicans to sign ironclad pledges to never raises taxes, these same officeholders have worked to make sure the IRS doesn't have the tools or staff to make sure people and companies pay what the law says they owe. Trump personally lobbied for one key change creating an entitlement program for real estate investors that lets them live tax-free if they are rich enough and follow the rules, making his own tax behavior all the more curious.

The beneficiaries of this throttling of the tax police budget and hobbling its operations have been the thin and increasingly rich slice of Americans at the top, especially people who like Trump exert total control of their business affairs.

Republicans persuaded enough Democrats to go along in handcuffing our tax police through laws, some of them based on bogus testimony by people who said they were victims of abusive IRS tactics. By law, the IRS could not respond to the Senate testimony. Congress' Government Accountability Office later wrote a secret report that showed the hearings were unreliable, Ryan Donmoyer of Tax Notes Magazine revealed in 2000. However, subsequent investigations by The Wall Street Journal, Tax Notes Magazine, The Virginian-Pilot and by me when I was the tax reporter for The New York Times showed the hearings were a sham from start to finish.

In response to the 1997 and 1998 Senate Finance Committee hearings led by the late Sen. William Roth of Delaware, and other hearings, Congress imposed all sorts of restrictions on IRS audits. Here are three telling examples we will explore later in this series:

  1. IRS auditors who notice that a taxpayer reports income of under $100,000 but has mansions, fine art and more cannot use that to begin a "lifestyle audit." One man was caught only because a mistress, furious that he didn't keep a promise to buy her a condo, ratted him out to the IRS
  2. Corporations must be told in advance what issues will be examined. If auditors find along the way evidence of tax owed for other reasons they cannot expand the audit unless they uncover clear evidence of criminality
  3. While Congress authorizes what look to be major cash awards to whistleblowers who report tax cheating the program has added less than $1 to every $5,000 in taxes Uncle Sam collects and it takes more than a decade on average to pay these awards

The costs of these favor-the-rich policies even when they cheat are borne by the other 99% of taxpayers. Tax burdens could otherwise be eased through reductions in government spending for their benefit and in added federal debt.

Institutional Corruption

The Framers of our Constitution were concerned deeply with corruption, but not the way they think of it today. They were well aware of the personal venality that today permeates the news from supermarket tabloids to the network news programs. But the Framers focused on how to ensure against institutional corruption ruining our democracy and our society. Law professor Zephyr Teachout explained it in plain English in her book Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United.

Congress pretty much has imposed on the IRS the same institutionally corrupt approach that New Jersey casino regulators employed when Trump dominated Atlantic City gambling.

New Jersey officials created the impression of zealous law enforcement by noisily going after small fries and others who lack the resources to fight back. Or the regulators announced actions raising questions about the behavior of casino owners in dealings with mobsters, cocaine traffickers and money launderers while working hard to avoid making inquiries that would expose wrongdoing by those at the top.

My first book, Temples of Chance, revealed this institutionally corrupt strategy with many examples like cheating novice roulette players at one Trump casino. Another tack was giving favors to gamblers connected to the Yakuza criminal gangs in Japan or the Medellín drug cartel. Casinos owned by Trump and others even extended credit, comped suites, provided liquor and sent limousines to empty the trust accounts of rich child gamblers.

Actually, Congress has gone much further to hobble America's tax police.

The IRS is so short-staffed it cannot even send refunds it acknowledges are owed from 2017 tax returns. Instead of a refund check, some beleaguered taxpayers have shown me form letter after form letter directing them to not ask about their refund for yet another 60 days. An IRS that is not even staffed to refund people's overpayments is going to have a much harder time enforcing the tax laws when it comes to sophisticated tax cheating.

E.R. Brydalski analyzed the TRAC data used in this report.

A primer for US senators: Here are all the questions our leaders failed to ask​ Amy Coney Barrett

After three days of Kabuki theater, a television mini-series produced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, did you learn anything that Judge Amy Coney Barrett didn't want you to know?

