In a post yesterday I wrote in passing, “Anyone who buys into the myth that Trump is a successful businessman needs to do a little reading.” Of course, Donald Trump himself would assure you he’s “great” and “yuge,” but an article in Tuesday’s issue of The New York Times points out that “His real estate holdings in New York are modest; he did not make the top 10 in lists of major condominium developers and power players in real estate in the city, as judged by several publications.” Worse, “The major banks, for their part, say they are leery of lending to him after having lost millions of dollars on past deals. Lawyers and contractors he has hired in the past say he is slow to pay his bills, and often shortchanges them.”
Early on Trump was a moderate success in real estate, back when it was easier to get rich that way, thanks to a million dollars in seed money from his father. He later inherited an impressive fortune. But as those bankers and contractors discovered, his businesses quite often fail or are only modestly successful. His real talent is in self-promotion, exaggerating his wealth and success, starring in reality shows, and licensing the Trump name. Like the Kardashians, he’s famous mainly for being famous.
Kevin Drum amplified on this a bit in a blog post the same day, pointing out that in the early 1990s Trump was reduced to liquidating a lot of assets because his businesses were in serious trouble and he needed the money. Of course he didn’t say that, he declared that “cash is king” and that selling off assets was merely a brilliant business move. “And since he was still desperate for money,” Drum continued, “he cranked up up every penny-ante, late-night shill he could think of to bring in a few bucks: Trump water, Trump vodka, Trump magazines, Trump steaks, Trump mortgages, Trump university, Trump energy drinks. As near as I can tell, they were basically all failures. If they weren’t, surely Trump would be trumpeting how much money he made from them.”
Trump University wasn’t entirely a failure, at least not for Trump, but ex-students reportedly called it a ‘scam’ and a New York prosecutor characterized it as a “fraudulent bait and switch scheme.” More on that tomorrow.
Trump more or less promises his supporters that he’ll make America as successful as he is. The danger is he might be right.