Early in the 2016 presidential campaign (back in 2015 to be accurate) a popular question was: Why is Donald Trump running? I subscribed to the theory that the run was a publicity stunt. I’m still not convinced that the whole thing wasn’t a publicity stunt that got out of hand. If so, the question morphs into: Why did he continue to run? I think I may have that figured out. The short answer is greed and that is measured in money. Let’s explore my theory.
Donald Trump appeared to have everything he could want prior to the campaign. He likes toys; he had his own jet. He likes money; while his claims of $10 billion appear difficult to believe, by any measure he is a wealthy man. He loves women and fancies himself a playboy; he was married to a woman who turned a blind eye to his indiscretions and his money allowed him to attract and/or intimidate a plethora of women. Why would he trade that for a job where he actually had to make difficult decisions all under the eye of the press?
With the value of hindsight, it appears the motivation was his love of money and he found a way to make much more of it. The clues have been there since the transition; it just took me this long to connect the dots.
After a successful campaign where he never invested as much of his own money as most of his voters believed he did, the first thing Trump did was keep control of his now even more valuable money making machine. If you believe the “blind trust” that he put his companies into is really a blind trust I suggest you stop reading now and greet the little green men on your lawn.
Trump opened a hotel right down the street from the White House. Where would you stay, drink and dine if you were an American or the agent of a foreign government trying to curry favor with the administration?
Trump became a frequent weekend guest at his golf resorts. The chance to rub elbows with the President made membership a must for high end lobbyists. Trump recognized that and doubled the membership and initiation fees. The taxpayers also picked up the tab for the trips which Trump personally profited from.
During his first phone calls with foreign leaders Trump brought up stalled Trump branded projects in their countries. His daughter suddenly received government permission for dozens of her projects in China. It is know that her husband’s family went looking for investors in China using their influence with Trump as a selling point. If you think son-in-law Jared Kushner’s trip were all diplomatic and had nothing to do with looking for financiers I suggest you kick the unicorns off your front lawn when you greet the little green men.
My astute readers will recognize that many of the activities I outlined in the preceding three paragraphs are violations of the Emoluments Clause. Trump is a con artist from way back and doesn’t worry about legalities until late in litigation. (Remember the Trump University case that he said he could win, “Very easily”? He ended up settling it by paying out $25 million.)
I have to admit all of this got by me until last week when I took a good look at the Trump Tower Tax Cut which is currently in conference committee. Having passed both chambers it is dangerously close to becoming law. Too close! It looks like it was tailor made to reduce the Trump family’s tax liability.
The Estate Tax goes away shortly. That is projected to benefit Trump’s heir to the tone of $1 billion. (Like a late night infomercial), but wait, it gets better! From the only partial tax return that has been released (I’m convinced the leaker was either Trump or was working under his direction) the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is the only thing making Trump pay anything resembling significant federal income taxes considering his wealth. The AMT disappears under the Trump Tower Tax Cut. Carried interest is a provision in the current tax code that lets people in a few industries treat what in reality is ordinary income as capital gains thereby lowering the tax rate on that income. One of those few industries is real estate; Trump’s principle business. There are special provisions in the Trump Tower Tax Cut that favor people who own private jets, golf courses and wineries. Trump owns all three.
I am not particularly money motivated. Perhaps that is why I don’t have much. I can understand a man who steals or illegally crosses a border in order to feed his starving family. I cannot understand a wealthy man who lies, cheats and manipulates in order to enrich himself with money he doesn’t need. I, unlike our President, am not motivated by pure, unadulterated and inexplicable greed. Greed is why he continued to run for the Presidency in 2016.
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