It’s not the mere $750 Donald Trump paid in income tax in 2017. It’s the hundreds of millions of dollars his businesses have lost, and the huge amount of money he owes to lenders both foreign and domestic, leaving him the kind of national security risk who should never be allowed to hold a high position in the US government.
After reading the New York Times exposé, full of details found in Trump’s tax returns from the last two decades, I flashed back to a conversation I had with a friend four years ago. I knew he was a Republican, and he knew I was a Democrat, and for all the years we’d known each other, we had never discussed politics. Not once. But at lunch that day, he blurted out that he hoped Trump would beat Hillary Clinton because it would be good for the country to be run by a businessman.
I swallowed hard, then tried to explain why that was such a bad idea — starting with the fact that the government of the United States of America is not a business, and can’t be operated like one. It is a public service that takes in money through taxes and spends money through appropriations, and there’s no profit motive involved. However, I added, if we were going to have a business person in the White House, it should at least be someone who had been successful — which in no way would include Trump.
My friend had bought into the biggest lie about Trump, the image of him as a hugely successful billionaire that had been artificially created by the book “The Art Of The Deal” and the TV show “The Apprentice.” What we now know is that if it weren’t for that NBC contract, Trump would have suffered yet another financial crash, as his so-called real estate “empire” was crumbling beneath him as it hemorrhaged cash. He had failed with his other scams, too — the airline, the steaks, the university, the bottled water, and so on — but he deflected and lied about them to protect the façade and the all-important brand name at all costs.
What his tax returns show is just how bad a business person Trump has been and offer a peek at how his not-exactly-gushing revenue stream will likely be reduced to a trickle once he’s out of office. That jibes with what I wrote in August:
The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has begun pressing even harder with his investigation into Trump’s businesses, citing possible “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” including potential fraud allegations. These legal concerns are not going to disappear once Trump is defeated at the polls.
But you know what will go away? A lot of his customers. Like much of the travel sector, the finances of Trump’s hotels and resorts have been severely negatively impacted by the lack of visitors during the pandemic. The ones that are hanging on have done so because they’ve been propped up by foreign governments, lobbyists, and political organizations — all of whom see a connection between booking rooms and events at Trump venues and getting access to White House policies. But once his address is no longer 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they’ll have no reason to curry favor with him or his sons or his companies.
Therefore, I predict that within just a couple of years after he’s out of office, we’ll see Trump invoking a word he’s been very familiar with during his failed business career: bankruptcy.
The revelations in the NY Times are yet another in a long line of “the emperor has no clothes” stories that Trump is already denying as “fake news,” but must have him sweating — particularly on the eve of his first presidential debate against Joe Biden. You know the former VP’s staff has been working non-stop on the talking points Biden will hit Tuesday night, hopefully including some well-timed zingers that knock the Liar-In-Chief for a loop. Let’s see how hard Chris Wallace presses the matter in his questioning, too.
This sort of reporting is, sadly, in short supply these days because so many news outlets have been ravaged in the internet era of “free information.” Of course, it’s not free. It’s quite expensive, and there are only a few organizations (e.g. ProPublica, The Washington Post) that are well-financed enough to undertake an investigation that requires several reporters and researchers, not to mention devoting the time to getting it right and ready for public consumption.
Whether the details will change anyone’s mind about The Bankrupt Billionaire is an open question.
For those who live in the Trump Misinformation Bubble — who he considers suckers for handing over their tax dollars, which he then steals and keeps for himself, his children, and his cronies — anything negative said about their Dear Leader is inherently false. Within minutes of the story being released, both the White House press office and the Fox News propaganda machine were leading the way in attacking the Times and trying to spin attention away from the story. The right-wing loudmouths who dominate talk radio will be echoing those bullet points all day today.
For Democrats, the Times piece (and those to come over the next couple of weeks) serves as even more recognition of what they already believed about Trump. And it will certainly provide fodder for even more anti-Trump ads run by Biden and the groups that support him. I have already seen dozens of quick-response fundraising appeals from Democratic candidates at every level on social media.
But what about that other 5% or so the polls tell us is supposedly still undecided? I find it hard to believe there are such people — because I don’t know anyone who has spent the last four years living in a cave or a coma — but if they do exist, could this be the extra bit of evidence they have been waiting for to sway their opinion one way or the other? Who knows?
While these explosive revelations had me shaking my head in sadness yet again that a large enough portion of our populace has stooped so low as to elevate this grifter to the most powerful position in the country, there was something that brought a smile to my face. Last night, Michael Bromwich (former Inspector General at the Department of Justice and Assistant US Attorney) tweeted that if Trump loses the election “he faces federal and state prosecution for bank fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, as does his entire family.”
I can’t wait to see the emperor wearing clothes that are even more orange than his face as the crowd chants, “Lock Him Up!! Lock Him Up!!”