Blog #76 – Donald Trump and Special Interests


Blog #76 – Donald Trump with No Special Interests? An OpEd

The idea that Donald Trump is different from everybody else in Washington because they represent special interests and he doesn’t is hard to reconcile with what we know of him. He started life with a loan of $4,000,000 from a rich father who made his money in real estate, and later gave him a $40,000,000 share of his real estate empire to help keep him doing the same. He owns casinos in Atlantic City and golf courses in Florida and Scotland, invests in hedge funds and hob-nobs with hedge fund managers, flamboyantly displays his abilities to fire people and cut jobs, and puts businesses he runs into bankruptcy when they’re no longer profitable for him. He issues 20,000 tickets to help fill an auditorium that seats 1,400, has dissenters thrown out of the audience because it’s a “private party” and wants their coats confiscated, although he says he loves the First Amendment as much as he loves the Second. He flies around in his private jet. He pays himself an annual salary from his corporations of $60 million a year. One bedroom units in his New York City condo tower sell for $2,250,000. He is worth between $4 billion and $10 billion dollars today, and brags about his wealth constantly. Banks have bailed him out when he needed to defer nearly $1 billion in debt when he was in hot water financially.

Whose interests is he likely to represent?

 

[Published as a Letter to the Editor of the Waterbury Republican and American, January 12, 2016]

More detail and discussion at

Blog 77a – The Real Trump and the Tumpeting Trump

Blog 77b –  Why is Trumpeting Trump so appealling

Blog 77c – Summary on Trump

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Blog 77c -Summary to Explain Donald Trum in 5 Paragraphs


Blog 77c Explaining Donald Trump in 5 short summary points.

 

  1. There are really two consistent but separate Donald Trumps – A Real Trump, a cold-blooded, shrewd, profit-focused, businessman, logically power-seeking in his own interest, the Trump of casinos, luxury hotels and residence, exclusive golf courses, hedge funds, global investments, and on the other hand a Trumpeting Trump, vociferously projecting an image of luxury and riches, and spouting eternal verities as common sense entirely independent from his own interests, but which he is willing to share for the good of the citizenry, the Trump of walls around Mexico, freedom from government regulation, anti-foreigners, religious bigotry, nationalistic Americanism, winners and losers. How the Real Trump got his billions is however not a subject for discussion by either one.
  2. The failure of his competitors for the nomination to take his central ideas on boldly and directly, to expose his self-interest in his trumpeted ideas, arises not out of fear of combat or concern for the good of the Republican Party, but out of the realization that his ideas are in their own self-interest also, and too deep criticism would amount to self-criticism for them.
  3. The racial and ethnic and moral bigotry running through Trump’s trumpetings are functional for him in identifying a scapegoat for the ill functioning of the system he is defending and a moral justification for the harm that his ideas, if implemented, would clearly cause to many.
  4. Trump’s bigotry is bought by some of his supporters at the bottom of the economic ladder because having a prominent Presidential candidate espouse similar feelings. It is functional for them because it legitimates their own many material frustrations and insecurities. His bigotry is bought by others of his supporters high up on that ladder because it directly serves their own private material interests.
  5. In media terms, Trumpeting Trump’s bigotry affects primarily moderate Republican and Democratic voters who aren’t likely to vote for him anyway, and distracts attention and appropriate investigation from the Real Trump’s self-interest as a billionaire in avoiding discussion of his own route to his billions and the actual conflicts of interest he has with many of his supporters.

 

This summary builds on the arguments in two previous blogs as pmarcuse.wordpress.com:

Blog77a The Real Trump and the Trumpeting Trump,   and

Blog 77b Why is Trumpeting Trump so appealing?

 

Blog 77b Why is Trumpeting Trump so Appealing


Blog 77b Why is Trumpeting Trump so appealing to so many (including himself)?

