Donald Trump Is a Lousy Businessman Who Got Lots of Money From His Rich Father and Then Squandered It

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Believe it or not, I try hard not to spend too much time covering every utterance from Donald Trump’s pie hole. Sadly, as the chart on the right shows (data courtesy of Quiddity), I fail more often than I succeed. Today I shall fail again.

First up, John Sides informs us that, even now, an awful lot of voters seem to think that Donald Trump is a self-made man. Nearly half believe that his father was roughly working class or so, rather than the millionaire developer he actually was. Presumably they also don’t know how much money Trump got from his father, either via loans, gifts, or eventually, inheritance.

The truth, of course, is that Trump’s father spotted him nearly $40 million in today’s dollars, and eventually Trump squandered it all:

Most of the $916 million loss that Trump claimed for 1995 is probably derived from about $900 million in bank loans taken out in the mid- to late 1980s that he had personally guaranteed and that he used to wildly overpay for hotels, airlines, yachts, barren land and other trinkets….None of these things are hallmarks of a great business operator or dealmaker.

Trump isn’t that financially sophisticated. In my interviews with him, he had trouble explaining such basic real estate concepts as “cash flow.”…His eyes tend to glaze over when complex numbers come into play. Trump’s own former accountant, Jack Mitnick, told the Times that it was always Trump’s ex-wife Ivana who asked probing questions about the couple’s taxes.

I’ve written about this several times before. Trump did a pretty good job building Trump Tower in 1984, but that was it. He didn’t have the attention span to repeat his success, instead throwing vast amounts of money at lousy businesses that no one else wanted. When that blew up, he managed to take the smoking ruins of his casino operation and turn it into a public company, which he mismanaged to its death, paying himself $82 million along the way. Since then, he’s made nearly all his money from entertainment and licensing.

Will Hillary Clinton bring up this subject in Sunday’s debate? Will she wait until the very last second, as she did with Alicia Machado, guaranteeing that Trump will go ballistic and keep it in the news for the entire following week? Maybe!

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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