Really, it's not hard to frame questions that produce informative answers, including when the response is a dodge. Let me show you, starting here:

Judge Barrett, you testified your judicial philosophy is to follow the law as written. Can you please cite examples of where the law required you to render a decision contrary to your personal beliefs?

Notice how that is framed. Barrett can't swat it away, as she did so many questions as hypotheticals. It asked her to speak about the decisions she already rendered.

Judge Barrett, have you contemplated whether in a childbirth gone awry you would sacrifice your own life to save that of your youngest child, leaving your other children sitting behind you motherless, or whether to live so that your children would grow up under your care with one less sibling?

As a relatively new judge, appointed by Donald Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals three years ago, Barrett has not written all that many opinions. Were the judge to respond that she has yet to encounter that issue here's the follow up:

Judge Barrett, have you given thought to how you would deal with that conflict, especially an irresolvable conflict, between your most deeply held beliefs and the law?

Framing Matters

Again, notice the framing. The question is not what you thought but have you thought about a conflict between personal beliefs and the law.

Were the nominee to say that she had not pondered this—which would be preposterous — then the line of inquiry shifts to how deeply she has thought about the law. If she says she has indeed thought about it the question to ask is, "What did you conclude, if anything?"

Next question:

Judge Barrett, have you talked in your Notre Dame law classes and other forums about resolving conflicts between personal beliefs and Supreme Court rulings your students must work under with when they become lawyers and jurists?

That's a question Barrett might try to slough off with the "I don't recall" diversion. To deal with that ask this:

Well then, Judge Barrett, let's assume I'm not a senator, but the most serious student in your class and that I hope to become a trial court judge or, like you, an appellate court judge. So, what do I do, professor, when confronted with a wide chasm, or worse a complete contradiction, between the law as decided by our Supreme Court and my beliefs?

Following Your Own Advice?

The goal here is to get her to talk about how she analyzes such conflicts as well as her advice. And if she gives her advice the obvious follow up is short and sweet:

Would you, Judge Barrett, always take your own advice?

How that question is answered — candidly, philosophically, or evasively — would give senators and the public insight into what is going on behind the mask that Barrett, like all judicial nominees, wears during such hearings.

I could go on with more questions like this but the point I want to make here is that nothing like this emerged from three days of hearings in what is supposed to be the most exclusive deliberative body in the world, the American Senate. Their questions indicate our senators don't respect that.

That so many bad questions were asked was unsurprising, but also shocking given that most Judiciary committee members are lawyers. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a subsidy grabbing Republican, is the Senate's only pig farmer. The rest of them ought to know how to ask useful questions.

Judiciary Committee members in both parties should ask questions that probe the souls of nominees — simple, direct questions stripped of rhetorical filagree. Their questions should force nominees to instantly choose between dissembling, looking idiotic to other lawyers or telling the truth.

We would be wise to castigate every member of that committee, in person if you attend a political or social event, for making novice lawyers on their first day in a courtroom look good.

There's one other question I would have asked. It's based on my own life experience as the father of eight now grown children:

Awful Choices

Judge Barrett, obstetricians in troubled deliveries sometimes must make an awful choice between saving the life of the mother or the child. How would you weigh that choice?

Again, the framing is how to make a choice, not what choice.

Concise follow-ups would note that each year about 700 American women die in childbirth. So do about 21,000 of roughly 3.8 million infants.

More questions:

Judge Barrett, are laws that restrict the freedom of choices that doctors, the mother, or if incapacitated her spouse, make during troubled labor a proper exercise of the police powers of the state?

If the doctors conclude that someone will die why should the crude axe of state police power be applied at all?

If there is any role at all for exercising the state's police power in these tragic situations please articulate it.

Whatever her answer, smart follow up questions should focus on freedom, including the freedom to decide who will die. Framing questions in terms of liberty versus policing powers would be illuminating about the nominee's thoughts.

Another follow up:

Judge Barrett, have you contemplated whether in a childbirth gone awry you would sacrifice your own life to save that of your youngest child, leaving your other children sitting behind you motherless, or whether to live so that your children would grow up under your care with one less sibling?