The facts of Blog 77a seem very clear, and ought to be the matter of much greater public knowledge and analysis than it is. But there is another aspect to the relationship between the Trumpeting Trump and Real Trump, one that is more speculative, but worthy of reflection. Granted that those talks and ides directly benefit Real Trump in his fundamental business activities, which in turn define his life, there is still a vehemence in the way in which Trumpeting Trump is conducting himself in public which goes beyond play-acting or deliberate self-deception.

This all deserves exploration

Real Trump may even believe at least a part of what Trumpeting Trump is telling him. But Real Trump is smart, understands the world, can see what he is and is not doing. Can he really believe that terrorism is responsible for all of what ails the world, or that keeping Muslims and Mexicans out is a good direction for public policy in the United States (he employs many Mexicans himself)?

And how can it be that so much of what he trumpets receives such an enthusiastic welcome from so many Republican voters and even some Democrats, when the evidence and logic both show that it does not serve them well. Trump says little that would help poor people or non-union workers or the elderly, or student, and yet demographic studies of his supporters show many support him Why?

****

One answer may be that those ideas appeal particularly to those who are discontented with their own positions in real life, who see Trump’s withering complaints about the status quo as reflecting and indeed justifying their own situations. Bigotry is thus a possible reaction to material problems: laying the blame on others, different from themselves, immigrants, black and brown people, intellectuals, and government administrators, for their own difficulties. Having a candidate for President articulating similar views legitimates their own reactions. Hence Trump’s apparent success in the polls so far. (Although rich people also support Trump because he’s good for them.)

Both Trumpeting Trump and his followers are using their rhetoric – let us call it, admittedly oversimplified, bigotry – as a substitute for revealing other feelings, reactions, circumstances with which they are deeply unhappy. It may be a stretch, but is it not possible that, deep inside, Real Trump has doubts about what he is doing, about how satisfying pursuing ever more wealth accumulation is, what he can do with all that money except acquire more? Is it not possible that ultimately he has a need, as a human being, for feelings of solidarity, of support, of compassion, of kindness, perchance of love, values that go beyond the brute pursuit of wealth, of greed, which one might unkindly term the dominant value being pursued by Real Trump and endorsed and validated by Trumpeting Trump?

And might not Trumpeting Trump ’s vehemence in the expression of his ideas be, oddly enough, an upside-down form of the same bigotry and scapegoating, blaming all he looks down on for his own having to be so hurtful, so scathing, to those that make him act as he does, legitimating his own self-serving exploitation of others?

Or, perhaps less naively, might it not be that, just as Trump’s bigotry serves him as a legitimation of greed and the power that successful greed brings, .e.g. to say “you ’re fired” to even more people, by escalating the quest for not only private but also public powerIn a society in which the open defense of wealth accumulation – “greed is good” – is frowned on by most, the pursuit of political power is still accepted asa perfectly natural driving force for aggressive action, can serve as a moral cover for actions that, in reality, are driven by greed, a greed for money and for both as inseparable twins?

As to the Trumpeters enthusiastic followers, might it not be that they find in it an explanation and legitimation of their own difficulties, real difficulties in making a living, in finding rewarding work, in finding security, in finding desirable housing, getting an affordable education, enjoying life as they would like to life it? Then hearing Trumpeting Trump blame blacks, or Mexicans, or those of minority sexualities, for what is keeping America from being great is in a sense a validation of their own fears of others, of the way things are, of the government, validating their own tendencies at the blaming bigotry because here this eloquent forceful widely heard and shown and listened to leader, is saying what they are themselves tempted to say but are afraid to?

Material conditions, specifically the facts of class, race, gender, determine what Trump does in real life and has his façade say, and they produce a need for a legitimating vision, a rationale, for doing what he does: blame it on the world. In parallel fashion, the facts of class, race, gender for many of Trump’s followers underlies own their frustrations and insecurities, and hearing Trump express his views legitimates their own holding of those views as a way to endure and justify their position –blame it on the world. . Trump’s bigotry covers his need to defend the greed and lust for power, with their lack of morality in Real Trump’s real life , and Trumpeting Trump’s follower’s bigotry covers their need to a rationale for why they do not have the lives that their own visons would lead them to desire.

