Just because it's legal, doesn't make it right.

While it's difficult to penetrate the Republican bubble when it comes to Trump, I don't really understand why the wealthy cheating and manipulating the tax system more generally doesn't draw more outrage. 

I get that there's something of an intrinsic wealth - worship among conservatives that includes the "prosperity gospel" and all that. Combine that with the "taxation is theft" gibberish that they frequently espouse, and you’ve got what I can best describe as a Darwinist economic mindset.

But every dollar of debt the government takes on, and then every fee that is increased, every fine or nickel - and - dime way that our payments to our government increase because of that is because the wealthy are avoiding, evading, and lying about their taxes without consequences.

The rest of us… can’t do that. Even the parts of tax avoidance that ARE legal requires attorneys and accountants to exploit the loopholes that most people can’t afford. They don’t even have to be all that clever about it - they just pay people to be clever for them. And even if we could take that kind of advantage, most people are ethical enough to see the problems with those legal loopholes. 

It’s getting kind of depressing to explain to our fellow citizens on a daily basis that just because something is legal, that doesn’t mean that it’s right.

The big GOP / Trump talking point of the last few months has been some variation on “law and order”, typically in reference to people committing crimes in proximity to peaceful protesters. But the thing that most of us agree on is the super wacky concept that we should have laws, and that people who break those laws should face consequences.

That idea - despite liberal protestations - flows through Trump’s actions on Ukraine, Hatch Act violations, and the nomination of Justice Barrett. Just about everything he’s done that has sparked outrage has some semblance of a legal argument to it. “Hypocritical, cynical, and unethical” might as well be on the Trump family crest, but a lot of his most outrageous acts were not “illegal”. And that includes just gobs of different kinds of tax evasion. If there’s a legal argument for his actions, they are - in conservatives’ minds - perfectly okay, regardless of how much the legal argument stinks like dead fish. 

So inasmuch as we’re having an intellectually honest discussion about laws and ethics (ha!), we’re talking past each other a bit. While the left points out how outrageous it is that profitable corporations and wealthy individuals pay next to nothing in taxes and stretching the definition of “legal” to the absolute breaking point, the right is having a different discussion about the mechanics of tax law that allows for that exploitation. For a progressive, laws are things that need to be changed and adjusted continuously to make for a more just society. For a conservative though, the law is - at the same time - holy writ AND an anachronistic nuisance that we should all be exploiting at much as possible.

And if you’re not exploiting our dumb laws, you’re a sucker.

It’s not hard to see that distinction not as a sterile philosophical difference, but as a moral and ethical one. We’re either progressing and our legal system to meet modern challenges, or our laws are stagnating and we're valorizing the unscrupulous actors with the power to exploit them. 

And that’s something that we’re megaloathe to admit - that one side is trying (and sometimes failing!) to make our laws more ethical and just, and the other side is celebrating the exploitation of our laws and systems, even as they fail to meet new challenges.


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