If that sounds cruel let me note Barrett chose to use her children as props. She could have had them stay home playing with dolls and footballs.

Again, notice that the frame is not what would you decide, but have you thought about this. And trust me these are real-world questions that physician and parents must decide, preferably in advance, but all too often in the unexpected moment.

Asking Better Questions Lessons

Here's a recommendation to make all Congressional hearings less Kabuki theater and more a service to us, the people who own our government.

Every member of Congress, in both parties plus independents, should not ask another question until they have sat through a class, including role-play exercises, on how to frame questions.

Congress already has the perfect expert to teach this — Rep. Katie Porter, Democrat of California.

The freshman lawmaker, a former University of California Irvine law professor, frames only smart questions during House Financial Services hearings. No matter how witnesses reply, Porter is ready to follow so that we the people learn about the integrity of each witness or lack thereof.

Porter questions are free of flourish. Porter never preens. Instead, her five-minute examinations are packed tightly. Whether in interrogations designed to embarrass a mandarin like Jamie Dimon of Chase Bank or subtle sideways approaches that sneak up on the witness like the velociraptor who surprises the big game hunter in the original Jurassic Park film, she gets revealing responses.

Smart woman. Would that our senators were half as smart in asking questions.

Featured Photo: Screenshot from Washington Post television of Judge Amy Coney Barrett with most of her children at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Mike Pence told a whopper about Trump's economy -- which was plummeting before the pandemic

There's fresh evidence that the robust economy Donald Trump inherited from Barack Obama was faltering before the pandemic.

State personal consumption spending growth slowed sharply in 2019 compared to the year before, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday morning. The growth rate plummeted by a fifth.

Personal expenditures grew in 2019 but by only 3.9%, down from 4.9% in the previous year.

Counting on Trump to sign a new relief package would be like trusting that he actually knows how to improve the economy for all Americans, not just the already rich.

This official data comes just hours after Mike Pence told a whopper about American incomes during the vice presidential debate Wednesday night, a lie that escaped the notice of our major news organizations. That's because no official announced the numbers and mainstream journalists rely way too much on what officials tell them instead of doing their own analyses of official government data.

Pence said, "the average household income for a family of four increased by $4,000 following President Trump's tax cuts."

Incomes Down, Not Up

In fact, the average income for the bottom 50% of income taxpaying households in 2018 averaged $300 less than in 2016, Obama's last year in office, as DCReport showed more than a month ago from the Trump administration's own official data. Please note this is not the poorest third of Americans but the poorest third of people who made enough to pay income taxes.

Less income under Trump wasn't limited to the poorest third of taxpayers.

Consider the 9% of taxpayers making $75,000 to $100,000. Their average income in 2018 was $128 lower than in 2016 after adjusting for inflation, my analysis of IRS Table1.4 shows.

Total income reported by all Americans did grow, but the benefits were highly concentrated near the top of the national income ladder.

In real terms income reported on tax returns increased by almost $1 trillion over those two years. On the surface that's good. But only those in the top 7%, those making more than $200,000 and up, saw their share of the national income pie grow. Every group making less had to get by on less.

Almost half of the trillion-dollar gain flowed to the 1%, those making $500,000 and up. But even among the one=ercenters the gains were not widely shared.

Just one in 285 taxpayers makes $1 million or more. This very rich and very tiny group took in three of every four dollars of increased income flowing to the one-percenters. Under Trumpian policies, it's good to be rich and very bad to be poor or middle class. But Lying Mike Pence bore false witness by telling you all people are doing well

Useful Maps

When it comes to increased spending in 2019 you can learn how your state did by looking over this useful series of graphic maps at this government website. The first map shows how much the rate of spending declined in 2019 compared to 2018. The data excludes money that state residents spend overseas.

The economic weakness under Trump, pre-pandemic, wasn't limited to the incomes of the vast majority or to spending by everyone. Job growth under Trump, pre-pandemic, ran about 3% below the rate of Obama after the Great Recession ended and job growth resumed in early 2010.