The material and the social-psychological come together to produce what we see every day on our screens. It is not the product of an aberrant mind nor are his followers stupid, but what both he and his followers say and do results from a very painful and very real material historical logic.

 

 

 

Blog77a The Real Trump and the Trumpeting Trump


Blog77a The Real Donald Trump and the Trumpeting Trump

Summary

Donald Trump’s ideas, his public statements, his philosophy, such as it is, have all been widely trumpeted, and almost as widely examined, Many of his ideas have been avoided on the right and criticized on the left. The man himself, the Real Donald Trump, and his real-life business activities have not attracted as much attention as those of the other Trump, the Trumpeting Trump. Yet the ideas are not sui generis, but are very directly connected to his real personal and material interests, those activities in the pursuit of financial success that have made him the billionaire that he proudly proclaims he is, and that he maintains equip him to be President of the United States. But they deserve to be carefully examined. Do his activities as a casino magnate, a real estate speculator, an exploiter of tax loopholes, a chum of hedge fund managers, a wallower in luxuries, give him the skills and experience we want in someone entrusted with the responsibility of running our country?

***
There is a Real Donald Trump hiding behind the façade of the bombastic media-crazed bigoted
Trumpeting Trump who pushes his outlandish and apparently thoughtless views onto the American public and Republican voters. Much of the critical response to Trumpeting Trump’s statements views them simply as the result of a bigoted mindset, a lack of empathy for others, a desire to seem macho, arrogance, etc. No doubt all these are involved. Indeed in some ways he is almost pitiable in his hunger for applause and lack of self-awareness or introspection. But there is a much more materially-grounded explanation for much of what he trumpets. And the enthusiastic response of so many of his followers likewise has a largely material foundation.

The Real Trump is a very solid, material figure, constantly thinking, shrewd, targeted, down to earth, and practical. In real life, when he is not behind a microphone or being interviewed, he the very model of a modern smart capitalist, with making money, accumulating wealth, as the over -riding goal. But he seems to have a practical realization that some form of moral legitimacy is helpful in pushing raw greed to new limits; thus the creation of a quite separate façade, the Trumpeting Trump. [1]

Look at what Real Trump does in real life. Basically, he makes money. His claim to fame is that he is a billionaire. How did he get his billions? By keeping a relentless eye on his money, making it and keeping it, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. Look at how he acquired his billions.

He started out, of course, by inheriting some $250 million from his father. The evidence is overwhelming that the best way to get rich is to have rich parents, and the richer, the better. And then he invested the money he inherited, and not so profitably, after all.[2]

• Casinos – the ownership of casinos, not the playing in them. Not because he took big risks and was rewarded, but because he lured others into taking on risks in which the cards were always scientifically stacked in his favor. Casinos are not productive; they produce nothing of value except profits to their owners, and they redistribute income regressively. They produce jobs, but that is not why those like Trump invest in them; on the contrary, the less of the revenue goes to wages of workers, the better for the owner, and Trump holds wages down as much as he can Look at is history with unions of his own workers.

• Housing – the development of luxury residences for the very rich, not housing for those that need it. Trump was never concerned with affordable housing, with ending homelessness, with security of tenure, with measures to protect health or safety. The goal was always profit, not people, and the more exclusionary, the more profitable, the better.

• Financial speculation – the kind of speculation in which the hedge funds, in which a large part of Trump’s billions are invested, engage in, making super profits for those that have enough wealth to begin with, unconcerned about social consequences, not subsidizing green enterprises , no concern for environmental sustainability or social justice.

There is no evidence that he was ever socially concerned about what his investments produced, or for whom; the goal was to make money for himself in whatever way would make the most the fastest.

And look at what he is NOT investing in.

