If you haven’t read the New York Times report on Trump’s business losses, you should. It’s illuminating. It’s a case study in how the very wealthy are sticking it to the rest of us. For years, Donald Trump lost more money than most of us will earn in a lifetime. Yet he continued to live like an ostentatious monarch. He appeared on magazine covers with increasingly younger and blonder women. He draped himself in obscene bathrobes and preened on satin bedsheets. He gilded his offices with tacky gold filigree. He bragged about being the best, the most successful, the wealthiest, the smartest.
Here’s what we’ve learned for sure: if Trump brags about the being the best at something, the opposite is almost certainly true. He is not the most successful businessman; he is among the worst. He seems to have lost more money in his business dealings than any other single person in America during the years examined by the Times report. And spare me the overwrought justifications that real estate isn’t like other businesses. If real estate developers have conned our nation’s lawmakers into handing them increasingly obscure loopholes and tax shelters, then our lawmakers and those of us who voted them into office are idiots. Spoiler alert: we may be idiots.
You may wonder how Trump could lose so much money and still appear to have so much wealth. It’s easy. Trump makes his money the old fashioned way—he steals it. He didn’t lose his money. He lost our money.
For years in the 1980s, he made money by lying about his plans to acquire various businesses. As soon as stocks rose based on speculation about those acquisitions, Trump would sell his shares and announce that he’d changed his mind. Then the stock prices fell, leaving all other investors to suffer losses. It worked for a while, but investors got wise and stopped trusting the lies Trump peddled. This is why Trump had to start begging money from foreign banks and investors. This is why many suspect the Trump organization has long been too cozy with the Russians—a bad partnership for a private citizen, but a disastrous one for the nation’s highest elected official.
And this is why, one presumes, Trump is now suing DeutscheBank and other financial lenders to keep his business dealings with them private. The man behind the curtain is pulling as many strings as he can to keep the illusion alive, but we can all see the little man for what he is: a con, a cheat, a liar, a fraud.
By lying, cheating, and shuffling his meager and often fake assets around, he fooled a lot of people into giving him more: more money, more votes, more attention, more power. Every single thing he has belongs to someone else. He could not steal from us more successfully if he walked into our homes and loaded up a van with electronics and jewelry.
Trump is the worst single example of this sort of sustained fraud on ordinary Americans, but he isn’t the only one. Massive wealthy corporations including Amazon, Chevron, Delta Air Lines and more, contribute nothing to our tax coffers despite earning millions on the backs of American workers. We lose tens of billions of tax dollars every year because these behemoth corporations stash their money offshore and use loopholes to zero out their tax debt. Meanwhile our bridges are collapsing, we’re getting sick off lettuce, the national debt is skyrocketing, and the first family is canoodling with hostile foreign interests.
It is rich that we spend our time arguing over a border wall and complaining that immigrants are taking our jobs, while corporate big whigs stash their tax-free dollars in foreign accounts. It’s no accident. The system that feeds the wealthy works best when the rest of us are distracted by petty bickering and class warfare. They planted the seeds for our nation’s current divisiveness and they are reaping the benefits.
Imagine what we could do if we stopped fighting with one another and turned our wrath to the corporate robber barons who are raping and pillaging our country. Instead, we keep handing them more power. It would be more efficient if we all just turned over our paychecks, our life savings, and our homes to men like Trump. At least that would be an honest transaction.