Candidate Trump promised to grow the economy by at least 4% annually and insisted that he could achieve as much as 6% growth in Gross Domestic Product, which measures our country's total economic output. Those of us who study these matters found Trump's claim either laughable or a lie. Time proved we were right as Trump underperformed the average of the previous 70 years.

In 2017, still basking in the glow of the Obama economy, our inflation-adjusted or real Gross Domestic Product grew 2.3% compared to 2016. Growth reached almost 3% in 2018 as the Trump/Radical Republican tax giveaway to big corporations gave a brief kick to economic growth. In 2019, however, GDP growth slid to under 2.2%

And Thursday morning brought the latest job loss numbers. Last week 840,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits. There were also 464,000 claims for pandemic unemployment aid.

In all, 25 million Americans are without work right now and many more will join them soon because Trump decreed Tuesday afternoon that he would not sign any new coronavirus relief bill until after the election and then only if he wins. The stock market instantly sank, prompting Trump to do a partial flip-flop. But counting on Trump to sign a new relief package would be like trusting that he actually knows how to improve the economy for all Americans, not just the already rich.

Will Republican cultists die for their dear leader?

Donald Trump is covering up just how he and 18 White House aides and supporters got the coronavirus. That's the latest proof that he doesn't care about you or anyone else.

Instead of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, spraying lead bullets out of a gun, Trump sprayed the deadly coronavirus with every word coming out of his unmasked mouth.

Among those whose lives are now at risk – the seven children of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sat mask-less in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 when Trump announced their mother was his Supreme Court nominee. As an exercise in atrocious judgment bringing children to a crowded event during a pandemic and not masking them should be enough to establish that Barrett is unfit to sit on any bench.

Then there's the infected Kellyanne Conway, who said that she quit the White House to be with her troubled teenage daughter.

And what about the 11-month-old baby of Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's press secretary? McEnany has tested positive after again and again showing her fealty to the imaged great leader by going mask-less. Does anyone doubt that if McEnany were a poor black or brown woman—or a Jew or Muslim in a Bible Belt county—that child protective services would be investigating whether to remove the infant Blake for her own safety?

Accepting sickness

This is what happens when a cult arises. The leader is special and believers most demonstrate without even being asked that the messages the leader conveys have been internalized. And if he uses tricks and deceits to fool the public you must go along to remain in his good graces even if it exposes you and your newborn to sickness, lifelong health problems and even death.

The reason, rationality and civil debate envisioned by our Founders and Framers have no place in Trump's anti-democratic cult. All that matters is loyalty to the leader, a loyalty that runs only one way.

As for lies, it's hard to top what Trump tweeted Monday before his skillfully timed departure from Walter Reed hospital, a staged event that consumed the entire evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS and NBC.

Irresponsible

"Don't be afraid of COVID," Trump tweeted before the brilliantly staged pageantry began in what may go down as his single most irresponsible advice during the pandemic that has claimed more American lives in well under a year than combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

That tweet, the flags and dramatic lighting at the White House as the sun set while Trump, his face and hair professionally pampered, posed triumphantly were all part of a propaganda pageant slicker than any event staged by Il Duce, Adolf or Trump's personal heroes, Putin and Kim.

When it comes to using images to kill rationality and stir cultish emotions, Trump has outdone even Leni Riefenstahl. Hitler, incidentally, at least had the smidgen of decency to not expose his beloved propaganda filmmaker to the risk of death by virus, as Trump did his photographer and videographer, among others, at the White House Monday evening.

Coverup

The Trump virus spreading coverup can be seen in the highly restricted contract tracing being undertaken by the White House medical staff. Trump has coronavirus tracers looking only for who was within death shot of his breath, but only since Thursday, Oct. 1.

That's after the Tuesday night debate in Cleveland where Trump and his family arrived late, were not tested and sat mask-less. Did they do it because they knew or had reason to suspect that at least one of them was infected? We don't know because the Trumps aren't talking about it. Eventually, we will find out.

We do know that, so far, Joe Biden and his family have tested negative. Trump's reckless disregard in exposing Biden to the virus is morally indefensible and verges on the criminal.

