Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Could Trump be broke?

One of the big mysteries of Donald Trump's run for the White House is: why would he do it?  It seems like an awful lot of bother even for a self-aggrandizing narcissist like Trump.  And being the President is actually kind of a sucky job.  Yeah, you get a nice airplane out of it, but Trump already has a nice airplane (actually, several nice airplanes and a helicopter).  The White House would probably be a step down for him in terms of day-to-day lifestyle.  And the pay is pretty lousy by CEO standards.

So what's the draw?

It's possible that he really has suddenly become a patriot, that he really does want to be a public servant, that he really does want to Make America Great Again (!).  But somehow I doubt it.  He's never shown any patriotic or public service tendencies before.  Why now?

There is actually only one theory that makes sense to me, that is consistent with all of the available data, and in particular the fact that he's the first presidential candidate since the 70's not to release his income tax returns: Trump is actually broke.

Bear with me here: when you're in the 0.01% being broke doesn't mean what it means to you 99-percenters.  When ordinary shmoe's go broke it means they run out of money and can't pay for things.  When people like Trump go broke, it means he's borrowed more money than he can pay back, and this is very possible.  Trump might have gotten himself in over his head in a business deal and accumulated debt that is close to or even greater than his assets.  It even possible that he has done this without his creditors even being aware of it.  Not likely.  But possible.  And it would explain why he's running for president: it would give him leverage to get his ass out of whatever sling he's gotten it into.

There is a lot of evidence that Trump is not as rich as he claims to be.  Independent estimates of Trump's wealth range from under 3 to around 5 billion, well under his claimed $10B net worth, though still nothing to sneeze at.  But I wonder if those estimates might be wildly off, and Trump's run is really a hail-Mary to save himself from public humiliation.

[UPDATE] Whether or not I'm right about this, running for president has already been good for business.


Don Geddis said...

I don't agree with your theory of his motivation. First of all, this is not the first time he's run for President. He's done it before. You probably believe he was never serious before, and was just doing it as a joke, or to sell books or his reality show. But that's ascribing a hidden motivation to him as well. The fact remains that he has run for President multiple times, and he has explicitly said each time that he's serious about it.

Secondly, what's the point of money? Trump doesn't need it to buy food or go on vacation. He has more than enough. At some point, money is a proxy for power. And US President is one of the most powerful jobs in the world, power that no amount of money could achieve.

It really seems that the straightforward answer is by far the most likely one. He's arrogant, likes being in charge, and has an opportunity to get elected President. What's so hard to understand about it?

Ron said...

You're probably right, it was just a fun possibility to contemplate. I would really like to see Trump get his comeuppance simply because he's such an asshole.

Unknown said...

I think the reason why he's running for president becomes apparent when you look at his history.

First, in his autobiography, he states that he was fascinated by the spectacle of Broadway musicals, and originally he wanted to become a Hollywood producer.

Second, for all of his riches, he's appeared the WWE, pizza commercials, the Howard Stern show, and has his own reality TV show. He's gotten in large-scale twitter fights. His business model is currently his Trump *brand* and product/project branding, not actually his real-estate developments.

No millionaire or billionaire needs to do any of this. He could comfortably lead any lifestyle he wants without appearing in the media.

It's not power, because he already has that in spades. The difference is, he loves the spotlight. He loves manipulating crowds and getting the accolades and adoration.

He didn't want to be president, he wanted to *run* for president. He wanted to get up on stage, talk to the audience, and beat up on the other candidates. He wanted to make campaign appearances in front of crowds and be interviewed by serious journalists. Actually becoming a front-runner was a side-effect, a bonus. At this point he's just riding the waves, reveling in the attention.