The quote on the picture above is not some left-wing invention, trying to paint Donald Trump as a selfish monster. It is a direct quote from The Art of the Deal (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780446353250&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used), the man’s ghost-written bestseller about how great he wants us all to know he is.
If we really were to take the book apart, which is obviously based upon countless hours of interviews and observations by Tony Schwartz (the co-author), we can see how little Mr. Trump’s mindset and values have changed since the 1980s, when his star first rose. Here are a few quotes:
- “One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It’s in the nature of the job, and I understand that. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.
- “The way I see it, critics get to say what they want to about my work, so why shouldn’t I be able to say what I want to about theirs?”
- [F]rom a pure business point of view, the benefits of being written about have far outweighed the drawbacks. It’s really quite simple … The funny thing is that even a critical story, which may be hurtful personally, can be very valuable to your business.”
- “Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.”
- “The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.”
Translate these suggestions away from the endless rises and falls of Donald Trump’s business career and see how this works on a national basis, and how well this benefits or harms everyone. Let us take a look at only economic claims about the Trump administration’s greatness from his supporters. We can leave the more controversial immigration, human rights and teetering apocalyptic warfare for another time. I want to investigate his perceived strengths.
Donald Trump has never personally filed for bankruptcy. Of course he hasn’t. No matter how much he might exaggerate his personal wealth, we all have to acknowledge that he is an extremely successful, powerful and rich man. Disregard the benefits he received in his youth for a moment and think how much further he has pushed himself than the father who never truly loved him. Accept this fact for a moment before we dive into how much of a failure he also has been.
Clearly the early 1990s were a hard time for Trump Industries. This list of bankruptcies, also, does not even consider the endless variety of outright failed business ventures undertaken:
Now I wish I were able to find an image without a central editorial comment in the center, merely allowing the facts to speak, but this is another product of our age, of the internet, of not just Donald Trump’s attack dog stance and the bipartisan hypersensitivity that infects us, but all of us, the real root of the problem.
There has also been quite a bit of news into the investigations on Trump’s mysteriously secretive personal finances. This comes from long before his successful re-emergence as a game show host, but provides a much deeper picture than his boastful public image offers:
Now we can certainly take these facts as a warning sign about what he might do to the United States should he try to run it as he has his businesses, but this disregards the other fact that, beyond these many glaring failures, there has also been tremendous success, the sort that makes an arrogant man open up a place called the Taj Mahal. And for many desperate people who chose to support Donald Trump for President, it is this success that most appealed to them. And while many foul-tempered, angry and outright hateful people were also attracted to his merciless and blood-thirsty stance, a pretend ‘counter-punching’ that is really just starting a fight and then blaming another for attacking him, it is his self-built image of success that appealed more than anything.
Now, when the cracks are growing and desperation is once more on the rise, the term ‘doubling down’–a gambling phrase applied to a casino baron (doesn’t the house always win?)–has spread to represent a grim absolutism, a refusal to hear otherwise about a decision made years before and thus ignoring those very cracks, which widen daily as a result.
Let’s look now at the way Trump runs his businesses (especially the ones he cares less about, like I claim the United States is to him). You can compare this to a college kid getting their first credit card and going wild, thinking to themselves how much they can buy for free. Of course it isn’t free. Eventually the bill comes due. Interest is added. Demands are made. Credit ratings are destroyed. You can’t buy a house, or a car. You cannot get a loan to stay in school. Sanctions are imposed upon your way of life. You struggle forever to claw your way out of debt, never winning that last ditch effort lottery jackpot.
The US economy is presently being run in a similar manner. Put it all on credit, the President says. Don’t worry about it. He is thinking about how, in business, you can just declare Chapter 11, trash your debts, maintain the operation long enough to liquidate the remaining funds into a larger parent company, and then close the doors, all the while paying nobody anything. Trump claims that this is successful business practice. He references (no doubt truthfully) numerous other big corporations that follow the same practice. He calls this smart.
But this doesn’t work for a nation, does it? How can we disregard international debt? Will a court filing simply make it go away? Will prices on goods stay the same, or even lower, or will tax debt precipitously increase, bankrupting more and more citizens in an age when such devastation can no longer protect you?
Of course there is the President’s boast about “tariffs,” something the man either does not understand, or is so heartlessly blind that he does not realize that the imposed increase in prices all such implementation requires will harm nearly everyone not as wealthy as himself. He yammers on about making “better trade deals” with other countries, shattering generations long alliances all in the name of money, once again clearly not understanding the larger realities of how to face the world. And yet all of his allegations of cheating and corruption against these other nations (some of which are certainly true) are fully undermined by the childish practice he has always attempted, in his life, in business, and now in politics, of turning around perceived corruption and outdoing it while justifying this with the idea that “if they can break the law, I can do it better!” He is incredibly guilty of what he accuses others of, and the idea that our economy is good is just another sham, another con job that is currently on hold so he can blame either the next administration or those from within, a nerve-wrackingly conspiratorial “deep state,” when everything falls apart.
Look at the zigzagging stock market, resting at an all time high number, regardless of the instability of going up 200 points one day and down 600 the next. This seems like it should be a point of pride for our nation. But what does it mean, anyway? How does this impact us? Do you own stock? Even if you do, is it enough? Does the instability put you on edge? How do you justify to yourself such a blind gamble in an uncertain world? And do you really understand the nature of how the stock market works, of how it impacts your personal wealth if you can never truly sell it for fear of missing out? For the rest of us, without stock shares, it really doesn’t mean anything beyond a slight increase in the price of our goods. But if the market should collapse, like it always, eventually does, we get caught up in the desperate panic, regardless of the fact that it still does not actually harm us in any way. The stock market is a sham, a ticker of public confidence, really, that does not consider what people think or want in the interests of cold, sociopathic business. The public is presently confident with the high numbers, sure. The president for some reason is given credit for this, fine. But it is an illusion. It isn’t real. It does not affect any of us. It is just another lie.
The real threat to the US Economy and, considering its impact, for the entire world’s wealth, is the fact that the man in charge of these withering and rapid changes does not seem to care. His history proves that certain failures can be transformed into success on a personal level and that there is always someone else to blame for your own mistakes. There is a vast list of those that have never been paid, who have been maliciously bankrupted or fired, that the President escapes the blame for. Everything eventually stagnates in court and he is doing essentially the same thing with the endless criminal allegations against himself and his administration. Sure, some of the crimes are not real, but we will never know, will we? That is the definition of obstruction of justice. Block it! Cover it up! Don’t let them investigate! Destroy the evidence! Blame them of the same thing and thereby water down crime so completely that the civil code of society disappears and the whole world becomes a free-for-all, reduced, finally, to guarding our caves with a rock in case a mammoth wanders into our den.
This, I fear, is the long end result of President Trump’s disregard and lack of understanding of how the world is not actually a business, or that at least there are many other things to consider beyond simple profit margins. This is why people have such contempt for corporations and business people. It is the greed, the selfishness, the self-obsessed goal that will mow down anyone getting in the way of personal ambition.
At the time of the French Revolution the statesman and philosopher Joseph de Maistre
made a statement that has remained through the ages, and continues to be perhaps the most accurate commentary on government and politics. We like to blame our leaders or another political party or the numbing ideologies that swirl around in sound bites that clutter and confuse us until the only consequence is finally outrage. De Maistre said “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” This is who we are. No matter how much we either love or hate Donald Trump, he is who we elected. He is who we deserve. We must all suffer the consequences together, this symptom of our own greed, intolerance and selfishness.