Friday, October 08, 2021


After reviewing documents provided by the General Services Administration, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform told us this today:
* Former President Trump Reported Massive Revenues at the Trump Hotel, Concealing that the Hotel Suffered $70 Million in Net Losses. On his federally mandated financial disclosures, President Trump reported that the Trump Hotel earned him over $150 million in revenue during his time in office. However, the records obtained by the Committee show that the Trump Hotel actually incurred net losses of over $70 million, leading the former President’s holding company to inject at least $24 million to aid the struggling hotel. By filing these misleading public disclosures, President Trump grossly exaggerated the financial health of the Trump Hotel....

* While in Office, President Trump Received Preferential Treatment Potentially Worth Millions from a Foreign Bank. The documents show that in 2018, Deutsche Bank provided President Trump with a significant financial benefit by allowing him to delay making principal payments on the Trump Hotel’s $170 million loan—which Trump had personally guaranteed—for a period of six years. Without this deferral, the hotel may have needed to pay tens of millions of additional dollars to Deutsche Bank at a time when it was already facing steep losses. Mr. Trump did not publicly disclose this significant benefit from a foreign bank while he was President.
In blatant violation of the Constitution's emoluments clauses, Trump was allowed to solicit business from foreign governments, who sent a lot of revenue his way. And still he lost money.

In response to this news, and also in response to the announcement this week by Forbes that Trump has been dropped from its list of the 400 richest Americans for the first time in 25 years, the hashtag #TrumpIsBroke is trending on Twitter.

I understand the schadenfreude, but Trump isn't as broke we'd like to think he is. Forbes says he's still worth $2.5 billion, but more than 400 Americans are richer than that now. And even if the Forbes estimate is wrong, or is likely to change soon because Trump's current debts (or possible legal troubles) seriously threaten his bottom line, he'll never be broke broke. That's just not how it works in modern American capitalism.

He was in deep financial trouble a few decades ago. He declared a business loss of nearly a billion dollars in 1995. But he was living in reduced circumstances only by the standards of rich people. Think about periods of real poverty you've had, or people you know have had. Was Trump evicted and forced to live out of his car? Did he go hungry? Was he ever even on the brink of poverty, or even just forced to choose between paying the electric bill and eating?

People at that level are never really broke, even when they're massively in debt.

When I was in my twenties, I was involved for a short time with a woman several years older than I was. It was a non-exclusive relationship -- she was also having a long-distance affair with a married Chicago options trader nearly twenty years her senior. She told me he was at a financial low point, with deep debts -- and yet when he came to town, he stayed at a very pricey Midtown hotel and wined and dined her expensively. (My salary was in the mid-twenties; she and I ate takeout Chinese.) I used to talk about this with a friend at the office who was closer to my age, salary, and financial circumstances -- we realized that, on paper, we actually weren't as broke as this guy was (student loans weren't as onerous as they are now), and yet his debts weren't crimping his lifestyle at all. We pinched pennies more than he did.

Trump isn't broke the way these people are broke:
Twenty years ago, Judy Bolden served 18 months in a Florida prison. She has been free ever since, but she is still barred from voting by the state until she pays all court fines and fees associated with her conviction.

When Ms. Bolden sat to be photographed by The Times earlier this year, she said she had received a letter informing her that her outstanding debt was a few hundred dollars. Then she checked the Volusia County website and learned that she actually owes nearly $53,000. “I was so taken aback,” she said. “I was like, What? That’s not right. I was just deflated. It’s like, when is this going to end?”

Ms. Bolden is one of more than 700,000 people in Florida who are barred from voting because they can’t afford the financial obligations stemming from a prior felony conviction. “It’s like I’m not a citizen,” she said. “That’s what they’re saying.”

... For the lucky ones who can determine what they actually owe, the state layers one obstacle on top of another. It continues to add new fees for court appearances. It sells off the debt to private collection agencies, which tack on interest of up to 40 percent. Most crippling of all, it suspends the driver’s licenses of people who miss a payment. In a state where about 90 percent of people use a car to get to work, a suspended license makes it essentially impossible for people to earn the money they need to pay their fines and fees.
Trump is a Florida resident. Trump isn't a convicted felon, but he certainly ought to be. Wake me when he can't vote because his state has assessed him fines and fees he's too poor to pay.

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