And what about Trump's rally in Duluth on Wednesday where he pumped up a crowd of mask-less fans?

Minnesota Public Health Department officials are telling the 3,000 attendees to self-quarantine if they were near the president. State Sen. Paul Gazelka, the majority leader, State Rep. Kurt Daudt, the House minority leader, are in quarantine. The My Pillow guy, who spoke at the rally, said he was never close to Trump that night.

Careless Trump believers

Three Minnesota Congressmen, Republicans all, flew back to Washington with Trump on Air Force One and then returned to the Gopher state on Delta Airlines in apparent violation of its rules for those exposed to the coronavirus. This is how disregard for the sanctity of human life spreads like waves from a rock dropped in a pond or, worse, that sinks after skipping across the surface like a candidate touching down for campaign rallies.

Oops, not rallies. Trump says his gatherings of fans are better described as protests against mask-wearing.

But he is using his departure from the hospital, no doubt against medical advice, in a crass appeal to raise money while discouraging people from following the well-established science of how to stop spreading the virus, knowledge that dates to the mid-)19th Century.

Trump Money Plea

That letter is the drugs talking. The powerful steroids Trump was given can make you rage with emotions and feel invincible for a time. I know because it happened to me a dozen years ago, a terrible side effect that afflicts some people given steroids for sound medical reasons.

Trump draws crowds because the majority of Americans have real economic grievances, as I've written about for decades including these recent DCReport pieces. Indeed, Trump ran for office using many of the phrases he heard me say on television about how Washington policies hurt 90% of Americans.

While he pledged in his inaugural address that "the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer" his actions documented by DCReport show that he never gave them a thought.

Household staff at risk

Trump also pledged that "at the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens" and "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Trump doesn't care about the health of the nearly 100 White House household staff, many of them men and women of color, who served loyally one president and his family after another. He doesn't care about the Secret Service agents he made ride in an SUV so he could wave at his fans outside the hospital. When each Secret Service agent pledged to forfeit their own life it was to defend a president under assault, not preening for the television cameras. They are to him what you are, not a human being but an object to be used, abused and then conveniently cast aside or literally buried.

When he took office, Trump expressed a belief that "we are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."

Trump's lack of regard, lack of decency and rejection of medical science may give us one destiny, but it will be anything but glorious now that coronavirus cases have moved back up to 43,000 a day and rising.

"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land," Trump proclaimed when he took office. "From this moment on, it's going to be America First."

And it is now first. It's America first in coronavirus deaths, in needless pain, in unnecessary economic suffering. Especially, Trump has made America first in unwanted death.

Will Republican cultists die for their dear leader?

Donald Trump is covering up just how he and 18 White House aides and supporters got the coronavirus, the latest proof that he doesn't care about you or anyone else.

Instead of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, spraying lead bullets out of a gun, Trump sprayed the deadly coronavirus with every word coming out of his unmasked mouth.

Among those whose lives are now at risk – the seven children of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sat mask-less in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 when Trump announced their mother was his Supreme Court nominee. As an exercise in atrocious judgment bringing children to a crowded event during a pandemic and not masking them should be enough to establish that Barrett is unfit to sit on any bench.

Trump doesn't care about the health of the nearly 100 White House household staffers, many men and women of color, who have served loyally one president and his family after another.

Then there's the infected Kellyanne Conway, who said that she quit the White House to be with her troubled teenage daughter.

And what about the 11-month-old baby of Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's press secretary. She has tested positive after again and again showing her fealty to the imaged great leader by going mask-less. Does anyone doubt that if McEnany were a poor black or brown woman—or a Jew or Muslim in a Bible Belt county—that child protective services would be investigating whether to remove the infant Blake for her own safety?

Accepting Sickness

This is what happens when a cult arises. The leader is special and believers most demonstrate without even being asked that the messages the leader conveys have been internalized. And if he uses tricks and deceits to fool the public you must go along to remain in his good graces even if it exposes you and your newborn to sickness, lifelong health problems and even death.

