Monday, September 28, 2020

The Rhetorical Myth of Trump the Self-Made Billionaire: The New York Times Does It Again

 Earlier this year, I wrote a post applying Aristotle's Rhetoric to Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric and showed that Trump makes the argument from the character of the speaker in claiming that the prudence of Trump as a wildly successful businessman makes him the best man to be president.  This argument can be put into a syllogism:

Major premise: Because of stupid politicians, America no longer wins; and America will not win again until a successful businessman who knows how to win is elected president.

Minor premise:  Donald Trump is unique in his business success and his prudence in knowing how to win, because he is a self-made multi-billionaire.

Conclusion:  Therefore, Americans need to elect Trump president.

I challenged the minor premise by pointing to the evidence that Trump's business career shows many failures from his imprudent decisions, that he was saved from ruin by his father's life-long transfer of money to him, and so he is not the self-made billionaire that he claims to be.

As I indicated in that previous post, the best evidence for this comes in an investigative report published in The New York Times on October 2, 2018, which showed that Fred Trump started transferring money to Donald from the time he was 3 years old, and that Fred bailed out Donald every time that he faced financial ruin.  (We now know that Mary Trump--Donald's niece--was one of the primary sources for the financial records collected by the New York Times reporters.  I have written about Mary Trump's book.)

Now, two years later, The New York Times has done it again.  Yesterday, they published another long investigative article that reveals "the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image--honed through his star turn on 'The Apprentice'--that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base."  

Amazingly, these reporters have over 20 years of Trump's federal tax fillings, which show that since the death of his father in 1999, he has continued his history of business failure.  In many years, he lost more money that almost any other individual taxpayer in the United States.  By claiming these losses on his federal tax returns, he has avoided paying any federal taxes in 10 of the last 15 years.  And when he has paid federal taxes, his payments have often been low: in the year that he won the presidency, he paid $750 in federal income taxes.

In June of 2015, when he announced his presidential candidacy, he had lost over $100 million in the previous two years.  It might be true, as many people have suspected, that he decided to run only to generate publicity that might promote the economic value of the Trump brand.

Now Trump is facing the prospect of another bankruptcy, and this time it would be a personal bankruptcy.  He is personally responsible for loans and other debts totally $421 million, which will come due within four years.  He is also being audited for a $72.9 million federal tax refund that he received in 2010.  If he has to pay that back with interest, that would be over $100 million. 

If Trump is reelected, we could have a sitting president in bankruptcy proceedings and with banks foreclosing on his properties.  That would be personally humiliating for Trump.  But even worse for the country would be the national debt crisis that has been deepened during Trump's presidency.  During his campaign in 2016, he warned about the coming debt crisis as the national debt was coming close to $20 trillion.  He promised that as president, he would balance the federal budget and pay off the national debt.  But since his election, he has said nothing about this promise.  Now the national federal debt is close to $27 trillion, which is more than the entire GDP of the U.S. economy for a year!

It is disturbing that in this election year, almost no one is speaking about the looming threat of a debt crisis.  The only candidates saying anything about this are the Libertarian Party candidates--Jo Jorgenson and Spike Cohen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These two articles are illuminating on Trump's personally guaranteed debts and the potential conflicts of interest if he is re-elected:

"The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has reported that, between 2006 and 2014, Trump made a major change in the way he did business: He started dropping large amounts of cash to buy and develop certain properties, rather than relying on loans. Most notably, Trump bought and renovated a golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, for over $200 million — for which he paid entirely in cash.

The Trumps have claimed they simply had the cash on hand for this. But the New Yorker’s Adam Davidson doesn’t buy it.

“The portfolio of assets that Trump owns does not suggest that he would have so much money that he can casually spend a few hundred million on a whim,” Davidson wrote in 2018.

“There simply isn’t enough money coming into Trump’s known business to cover the massive outlay he spent on Turnberry.” Davidson has gone on to suggest that Trump’s expensive purchases like this may truly have been “on behalf of others” — that he was laundering money for some shady wealthy foreigners.

We don’t know where the hundreds of millions in cash Trump used for Turnberry and these other properties came from, and there’s no hard evidence that it was connected to money laundering. But Trump hasn’t given a convincing explanation for this, so it remains an unresolved mystery."