The misplaced notion that Donald Trump is a business whiz – The Boston Globe


For anyone even casually aware of Donald Trump’s history, it’s bizarre to hear supporters cite his business record as a big reason for backing him in this year’s presidential election.

Yet you hear or read that regularly. On Sunday, The New York Times presented a group interview with a dozen women who had voted for Trump in 2020. Nine were seemingly still in his camp. One common theme: He is a successful businessman, “a fantastic businessman,” in one supporter’s estimation.

Although government service requires very different skills than the private sector, it’s easy to understand the surface-level attraction of a hard-nosed CEO as president: If you can succeed in the hurly-burly of the business world, you can probably impose your will on the baroque bedlam of Washington.

The misplaced notion that Trump is a business whiz is mostly attributable to his 14 years playing a gimlet-eyed boss on “The Apprentice.” But that was unreality TV.

Let’s start at the beginning. Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that he built his business empire with little help beyond a $1 million loan from his father is pure myth, solipsistic sophistry on stilts. In reality, he was a nepo baby who was given a vast fortune and lost eye-popping amounts. As the Times has documented, Fred Trump funneled his favorite son a sum that would amount to more than $400 million in 2018 dollars. All told, the Times tallied 295 revenue sources by which Fred’s fortune was transferred to his progeny.

Second, as we now know from his leaked tax returns, Trump’s claimed business losses were so large — $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994 — that they allowed him to avoid paying any income taxes in 10 of the 15 years prior to his winning the presidency in 2016. That, it hardly needs be said, is not an index of business success.

Further, he took various of his businesses into bankruptcy six times. Those include his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City (July 1991), as well as two other establishments in the East Coast gambling mecca that resorted to Chapter 11 in 1992, the same year that another Trump property, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, also sought bankruptcy protection. Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts followed in 2004, as did Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009. It is, of course, easier to claim success as a businessman if you repeatedly shed your debts or repay them at a reduced rate.

It’s not just creditors who suffered from involvement with Trump. He has a long history of stiffing small contractors for the work they did for him. A 2016 investigative report by USA Today found dozens of lawsuits along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings by “people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work.”

Nor does the record unspooling in New York courts speak to admirable business practices. Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Corporation, pleaded guilty to 15 criminal offenses in August 2022, among them falsifying business records and grand larceny tax fraud.

In December 2022, a New York City jury found Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. guilty on 17 criminal tax-fraud and business-record falsification charges; those entities received the maximum permissible fine — $1.6 million — as a result.

In February, New York Judge Arthur Engoron declared Trump civilly liable for conspiring to misrepresent his net worth, saying he had for years used fraudulent financial data to borrow at lower rates. “The frauds here leap off the page and shock the conscience,” Engoron wrote.

As a result of that verdict, Trump was required to post a $175 million bond to keep his assets from being seized. He and his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have been banned from serving in top roles of any New York-based companies for several years. (Trump has appealed Engoron’s ruling.)

All this is to say nothing about the New York criminal case in which Trump is being tried for falsifying business records to cover a hush-money payment to adult film performer Stormy Daniels.

Trump’s true record, then, speaks to ineptitude and unethicality. One suspects Trump’s MAGA base is unaware of much of it. And let’s be fair: There is so much here, it’s hard to keep track of it all.

Even if they were aware, however, many MAGAcians would make it disappear from their concerns by dismissing it as fake news or “lawfare” or resorting to other rationalizations people use to resolve uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

Younger voters, however, may not know the true story, and independent voters may have forgotten it. It would be political malpractice if the Democratic National Committee and other supporters of President Biden didn’t remind voters of Trump’s real business record repeatedly between now and November.

Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @GlobeScotLehigh.


Source link