One of the most memorable moments of the first presidential debate between Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee and real estate mogul Donald Trump occurred when the issue of Trump’s taxes came up. Clinton suggested Trump had been shirking his duty as an American citizen and businessman to pay taxes. Rather than try to contradict Clinton and claim he had not been evading tax payments, Trump offered four words in response: “That makes me smart.”
It was an undeniably bold statement, and while Trump later tried to backtrack and act as though he hadn’t said it, tens of millions people heard a presidential candidate brag about not paying taxes. One of those people was billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who had a seat at the debate courtesy of Clinton. In his response, he harshly criticized Trump’s shameless flaunting of the law.
Cuban admitted to being audited on a yearly basis, but rather than try to find loopholes to avoid paying taxes, he says he speaks with his tax lawyers to ensure they follow the law. He also showed himself to be not only responsible with how he handles his multi-billion dollar fortune and business ventures, but also charitable to the communities around him.
He spoke about a brand new practice facility for his team offering the incentive of rebates if he allowed various teams to play against each other there. Cuban declined, despite the financial gain to be had. He also spoke of some “issues in Dallas” recently, which was resolved with a payment to the general treasury. Instead of trying in vain to get out of a jam through shady financial tricks, Cuban handled it like an adult would: responsibly.
When a shooting at a nightclub occurred in Orlando earlier this year, Cuban donated $1 million to Dallas for programs pertaining to the LGBT community there. When speaking about it, he was very humble, calling himself “the luckiest guy in the world” and explaining that “you can’t just take, take, take, take, take, take.”
So, for all the reasons Trump has angered and alienated people, his being wealthy is not one of them. He might be rich, but that doesn’t mean he has to be unrelatable. Rather, it’s the way he uses the power the wealth affords him to get out of trouble, and brags about it openly. He could learn a thing or two from Mark Cuban. Cuban isn’t doing anything especially revolutionary here, and he’s not acting like he is either. He simply understands that respect doesn’t come from having all sorts of expensive possessions and exclusive privileges, but from understanding one’s role in society and how your advantages can better it. Trump might think that not paying taxes does indeed, make him smart, but to say something like that out loud in front of millions of American voters definitely makes you question his judgment. Should he find himself losing come Election Day, he might think back about that comment and say something else: “That makes me dumb.”