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The revelations about Donald Trump finances obtained by New York Times produced two distinct reactions. One is that he is a terrible and failing businessman, and the other is that he is a tax Cheat. Seen in the same light, the two interpretations are in tension. “Journalists can’t decide whether Mr. Trump is a shark exploiting the White House for personal gain or a sap that bleeds money during his tenure,” argues one Wall Street Newspaper editorial. “Brilliant or hunchbacked?” Make up your mind.”
But there is a different way of thinking about Trump’s career, and that is that he’s a brilliant con artist, who has, throughout his career in business and politics, honed the singular skill of identifying brands and exploit them with spectacular lies.
New Times scoops just flesh out the story that emerged in its revealer 2018 report, whom we now know was born with the cooperation of his niece, Mary Trump. This story reconstructs the creation of Trump’s image from the start. It is one of the most successful – and almost certainly the most historically significant – drawbacks in American history. For reasons that I never understood, its implications were not absorbed.
In the mid-1970s, the Trump family set out to sell to the world a character of their own creation: Donald J. Trump, a dashing and brilliant business genius. The protagonist of the story was the child of multimillionaire developer Fred Trump, a son who had accomplished next to nothing in business and whose taxable income was less than $ 25,000. The trick was quite simple: young Donald was investigating reporters around his father’s business empire and pretending he had built it himself.
In 1976, the Times produces a profile introducing the young star on stage. “He rides around town in a silver Cadillac with driver with his initials, DJT, on the plates,” a profile sprung. “He dates tight-fitting models, belongs to the most stylish clubs and, at only 30, estimates he is worth” over $ 200 million. “
In reality, Donald Trump was in the business of money inheritance. In 2018, the Times revealed to his readers that this whole profile was a “spectacular con artist”. Forty-two years earlier, Trump had carefully taken the Times journalist through a Potemkin village of his father’s wealth:
In the Cadillac with driver, Donald Trump took the Times journalist on a tour of what he called his “jobs”. He told her about the Manhattan hotel he planned to turn into a Grand Hyatt (his father guaranteed the construction loan) and the Hudson River rail yards he planned to develop (the rights were purchased by his father’s company). He showed her “our philanthropic enterprise”, the senior citizen skyscraper in East Orange (funded by her father); an apartment complex on Staten Island (owned by his father); their “lighthouse”, Trump Village, Brooklyn (owned by his father); and finally, Beach Haven Apartments (owned by his father). Even the Cadillac was leased by his father.
The strategy was to convert Fred Trump’s fortune into advertising, which Donald could then monetize. The lies used to build Trump’s image were huge. In 1984 Donald concocted a series of lies to persuade Forbes it was worth $ 900 million. Its reporter, Jonathan Greenberg, diligently unraveled all the hype and reduced the published sum to $ 100 million, just to discover decades later, the actual amount was only $ 5 million. The power of lying was his scale. Greenberg could imagine that Trump was exaggerating his wealth by ten, but the idea that he was exaggerating it 180 times was beyond imagination.
Trump’s career as a real estate mogul failed and he went bankrupt as his father’s legacy finally dried up. But like the second Payment of Times reporting on his tax shows, he relaunched his career by monetizing the publicity he had so carefully sown. He developed a brand as a television star portraying a business genius. It has lent its name to a dizzying array of products, from detergent to double Oreos. The image had become the company itself.
While Donald has never been able to match his father’s prowess as a builder and owner, his talent as a trusted man has far surpassed him. Trump has exploited his fame in a series of scams: “Trump University” (a bogus real estate training seminar designed to bleed its victims dry); the “Trump Network(Selling its targets of urine testing systems, which would be used to trick them into buying overpriced vitamins); using the “Trump Foundation” as a racket to funnel so-called charitable funds into his pocket, and so on.
Sometimes these scams have bordered on outright crime. At other times, they crossed the line. Trump is currently under investigation for tax evasion. And, as a professor of law and tax expert Daniel Chaviro argues that information in recent Trump statements strongly suggests more blatant fraud – deductions like hairstyling and country property appear to violate black letter rules governing tax deductions.
Trump’s career arc has been to exploit a string of victims, pocket his winnings, and use them to find new ones. He lied to a series of reporters, built and sold an image of a brilliant negotiator, scammed his fans with their money, and lied to the government about his earnings.
Trump’s political career is a natural step in the progression, which he envisioned for decades. The Republican Party was a perfect vehicle for a figure like Trump. The mainstream media had become increasingly resistant to his lies, but the conservative media ecosystem was fertile ground, a propaganda machine so suited to its needs that it didn’t even have to try to deceive them. . Whatever lies other Republicans spit about Barack Obama, climate change, or the miraculous powers of tax cuts, Trump would go beyond them. From Fox News to Hugh Hewitt to the anti-anti-Trumpors, his cronies just didn’t care if what he was saying was true.
Asset (or, more precisely, his Ghost writer) once said, “Business is my art form. Others paint beautifully or write poetry. I like to do business, preferably big business. The past four years have shown that Trump is bad at making deals, despite being free from the burden of being principled. Business is not his art form.
The lie is. The lie is how he replenished his fortune after accumulating his inheritance and how he kept his head above water financially. Lying may or may not be enough to get him a second term, or even dismiss him jail. But if you bet Trump’s lies will stop working, you are betting against the evidence of his entire adult life.