Fake Wealth

I really try to avoid online readers’ comments about any news story. It doesn’t even have to be a political story, but as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, that doesn’t stop people from making the most innocuous story into a political debate. On those days when I get sucked into reading them, I’ve seen a particular argument used repeatedely by the pro-Trump crowd. It goes something like this:

Anti-Trump Guy: This president is an absolute dumpster fire. How the HELL did this guy ever get elected?

Pro-Trump Guy: Yeah? Where are your billions? Donald Trump is a very successful businessman and the government would be a lot better off it were run like a business!

Actually, the very last part of Pro-Trump Guy’s statement is a whole other blog post I’ve been meaning to write. But let’s analyze the first part of what he said. “Yeah, where are your billions?”

Considering The Donald has told a whopping 4,000 lies (and change) in his first twenty months in office, forgive me for being skeptical about any claims he makes. I call “bullshit” on him being a billionaire. I can think of only two reasons that would possibly keep him from releasing his tax returns: 1) it would reveal he’s not worth anything near what he claims, or 2) it would reveal how deeply he’s in bed financially with the Russians (as in “money laundering”). Until, and unless he shows his cards, sorry, neither he nor his minions get to play the billionaire card. (Note: He probably is a billionaire (barely), but I just enjoy jerking that chain.)

The second part of Pro-Trump Guy’s defense of Trump is “Donald Trump is a very successful businessman”.  Where to begin? There are so many ways to skin this cat. Let’s take a look at the many ways we can challenge how successful Trump actually is.

1. If Trump would have simply invested his inheritance, he would have made more money in the stock market than all of the many shyster scams and schemes he’s been running over the decades. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe the very conservative financial publications Forbes. (yes he would have had to leverage his investments, but he’s proven himself to be a lover of debt anyway).

2. In my last post, I referenced a phrase that I learned in graduate school: Free trade promotes world peace – you don’t declare war on your customers.  I also took accounting during graduate school and learned gems like this: revenue – expenses = profit.  Now for many entrepreneurs, achieving that simple equation can be quite challenging. It’s not always easy to earn more than your costs.

The Trump Organization has become quite adept at earning a profit with just one minor tweak to this formula: revenue = profit, or stated another way: don’t pay your bills! Just Google it. You’ll find it everywhere, including Fox News, so you know it must be true. The Trump Organization stiffs vendors left and right.

3. By any objective standard, Donald Trump has been successful at one thing: Selling Donald Trump –  more specifically,  licensing the name “Trump”. In business after business that require actual managerial and executive skills, businesses such as running an airline, a mortgage company, selling steaks, and on and on, Trump has failed time and again.  After failing at multiple hotel or casino adventures, he finally figured out a business model where investors actually own the building, thus shifting the risk of construction to them, after which he licenses his name to the hotel and may or may not manage the property.  The inescapable truth is that Donald Trump is not a very skilled executive. He’s reminiscent of those celebrities who are famous for being famous, not because they actually have any talent. He gets richer from licensing his name, which has recognition for being rich.

In absolute terms, Trump has a lot of dollars. All dollars spend the same so,  congrats, Donald, you’re rich. In terms of being successful at building real things like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos (both of whom could buy and sell Trump like a bar of soap), he’s rather incompetent.

Now, why bring this all up? Why pile on the poor, inept boob? Because.. as the winners of elections are fond of saying: elections have consequences. In this case, the consequences are not good. I am specifically thinking of the border situation where, at Trump’s direction, children were separated from their families.

This particular conversation has nothing to do with the immigration debate and everything to do with Trump’s ineptitude, his inclination to shift the burden to others and his stunning lack of understanding about the organization and abilities of the American government.

The immigrant families in this case are being represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and this past week, the Trump administration petitioned the judge in the case that the ACLU, given its “considerable resources” should take the lead in reuniting parents and children. The judge rejected that notion, replying the responsibility lies “one-hundred percent” with the administration.

The ACLU is an American organization. The American government has embassies, consulates and spies the world over. Surely the reach and resources of the American government are far more suited for finding these parents than is the ACLU. Trump demonstrates a shocking ignorance of the resources at his disposal.

Donald Trump, acting on emotion and the misguided belief that everything he touches turns to gold, ordered the families separated without ever considering how they would be reunited.  Now that his executive incompetence has created a humanitarian mess, he wants someone else to come in and clean up after him. Three cheers for the judge who slammed the door on this weasel move.

This president’s overconfidence and under-preparation are not attributes that serve him well, to wit: the unmitigated disaster that was the Helsinki Summit. It’s not the first time and sadly, it won’t be the last.



Fake Flags

This is a real American flag. Why do I say it’s “real”? I make the distinction because most of the American flags you see now are, to borrow a phrase, “fake”.

I am not referring to where they were manufactured, I am referring to the reason they are flown.

When I fly my American flag, I am flying it as Marine Corps veteran who served under a president I could be proud of, Ronald Reagan. I served under a president who defiantly demanded “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, not a president who says “Mr. Putin, that’s a tremendous offer, turning over to you our former ambassador to be interrogated by the FSB”.

When I fly the flag, I am thinking of the great institution of the American free press, of journalists like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who shined the light of truth on the Watergate story because the American people deserve to know the truth about the actions of their elected leaders. I am most definitely not thinking of an American president who uses the language of dictators in denouncing a free press. Facts are no less true because you don’t like them, Mr. President. Besides, if you want to find the source of the most fake news spreading today, you need look no further than the nearest mirror. That you whip crowds into such a fervor that they verbally assault reporters would be shameful for a small-town mayor; for a sitting U.S. president, it is unconscionable.

As a lifelong resident of the Motor City, I grew up confronted by “Buy American” bumper stickers. “Real Americans Buy American” always stuck with me because I’ve always thought that real Americans…buy whatever they want. And so did the Republican party, the party of my youth and young adulthood. I still believe in that old refrain I learned in graduate school: Free trade promotes world peace – You don’t declare war on your customers. Alas, the Republican Party, in this and so many other ways, is no longer the party it once was, and I can no longer be a party to it. It is true that I have changed some over the years, but not nearly as much as the party I once identified with. Today we have tariffs and socialist relief propping up the farmers hurt by retaliation to our tariffs. When I fly my flag, I think of an America that was able to stand its ground with anyone, anywhere.

The party of rugged individualism has given way to an ugly nationalism that bands thugs together in an “us versus them” mentality. Why? Because of an inexplicable cult of personality. People who should know better, people who do know better dare not cross this autocrat, lest the Tweet of death be pointed at them. What results is a man who from the bully pulpit has spewed over 4,000 lies in twenty months and has the nerve to attack those who dare fact-check him.

I thank God that my time in the military occurred under Ronald Reagan, for had it been under Donald Trump, I would have had to become a deserter, which would have still been more honorable than his military record. When I fly my flag, I am praying for an America, for a tradition that is now on life support and it is not clear that it can recover.