The New York Times recently published information from Donald Trump’s tax history, causing renewed interest in how much tax Trump actually pays, prior to the 2020 presidential election. While his taxes are a subject that came up but amounted to little significance in the 2016 election, they may or may not be a significant turn in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, with Trump being quick but elusive in dismissing what he called "fake news". However the article adds further evidence to numerous claims against Trump’s financial conduct while in office, suggesting Trump has made use of his position as president to enrich himself, his family and his associates. A kleptocracy is a government whose corrupt leaders use their political power to misappropriate state funds (kléptō - "I steal"; krátos - "power, rule" in Greek). Has Trump managed to turn the United States of America into a kleptocracy during his four years in the White House?
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As political commentator Rush Limbaugh and even Trump himself have said, Trump is smart to have been able to use the US tax code to his advantage in paying as little tax as possible. Limbaugh also has rightly pointed out that utilising loopholes and shifting assets is a common business strategy to maximise profitability, arguing that Trump would not be in position he has go to in his life he it wasn't for his business savvy. Furthermore in the run up to the 2020 election, this revelation about Trump's taxes just make Joe Biden look worse, as Biden oversaw Obama's failure to close the "Gingrich-Edwards" tax loophole that he himself went on to use to avoid paying tax in 2017 and 2018. But tax avoidance is a common practice in businesses globally and is a far cry from the notable kleptocracies history, such as the regimes of Suharto, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko or Slobodan Milošević.
Since the beginning of his presidency Trump has broken free from White House traditions in many regards, but as corrupt financing goes his taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. Trump has violated campaign finance laws, refused to fully divest from his business interests leading to several clear conflicts of interest, and has used his position to make these business interests more profitable, holding prominent meetings at his own hotels and golf resorts. Even before he took office millions of dollars raised for his inauguration were unaccounted for, which is still the subject of an ongoing fraud, money laundering and conspiracy investigation and other lawsuits. While not being able to be as corrupt as notorious dictators such as Suharto or Ferdinand Marcos, Trump has pushed the US system to its limits with his often-open disregard for what is expected of a United States President. In this way Trump's use of the presidential office to enrich himself parallels many of the most corrupt regimes that could be described as kleptocratic.