Diogenes on the wealthy
Tax Returns and Chaos
“The more heavily a man is supposed to be taxed,
the more power he has to escape being taxed.”
-Diogenes’s First Dictum
It’s very unlikely that Diogenes was the one who came up with the quote mentioned above. He was a very unconventional figure. A bit more than eccentric. He was known as the father of the Cynic school of philosophy, which eventually was recycled into Stoicism. He slept anywhere the night found him, and was known for making fun of luminaries such as Plato, or for walking about in full daylight with a lamp in his hand, saying that he was looking for an honest man. There’s an anecdote that says that he was rude to Alexander the Great, who had sought him out and who was amused, instead of offended, by Diogenes’s poor treatment (Imagine that: a powerful leader who refused to be taunted into a silly argument with an innocuous citizen!).
Speaking of powerful leaders… I’m sure that many of you are irritated and disturbed by Kellyanne Conway’s recent announcement that the Prince of Orange would never release his tax returns. You think that Donald the First has something to hide. You feel a mixture of impotence and desire for something, anything, bad to happen to this guy who’s so brazenly committed to breaking with all rules of acceptable presidential behavior. You want proof of dishonesty to emerge, as if the evidence already available was not enough.
I have news for you: there’s nothing in those documents that you don’t know already. The blonde apologist is right: it won’t make any difference. Moreover, I have it on good authority that the plan was to release the returns once His Majesty was crowned. The problem is, these papers have been lost. More explicitly: they are not available, not even to the Prince. I will explain, at the risk of breaking with HIPPA rules, because a household servant who happens to be a patient has overheard much of what I’m about to tell you.
It all started eight years ago, when the Prince was taunting President Obama about his birth certificate. The Orange patriarch publicly offered to publish his tax returns in exchange for the President’s birth certificate. Once Mr. Obama came through, Donald hoped that people would forget about his taxes. He was able to win the election, so that gamble paid off. Once he won the election he decided that it was safe to make his returns public. Donald I went to his computer to search for his returns. To his surprise, he could not find them.
He called his accountant.
“Do you have a copy of my returns?”
“No. You were very concerned about hacking, and any of my employees stealing them. You had me print them out; we deleted all electronic information. Don’t you remember? It took a large truck to load them and take them to your penthouse!”
A vague glimmer of understanding descended on the Prince’s already furrowed brow. He faintly remembered Melania making a big stink about all of the paper, and where it would be stored. The play room had to be sequestered for a few days. Melania having a fit; God knows how busy he was and that he didn’t need all this aggravating… Eventually the papers disappeared; all was peaceful (a relative term) at the penthouse; he totally forgot about the returns. Until now.
He called Melania.
“Dear…” He was not an affectionate person. Once he started a sentence with a loving word the newly crowned Queen knew she was expected to do something that she didn’t want to do.
“All of those papers that we brought to the penthouse a few months ago… What happened to them?”
“You told me it was OK to move them to a safe place.”
“I did. Of course I did. Where did you put them?”
“Vladimir has them.”
“Vladimir? You mean Putin?”
“Yes; him. I figured with all of the experience he had as head of the KGB, he’d be the best person to keep a document secure.”
“You gave my tax returns to Putin?”
“You told me that he was your friend. That he had complete control of everything in Russia. That people respected him. Where in America do we have complete control? When you went to Russia for the contest I asked one of your aides to take the boxes with him.”
“Putin has my returns?”
The Prince of Orange did not wait for an answer. He shut off his phone. He always tried to take advantage of unexpected happenings. He could even make money out of a bankruptcy, for goodness’ sake. But Vladimir in control of his returns? How could he make this pig look pretty?
He called Putin, but he made sure not to use the secure line.
“Your Highness! Why aren’t you using the hot line?”
“It’s personal. I was talking to Melania… She told me that she had sent you my tax returns.”
“Me? I sure don’t remember that conversation!”
“You have to. When I came to Russia for the contest. The wild party! For sure you remember!”
“Sorry, Donald. I know nothing.”
“You must have them!”
“I can have my men look. But that gets touchy. I don’t pay them all that well. If an American newsman gets a hold of my people, one never knows.”
The Orange man knew that Vlad’s troops were fiercely loyal to him. Not because of how much they got paid: they were afraid for their families’ lives. He could sense that Putin knew damn well where the returns were.
“I know you’ll try to find them. Is there anything that I can do?”
“It may help to get rid of those sanctions. Ordinary people are suffering from shortages. This is not for me, you know? Also we could have NATO look the other way when we invade Latvia…”
“I see. I guess you have made copies of the returns, haven’t you?”
“Donald! My friend! I told you, we don’t know if we have those returns! It’s all about our friendship, and keeping us in power for a long time.”
“I understand. I’ll try to help.”
He got back on his phone.
“Kellyanne? I need you to draft a statement. We will never release the returns. Tell the newspapers that nobody wants to see them anyway. Yes; I know what they’ll say. Do what you always do. Something like alternative facts will do.”
He turned the phone off. Time for another executive order…