The reason, rationality, and civil debate envisioned by our Founders and Framers have no place in Trump's anti-democratic cult. All that matters is loyalty to the leader, a loyalty that runs only one way.

As for lies, it's hard to top what Trump tweeted Monday before his skillfully timed departure from Walter Reed hospital, a staged event that consumed the entire evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS and NBC.

Irresponsible

"Don't be afraid of COVID," Trump tweeted before the brilliantly staged pageantry began in what may go down as his single most irresponsible advice during the pandemic that has claimed more American lives than combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

That tweet, the flags and dramatic lighting at the White House as the sun set while Trump, his face and hair professionally pampered, posed triumphantly were all part of a propaganda pageant slicker than any event staged by Il Duce, Adolf or Trump's personal heroes, Putin and Kim.

When it comes to using images to kill rationality and stir cultish emotions, Trump has outdone even Leni Riefenstahl. Hitler, incidentally, at least had the smidgen of decency to not expose his beloved propaganda filmmaker to the risk of death by virus, as Trump did his photographer and videographer, among others, at the White House Monday evening.

Coverup

The Trump virus spreading coverup can be seen in the highly restricted contract tracing being undertaken by the White House medical staff. Trump has coronavirus tracers looking only for who was within death shot of his breath, but only since Thursday, Oct. 1.

That's after the Tuesday night debate in Cleveland where Trump and his family arrived late, were not tested, and sat mask-less. Did they do it because they knew or had reason to suspect that at least one of them was infected? We don't know because the Trumps aren't talking about it, but eventually, we will find out.

We do know that, so far, Joe Biden and his family have tested negative. Trump's reckless disregard in exposing Biden to the virus is morally indefensible and verges on the criminal.

And what about Trump's rally in Duluth on Wednesday where he pumped up a crowd of mask-less fans?

Minnesota Public Health Department officials are telling the 3,000 attendees to self-quarantine if they were near the president. State Sen. Paul Gazelka, the majority leader, State Rep. Kurt Daudt, the House minority leader, are in quarantine. The My Pillow guy, who spoke at the rally, said he was never close to Trump that night.

Careless Trump Believers

Three Minnesota Congressmen, Republicans all, flew back to Washington with Trump on Air Force One and then returned to the Gopher state on Delta Airlines in apparent violation of its rules for those exposed to the coronavirus. This is how disregard for the sanctity of human life spreads like waves from a rock dropped in a pond or, worse, that sinks after skipping across the surface like a candidate touching down for campaign rallies.

Oops, not rallies. Trump says his gatherings of fans are better described as protests against mask-wearing.

But he is using his departure from the hospital, no doubt against medical advice, in a crass appeal to raise money while discouraging people from following the well-established science of how to stop spreading the virus, knowledge that dates to the mid 19th Century.

Trump Money Plea

That letter is the drugs talking. The powerful steroids Trump was given can make you rage with emotions and feel invincible for a time. I know because it happened to me a dozen years ago, a terrible side effect that afflicts some people given steroids for sound medical reasons.

Trump draws crowds because the majority of Americans have real economic grievances, as I've written about for decades including these recent DCReport pieces. Indeed, Trump ran for office using many of the phrases he heard me say on television about how Washington policies hurt 90% of Americans.

While he pledged in his inaugural address that "the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer" his actions documented by DCReport show that he never gave them a thought.

Household Staff At Risk

Trump also pledged that "at the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens" and "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Trump doesn't care about the health of the nearly 100 White House household staff, many men and women of color, who served loyally one president and his family after another. He doesn't care about the Secret Service agents he made ride in an SUV so he could wave at his fans outside the hospital. When each Secret Service agent pledged to forfeit their own life it was to defend a president under assault, not preening for the television cameras. They are to him what you are, not a human being but an object to be used, abused and when conveniently cast aside or literally buried.

When he took office, Trump expressed a belief that "we are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."

Trump's lack of regard, lack of decency, and rejection of medical science may give us one destiny, but it will be anything but glorious now that coronavirus cases have moved back up to 43,000 a day and rising.

