The most amusing item from Paul Manafort’s indictment is the $1.4 million he spent on clothes. Really, Paul. Was that necessary?
Whether the money came from foreign dictators, laundered through Cypriot tax dodges, wired to New York to buy $6.4 million in houses, which he mortgaged to get the liquid assets on which he dodged taxes and spent on other things — or not — really, Paul, $245,000 a year on clothes?
And what did it get you, my friend? Aside from the criminal indictment? And the clothes?
We’re not talking about guilt or innocence today. We’re talking about who Paul Manafort is. How he operates. And how the gentlemen with whom he associates operate.
According to the 12-count indictment, leading off with “Conspiracy Against the United States,” Manafort spent $849,215 at a men’s clothing store in New York from November 2008 to September 2012. Of these 34 payments, 29 came from a Cyprus account, four from the Grenadines, and one from an unknown account.
From June 2008 until December 2012 he spent another $520,440 at a clothing store in Beverly Hills. All nine of those payments came from a Cyprus account.
So. Manafort spent at least $1,349,655 on clothes in 5½ years, according to the indictment. That’s $245,392 a year — $4,719 a week, every week — on clothes.
Well and good. One time I paid my rent in Vermont from a bank account I was closing in California. Nothing wrong with that.
But just for a lark, let’s look at what Manafort’s clothes budget could buy today in the United States. Nothing to do with guilt or innocence — just a look at the 1 percent.
Paul Manafort’s clothes budget could support 44 families of four for a year, if mom and dad both worked 40 hours a week at minimum-wage jobs, with not a day off for illness or vacation. And it would leave each family an extra $514 for Christmas presents, or boat trips, or medicine. Whatever they like.
Manafort’s clothes budget would “support” 58 families of four living at the top end of the federal poverty level, for a year, and give each family a Christmas bonus of $397 — for whatever they like! Child care! Aspirin! Political contributions!
Let’s leave out the $1,432,106 Manafort paid in four years for “home automation, lighting and entertainment”: $358,026 a year — $6,885 a week — for cool sounds.
All right, let’s not.
That’s yearly income for 47 families of four living on minimum wage, with mom and dad working. Yearly income for 62 families of four living at the top of the federal poverty line.
I hear you, Faux News. Why shouldn’t Manafort spend his money any way he likes?
I agree. Faux News is right about that.
But look at it. Just look at it.
Many moons ago, when I was covering President Reagan’s wars in Central America, and their impact upon the United States — in all sorts of ways, but particularly in immigration —I found myself in a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, where 10 refugees lived. They shared the rent, the beds — they had 8-hour shifts in the beds — and they all worked, or looked for work, all day, every day.
One of these men was college-educated. After admitting me, warily, and sitting in on my interviews with his roommates, José asked me a question.
“Why is there war?” he said.
“Well,” I said, “I understand that in El Salvador today ...”
“No,” he interrupted. “Why is there war?”
“Do you mean why is the war at its present state of ...”
“No,” he said. “Why is there war?”
I looked around. I was surrounded by refugees. They were all looking at me. I had more fat on half of my white butt than all of them had in their entire bodies.
“Why is there war?” I said.
“Hunger,” said José.
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