As despicable as he is, Donald Trump is a hybrid product of the American business system.
The nation’s business community may find this hard to accept, but Trump is the face of modern American capitalism. His methods may not yet be taught at the nation’s top business schools, but there is no doubt that Trump became president because he mastered the system of unregulated capitalism and, unlike other world dictators and thugs who led nations, did it without ever holding public office or executing a military coup.
Working with an army of lawyers, thug executives, greedy TV producers, real estate professionals, some bankers, and elected officials, Trump went to work to bend a corruption-compliant system to deceive investors, publishers, regulators, lenders and ultimately average Americans who worshipped a fake idol of American capitalism.
This story has been told in many forms for years, but in the in this exceptional Washington Post article, “Saving face: How Donald Trump silenced the people who could expose his business failures,” former Forbes writer Jonathan Greenberg, presents how Trump lied, deceived and paid-off key people to grossly overstate his alleged business acumen and fake fortune at a time in American history when you did not have to produce or create anything tangible in order to make billions or millions. All you had to do was engage in fake financial engineering, intimidation, and criminal fraud to fool the smartest, as well as the most gullible and greedy people in Manhattan.
In the article, Greenberg writes:
“Trump had waged a relentless, vindictive campaign to build his own myth by suppressing the facts: Between the collapse of his empire in 1991 and the issuance of more than $1 billion in Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts stock and junk bonds by 1996, he’d compromised the truth-telling capacity of Forbes magazine, the Wall Street Journal, TV broadcasters, Arthur Andersen and casino analysts on Wall Street.” (Saving face: How Donald Trump silenced the people who could expose his business failures)
Trump’s cult following worships these same values. Americans have always had a conflicted and difficult time dealing with the ultra-rich. Since the Gilded Age and its enticing promise of hard work begetting enormous wealth, Americans have skipped many of the details of wealth creation and just followed the simpler idea that there was a “secret” to becoming very rich. John D. Rockefeller used to pass out shiny dimes to his admirers, but few understood how his business empire was created and operated on a daily basis.
Flash forward over a hundred years and you have more people creating wealth without producing anything tangible through the magic of financial engineering, secrecy, federal subsidies, and tax dodges.
It’s not surprising that Trump’s con game accompanied the rise in hedge funds, monopoly capitalism, a poor understanding of complex tax laws, limp regulation, the demise of the middle class, the control of the top 1%, corrupt politicians, and a legal system that catered to corporations at the expense of individuals.
It is also not a coincidence that Trump had an inner circle of equally despicable wealthy people. It seems all the people who scammed together socialized together. Over his career, Trump’s buddies included pedophile Jeffrey Epstein (whose source of wealth is also a mystery), Russian oligarchs, organized crime figures, corrupt lawyers Michael Cohen and Roy Cohen, companies that employed illegal workers, corrupt General Michael Flynn, and an army of 34 presidential campaign officials who were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, eight of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted.
How Did These Guys Get So Rich?
What is not understandable to most Americans is how these people made their money and why so many of them know each other on social and business levels. I met an older insurance company executive, who is a Democrat, and said he is a member of Mar El Lago because it presents potential business connections. He said Trump’s disgusting lifestyle was subordinate to the possibility of doing business. In the Trump business world, making money is amoral. This is one reason younger people who favor social investing and corporate transparency see the limitations of today’s unregulated capitalism.
Fear and greed are more than a cliché; they are also a reason many people support Trump. Those attending his rallies seem to be able to compartmentalize his criminal, unethical and racist lifestyle with its fake opulence while simultaneously saying they are great Americans (whatever that means) and church followers.
So it should not be surprising to see that many of Trump’s proud followers should apply his demonstrated personal values and business practices into their own daily lives. These people should re-make their own communities in Trump’s image. Then, they can truly say they have re-made America in their leader’s image, so they too can become con men. Then they can really worship the Golden Calf.