Just when I think that Congressman Ryan Zinke couldn’t become more craven and wrong-headed in his defense of Donald Trump, he manages to surprise me. He’s defended his frankly insane foreign policy proposals, his incoherent economic policy, his racist attacks against Mexican people, and even his crude, inappropriate remarks about all kinds of Americans, from Secretary Clinton on down. No matter what Donald says, Ryan agrees, because he’s hitched his self-aggrandizing wagon to a trollish little star, no matter where it leads him.
But I couldn’t imagine that Congressman Zinke would go so far as to defend the idea that a self-described billionaire would be “smart” not to pay federal taxes for decades. On CNN today, he told Jake Tapper “”It’s legal. It’s appropriate…Frankly, I think it’s smart business.”
Zinke went on to say that we “need to focus on dealing with the problems overseas, deal with an economy here, so we can afford to keep a strong military, and keep our promises here.”
It’s pretty challenging to pay for the military Zinke loves and the social programs he wants to slash when people like Donald Trump don’t pay their taxes, especially when he’s not paying them because he was such a spectacularly failed businessman. There’s no justification for a tax system that permits someone who brags about his enormous personal wealth, surrounds himself with childish luxuries, and contends he’s the most brilliant businessman in the world to not pay his taxes. And now we have Congressman Zinke defending this failed businessman who took taxpayer funded money earmarked for 9/11 relief and who claims to have a net worth of over $4 billion dollars not funding our roads, our schools, our soldiers, our safety net.
Back in 2012, Mitt Romney was excoriated by people, including Donald Trump, both for not paying his taxes and for failing to release his returns. Romney paid a 13.9% tax rate in the last year of reporting before the election, and it seems Donald Trump has paid nothing since the first Clinton administration. There are a lot of working class voters who are angry at a system that seems to have let them down, but how can the answer be a man who cares so little for his country that he’s let himself acquire billions without paying anything back for 20 years?
I’m a middle class high school teacher. Last year, I paid $10,013 in federal income tax. I’m not a wealthy person, but believe that I owe my fair share to the country that provides for my defense, the occasional highway, and all the other services I depend on. The general welfare of the nation, the foundation of the Constitution, depends on the idea that all of us contribute for the national good. For Congressman Zinke to publicly suggest that a billionaire is “smart” for not paying his fair share demonstrates priorities that are entirely out of the norm and values that continue to damage this nation.
There’s nothing smart about Donald Trump living like a leech off the largesse of the hardworking people of this country. And there’s nothing patriotic about defending him. It shouldn’t be surprising that Congressman Zinke has been found in the company of a local snake oil salesman and Ponzi schemer in the last week. He seems drawn to them, whether they’re martial arts instructors from Big Fork or spectacularly huge failures as real estate developers from New York.
You’ve got to ask yourself why.