Trump’s Billion Dollar Loss
“Almost two cents of every dollar reported as losses one year by everyone in the United States were reported by Donald Trump. And what this shows is something I’ve been saying and writing about Trump for 30 years: he is a terrible businessman.”
A major new report from the New York Times shows President Trump’s businesses lost $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994, making him the single largest financial loser in America for several years:
“In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, the Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991—more than $250 million each year—were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years,” wrote the report’s authors.
“Real estate developers in the 1980’s & 1990’s, more than 30 years ago, were entitled to massive write-offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases. Much was non-monetary. Sometimes considered ‘tax shelter,’ you would get it by building, or even buying. You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes….almost all real estate developers did – and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport. Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!”
Tax lawyer and policy analyst Steve Rosenthal told the BBC that Trump benefitted from the U.S. tax code’s very generous tax relief for property developers, but that even that couldn’t explain the whole figure: “Documents filed in the bankruptcy court suggest that Trump aggressively stretched the law to side-step hundreds of millions of dollars of taxable income from restructuring his public debt.”
The report shows President Trump paying no federal income tax for 8 of 10 years.
Neil King of the Wall Street Journal responded to the president’s tweet more brusquely, writing, “The biggest money loser of the decade explains it was all an elaborate tax dodge.”
Despite President Trump’s claim that the NYT report is a “highly inaccurate Fake News hit job,” he has refused multiple congressional requests to prove himself by providing his tax returns. President Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin most recently refused to provide the President’s financial records to the public, arguing it lacks a “legitimate purpose.” Because a 1924 law gives the House Ways and Means chairman the authority to request taxpayer information, the legal battle between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration will likely intensify.
In an interview with DemocracyNow!, David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist who has been following Trump since the 1980’s, discusses the NYT findings:
“Almost two cents of every dollar reported as losses one year by everyone in the United States were reported by Donald Trump. And what this shows is something I’ve been saying and writing about Trump for 30 years: he is a terrible businessman. His business model is not to get an enterprise, to nurture it, to grow it, to make it more profitable over time. His business model is the same as a mob bust-out. Get your hands on an enterprise, squeeze all the cash out of it, don’t pay your vendors, try to cheat as best you can your employees, don’t pay the bankers—and Trump once said, ‘I borrowed money knowing I wouldn’t pay it back’—and then leave the carcass and go on to the next deal.
That’s why the Art of the Deal is so significant in all of this, because Trump’s business model is to rip off one person after another who gets involved with him thinking he will make them wealthy while he is destroying their wealth. Donald is, after Bernie Madoff, arguably the greatest wealth destroyer in American history.”
Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of President Trump’s 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” responded to the NYT report in a tweet, “Given the Times report on Trump’s staggering losses, I’d be fine if Random House simply took the book out of print. Or recategorized it as fiction.”
Schwartz donates royalties from the book to pro-immigration charities, and says he has a “deep sense of remorse” for contributing to President Trump’s national profile. As David Cay Johnston notes, in “The Art of the Deal,” Trump boasts about not paying banks that lent him huge sums.
One concerning aspect of the records is a mysterious entry of $53 million in interest over one year. As Johnston points out, a sum of interest that large would require over $660 million in treasury bonds or $350 million in higher-yielding junk bonds. In his DemocracyNow! interview, Johnston claims this interest could have something to do with Trump’s connections to international cocaine trafficker Joseph Wexelbaum.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responded to the NYT report with the same concern as investigative reporter David Cay Johnston – the president’s financial history could make him vulnerable to whoever holds his debts:
“Wouldn’t you think someone who personally lost over a BILLION dollars (“more than nearly any other taxpayer in America”) be vulnerable to shady activity to get out of that hole?
If they became the most powerful public servant in America, wouldn’t you want to see their taxes?”