• No significant investments in, donations to, support for, environmental protection, social welfare, the Red Cross, disaster relief, police responsibility, affordable health care, affordable education, clean air, drinkable water, environmental sustainability, no evidence that black lives matter, that secure retirement for the elderly or secure futures for young people, matter.[3]

The data is all there, and needs to be examined thoroughly; a little muck-raking would probably unearth some very interesting muck. But Trumpeting Trump is not interested in talking about it. The fact that such policy proposals as Trumpeting Trump has made would all be very directly supportive of what Real Trump is about is the last thing either of the two Trumps want to have exposed. But it is not coincidence that the details of how his tax proposals would benefit himself personally or the hedge fund managers with whom he invests, or how trade proposals he supports would build markets for his luxury enclaves and players for his golf courses, have as yet to become public. What details would expose is pretty clear: the proposals are of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. Trumpeting Trump serves Real Trump best by avoiding attention to the connection between them.[4]

Trump is not the only billionaire who is concerned with protecting his or her own interests in the arena of public policy. But he is unique in how he uses his public persona directly to promote his own financial interests. The Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson use their money to advance their own personal financial interest, but they do it from the shadows. These billionaires would rather conceal that brag about what they are promoting with their money. To the extent that Real Trump finances Trumpeting Trump’s campaign for the nomination for president, he trumpets the name “Trump” (the god of names clearly has a sense of humor), and it becomes part of the branding for his real enterprises.

And other billionaires at least try to show a real concern for those that are at the other end of the inequality scale from themselves. Warren Buffet is publicly directly concerned with inequality and sometimes acts against his own interests. By contrast, nothing Trumpeting Trump has trumpeted might harm Real Trump’s private interests.

Historically, the holders of great wealth have sometimes been public benefactors, whatever their complex motives might have been. One thinks of the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, for that matter even Gates and Zuckerman. No one has ever heard Trumpeting Trump boast about the charities Real Trump has endowed, the gifts to educational institutions, hospitals, medical research, or international peace. No donations by the Trumps show that for them black lives matter, or women’s lives, or immigrants’ lives, or the lives of the sick or the disabled or the elderly. [5]

But why do so many seem to buy the harangues that Trumpeting Trump is trumpeting? A rather speculative answer is spelled out in
Blog #77b, at pmarcuse.wordpress.com,
which scratches the surface of that argument.

———–

[1] One place where Real Trump and Trumpeting Trump seem to be together is when Donald Trump, as moderator of The Apprentice on TV, says to an unsuccessful apprentice, “You’re fired!” With glee. No human concern for the consequences. A desirable attitude for a U.S. President?

[2] According to Investment News, “Trump has not done nearly as well as other American business magnates, or even a typical middle-class retiree following sound financial advice, as a review of the numbers over the past four decades shows. He is a billionaire today despite this poor performance because when he started his career, his father had already built a colossal real-estate empire. And the wealth   Donald Trump has accumulated since then has at times come at the expense of taxpayers or the banks and investors who have lent him money.” Max Ehrenfreund, “The real reason Donald Trump is so rich,” Comments 102, The Washington Post, September 3, 2015. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/03/if-donald-trump-followed-this-really-basic-advice-hed-be-a-lot-richer/. And Max Ehrenfreund, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/03/if-donald-trump-followed-this-really-basic-advice-he’d-be-a-lot-richer.

[3] These are not ordinary folks’ omissions or based on lack of funds, but omissions of someone boasting about his wealth and seeking the highest elected office of the land, based on what he can do for its citizenry,

[4] See, for instance, the data assemble at   Trevor Hunnicutt “Donald Trump’s investment portfolio a messy hodgepodge: advisers. New disclosures by the GOP presidential candidate reveal an unclear money-management strategy, say advisers” Investment News, July 23, 2015, available at http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20150723/FREE/150729940/donald-trumps-investment-portfolio-a-messy-hodgepodge-advisers. It may be because the facts referred to here can be awkward for contenders within the Republican Party who likely share many of the values that underlie Trump’s approach that they have not primary debates. They may play out differently in the general election surfaced at all prominently in the Republican campaign.

[5]These are not ordinary folks’ omissions or based on lack of funds, but omissions of someone boasting about his wealth and seeking the highest elected office of the land, based on what he can do for its citizenry,