Donald Trump claims he’s a model Christian, and that his favorite book is the Bible. But like many others who make such claims, there’s little evidence he’s ever actually read it. If he had, he might be familiar with this rare example of practical Biblical advice:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
I’m not saying presiding over a nationally recognized chain of businesses is “very little,” but compared with leading the Free World, it’s pretty much child’s play.
Trump’s business practices have been under careful scrutiny ever since he threw his hat into the ring this campaign season, and with good reason: it’s literally all he has going for him. Ask anybody with a Make America Great Again bumper sticker or trucker’s cap why they support him, and nine times out of ten they’ll begin with some variation of the phrase, “Because he’s a brilliant businessman.”
But is he really? Believing Trump is a “brilliant” or even “passable” businessman requires a pretty radical interpretation of what the word “brilliant” actually means. If the definition includes “unscrupulous” or “predatory,” then yes — Donald might just be one of the greatest businessmen currently walking the earth.
As evidence that his business acumen, like everything else about the man, is one half smoke and mirrors and one half schoolyard-caliber boasting, scores of small business owners have come forward to speak about their experiences being ripped off by Trump and his assortment of business ventures.
We really should care more about this.
“He Stiffed Me”
Let’s start with a concrete example. In a September article in the Washington Post, J. Michael Diehl provided all of the sordid details about Trump’s predatory treatment of Freehold Music Center in New Jersey, which Diehl previously owned. Diehl described a 1989 deal in which the Trump Corporation entered into a contract for several upright and grand pianos for Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City — a deal totaling $100,000 in value. Diehl was thrilled with the contract, but worried about not insisting on payment up front.
Trump’s lawyers responded: “It’s Donald Trump! He’s got lots of money.”
But not enough money, it would seem, to actually uphold his end of the deal. For a man whose name graces the cover of books such as “The Art of the Deal,” Trump behaved less like a rational businessman and more like a child who’s just discovered the mean-spirited branch of prop comedy called dollar-bill-on-a-string. Trump ended up delaying payment repeatedly, and eventually demanded Diehl settle for a mere $70,000. For a small business owner, this was a considerable blow, and one that threatened his family’s financial solubility. Indeed, Diehl would have sued Trump if he’d had the funds necessary to do so.
Understandably, Diehl gets incensed when he watches Trump brag about his business savviness on television in front of a live audience, many members of which understand too well that he’s lying through his teeth.
Tragically, Diehl is very much not alone in having a less than pleasant business experience with Trump businesses. Every major media outlet has run stories concerning the predatory real estate mogul’s, uh, reluctance to keep his promises. The list includes painters, plumbers, carpet installers, dish washers, countless bartenders, servers and hourly workers, real estate brokers and — wouldn’t it be nice if this was hard to believe? — even several law firms who were in the process of defending him against other similar lawsuits.
Think that’s bad enough? Trump also (allegedly, I guess) ripped off a group of young singers and dancers known as the “Freedom Kids,” who performed at a Trump rally during the early days of the campaign. Trump never paid them, and never even followed through on his compromise to provide a table where the youngsters could sell their albums on CD.
Elsewhere in America, contractors and business owners aren’t just bound by their sense of fairness and propriety — they’re literally bound by law. And yet, for reasons that defy explanation, it seems that once a person amasses a large enough personal fortune, such laws no longer apply.
In other words, Donald Trump is a walking indictment of cutthroat capitalism, and an insult to America’s intelligence. Trouble is, if Trump is a litmus test for political discernment in this country, far too many people are failing it.
A Double Standard?
The most ironic part of this whole mess is that the people screaming the loudest about Trump’s mental and moral fitness for this highest office are also the quickest to denounce Hillary Clinton for her own (real and perceived) dishonesty. The questionable ethics of laundering money via the Clinton Foundation is well-known and –documented, but at least it manages to do some good in the world. Trump has never mistaken for a positive force — and indeed, has gone so far as to brag about his unscrupulousness, proudly boasting of “taking advantage of the law” and that not paying taxes “makes him smart.”
Is he Presidential material? A freethinking person would unquestionably answer “no” — but I’d never accuse the average Trump supporter of rational thought. He appeals almost exclusively to two kinds of people: schoolyard bullies who somehow reached adulthood without learning something about decency, and folks who believe in outlandish without the burden of evidence. The fact that either of these types of people are helping to choose our next leader — or that we’re so capable of ignoring glaring moral lapses in our major Presidential candidates — should trouble us all.
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