"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land," Trump proclaimed when he took office. "From this moment on, it's going to be America First."

And it is now first. It's America first in coronavirus deaths, in needless pain, in unnecessary economic suffering, and especially Trump has made America first in unwanted death.

Here's why we should hope Trump survives his fight with COVID-19

Donald Trump's late night tweet that he and his wife have contracted COVID brings to mind the word "hope" in four ways, all of them tests of the character of Americans.

First, we should hope he is telling the truth. Trump lies so often and easily that this could just be an excuse to hide from further debates with Joe Biden.

If it seems hard to imagine that Trump would lie about the pernicious virus that has killed more than 208,000 Americans just think about the more than 20,000 lies he has told since becoming our president. Sadly, Donald can never be trusted.

Second, we should hope that Trump and his much younger wife recover fully and are healthy again well before Nov. 3. America needs a clean referendum on Trump's presidency, not a vote about an ailing or even dead man.

Trump will lose the popular vote by at least 16 million ballots, hopefully by more than 20 million. Our democracy needs an unambiguous rejection of Trump. And voters need to disentangle themselves from his smack of moral jellyfish -- the blind, spineless Republicans who abandoned principle and their oath to defend our Constitution to toss themselves into his waves of political chaos.

Long Life

Third, we should hope that Trump lives at least as long as his crooked father, who died at 93. The president should experience his just desserts for a life of white-collar crime capped by his efforts to destroy our democracy just to serve his insatiable lust for money and his pathetic need for adulation.

Fourth, we should hope that as Trump endures the coming humiliation that he so richly deserves that the next administration doesn't let bygones be bygones. A Biden administration should offer leniency for those who confess fully and cooperate even as it vigorously prosecutes every single appointee who broke laws for Trump, criminal actions that threaten our health, our safety and most of all our liberty.

Even if Trump dies, the next president should not shirk from his duty to hold these domestic evil doers to account, he should not make the awful political and policy mistake Barack Obama made when he let corrupt bankers who brought down our economy a dozen years ago continue on their way because he feared it would interfere with restoring the economy.

The Golden Rule

No one should wish that Trump will, like his grandfather Frederick a century ago, become a pandemic victim. To think that way is be as immoral as Donald. Don't lower yourself. Awful and damaging as Trump has been, follow the ancient wisdom in Luke 6:31. "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

That Trump has never lived the Biblical Golden Rule speaks to his lack of character. Do not let his moral corruption infect your character. Be better. Be best.

Wishing death or illness on anyone conjures up the worst of human nature. We will not, we cannot, ever make America what it could be -- a society that ennobles free human spirit to become the best that our species can attain -- until we cleanse our own souls.

For America to endure we must actively embrace only good will towards all, even the vile Donald Trump.

Judging Others

That does not mean that we tolerate Trump's criminal conduct as a private citizen or while in office. We should show with our votes that giving succor to white supremacists, abusing the children of asylum seekers, letting polluters endanger us all, and signing a tax law that takes from the many to give to the rich few are un-American, indeed they are anti-American.

To live long and prosper as a nation, to live free, we must judge others as we would have them judge us. To do that we must develop both critical thinking skills and our moral character, a job that starts in the home and should continue in our schools, public and private. Then as adults we must apply our knowledge, always with caution because facts change, unlike principles.

We must hope that the ideas of the Enlightenment which inspired our revolution 244 years ago survive the manipulations by ideological marketing organizations which employ advertising techniques to sell us the political equivalent of fast food. We need reasoned and rational debate rooted in facts, not mindless chants like "lock her up" and attacks on journalists as enemies of the people.

We must hope that once we transition to back to normalcy that we will not forget the nightmare Trump has created. We must begin to grow into a better America, an idea and a society that will endure and inspire the whole world.

We must begin a never-ending search for the best possible leaders, women and men who we can trust to faithfully defend our Constitution, to at long last establish equal justice for all and to hold true to the principle that ours is a nation of laws, not men.

BRAND NEW STORIES
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.