Monday’s presidential debate certainly gives us a lot to think about as we ponder the future of our country. I am confused by the Donald Trump supporters who say they admire his business success; his take no prisoner attitude and his truthfulness.
Let’s examine this a bit. First, let’s look at the Donald’s self-proclaimed business success. Well, he certainly isn’t a self-made millionaire. Not one bit. In fact, the Donald was given $14 million by his father to start a business. He is very proud to say he’s built a multi-billion dollar business empire and he is worth $10 billion. But, he doesn’t release his tax returns to shed any light on these claims.
At the same time, he doesn’t mention that he built this self-proclaimed empire on the backs of the middle class and uses our byzantine tax system to avoid paying federal income tax, leaving such to you, the little guy. And, he often doesn’t pay his bills, which puts more money in his pocket. Monday night, he gleefully pointed out that he stiffed an architect for the work he had done on one of his building projects, saying maybe he didn’t like the work the guy did as a reason for not paying his bill. The Donald has been sued by more than 600 individuals and companies for failing to fully pay their bill for the service they provided.
A case in point, Mr. Trump has declared bankruptcy six, yes six times and in doing so he stiffed middle class businesses like plumbers, architects, carpenters, bakers, and scores of others. Yet, he himself personally banked millions while the middle class worker is left holding an empty bag.
Mr. Trump at one time owned three Atlantic City casinos, which went bankrupt for the first time in 1995. Bankruptcy gave him a number of benefits. First, he settled his outstanding bills to those who built his casino for pennies on the dollar and it forced many of these small businesses out of business because they couldn’t handle the loss. Second, he took enormous tax losses on his income tax report, allowing him to avoid paying any income tax. Third, he restructured the casino business by selling stock to the public so he didn’t carry the risk, the public investors did. Early on the stock traded around $35 per share but over eight years, Mr. Trump’s famous business acumen managed the stock down to pennies per share as his casino business plunged into a second bankruptcy even though the casino business was booming at the time. Shear business brilliance, Mr. Trump. As the stock became worthless and individual investors suffered huge investment losses, the Donald was able to pocket more than $5 million per year for nearly eight years as the failing business’ CEO. He even bought a private jet with all the money he was making, at the little guy’s expense. Life was good for the Donald.
This doesn’t account for his failed Trump University, where he is accused of defrauding hundreds over a non-existent real estate school; or the failed Trump Airlines; Trump Mortgage Company; and the list goes on. On Monday during the debate, he even boasted that it made him a good businessman to avoid paying taxes, “That makes me smart,” he said. Imagine if we all did that? Yet, at the same time he complained that we weren’t investing enough on repairing the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, didn’t spend enough on defense or supporting veterans. I guess Mr. Trump wants you to pay your taxes for these, but he’ll do everything he can to avoid doing the same.
If this is the Trump business brilliance, we can’t afford it in the White House.
Shawn Hogan is the mayor of Hornell.