Turns out, Donald Trump really did make his money the Old-Fashioned way. No, not the old Old-Fashioned way — you know, starting from nothing, working hard, saving your money and making smart investments. No, Trump made his money the new Old-Fashioned way, like they did in the 1980s and 90s: By maxing out his credit card, asking his Daddy for money and selling out to China.
Unlike Hillary and almost every other presidential candidate in history, “Business Tycoon” and real-estate genius Donald Trump has yet to fully release his financial records. Which does seem a bit odd, considering the fact that his primary self-described presidential qualification has always been “I’m rich.” And that he is. Rich as Scrooge McDuck. But much like Mr. McDuck, Trump has been notoriously vague about the actual source of his fortune.
After many long months of silence from the Trump Campaign, the New York Times finally finished digging through his records from the SEC, Bloomberg and a few other sources. Its findings: The 30 companies Trump owns are about $650 million in debt; and a large portion of that debt belongs to business partners who are, themselves, about $2 billion in debt to a long string of lenders.
At the moment, Trump’s largest single debt is $157 million, owed on 40 Wall Street. He owes $127 million on Trump International Hotel, and another $125 million on a golf course in Miami.
Trump’s partnerships are even deeper in the red. The Avenue of the Americas owes $950 million (30 percent of that is Trump’s, roughly $300 million), and California Street owes $589 million (30 of the debt is Trump’s, about $200 million.)
To top it off, in perhaps the most hilarious twist possible: The Donald owes $100 million on Trump Tower.
Donald Trump doesn’t actually own Trump Tower.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for large corporate entities (especially those dealing in real estate) to have significant liabilities. And Trump himself has made no secret of his love of borrowing other people’s money, stacking debt on top of debt on top of debt. Anyone who’s followed the Trump University syllabus knows that. But following a bit of Trump’s personal history works just as well. In 1990, he acquired approximately $3 billion from some 70 different banks in order to squeeze out of impending bankruptcy. After getting his debtors to “pardon” about a billion dollars with of his personal debt. Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of us could do that? Two years later, he borrowed yet another $3 million from his father; this time using a third party to buy $3 million worth of poker chips from a casino in Atlantic City. The third party then cashed those poker chips in, and handed the money to Trump.
Trump was fined approximately $65,000 for this blatantly illegal method of money transfer. Which, to be fair, was actually less than he would have paid for the taxes on it. But that was never the point of transferring money this way. The point was to keep the father-son loan a secret from Trump’s investors and many, many debtors. Trump didn’t want them to know that he didn’t have quite as much cash on hand as they’d thought.
History repeats itself.
Again, though, it isn’t uncommon for corporations to have liabilities. They all do these days. Trump has already admitted to $315 million in liabilities. Even Walmart owes people money. This paradigm is thanks largely to the “rack em up” mentality of Reagan’s era, credit card bills have become accepted currency in the business world. Not surprising for a guy who laughed off the national debt, then proceeded to multiply it by a factor of ten. Reagan himself practically maxed America’s credit to the limit, beginning the long upward spiral of debt we owe today. Trump simply followed in his wake.
Making Money, the Reagan Way.
So, it’s not that Trump owes money; that’s to be expected. It’s that the amount he owes is at least double what he’s already claimed. At least double. And this wouldn’t be the first time he lied about his personal wealth. With Trump’s complex network of business partnerships and lenders, built atop each other like a massive house of cards, his actual debt could be considerably higher, and his net worth considerably lower.
Remember when Trump held up that sheet of paper in January, and proudly proclaimed himself worth $10 billion? Clarification: now it’s actually $7.8 billion. Oops, $4.5 billion. Sorry, scratch that. It’s $4.5 billion, minus yet another $335 million in debt. Exactly where do we land at the bottom of this rabbit hole? Trump’s worth is already down to about 40 percent what he claimed in January, and seemingly dropping by the day. You have to wonder if Donald himself has lost track of his own money.
That certainly appears to be the case, considering the fact that the man has spent some time attacking one of his biggest financiers: The People’s Republic of China.
Turns out they don’t just make cheap suits.
But at least China makes something, which is more than we can say for Goldman-Sachs. Remember them? That bank we bailed out in 2009, after they went gambling on wall Street with our money? Trump himself has attacked G-S as a supporter of his former BFF Hillary Clinton, and decried them as supporters of the Democratic Party. That doesn’t seem to have kept him from taking their money, though. Goldman-Sachs is one of Trump’s largest debtors, right alongside China. At this point, there’s no real telling how much Trump owes anyone.
Could be every poker chip in Atlantic City, for all we know.
In the end, though, maybe this is just how business is done these days. Stacking debt on top of debt, building houses of cards adjacent to domino runs in an earthquake zone. Wasn’t it Trump himself who once said (paraphrasing): “Being rich starts with looking rich?” Credit him that — Trump’s done a good job of looking a lot richer than he really is.
It’s the New Old-Fashioned Way.