Category Archives: business news

Why worry now about Trump’s business history?

Someone, somewhere — maybe a lot of folks out here in Trump Country, where I live — may be asking: Why are the media obsessing now about Donald Trump’s business practices when he was a much younger man, an up-and-comer in the real estate development industry?

I think I might have an answer. It’s because Donald Trump sold his presidential candidacy largely on the notion that he is a self-made man, that he had a “little bit of help” from his father, Fred Trump, as he sought to build a business empire.

The New York Times has put the lie to that boast. It has revealed in an exhaustive investigation that Trump received a lot of help from his father and that he well might have used fraudulent tax schemes to benefit his father’s business.

Donald Trump’s status as president of the United States of America makes this a legitimate issue of discussion, particularly as he prepares to campaign for re-election in 2020. The issue of his truthfulness in describing his pre-political business career must be brought up and it must be discussed thoroughly.

I doubt seriously that Trump himself will engage in that serious discussion. He’ll toss out insults at the media and his foes. He will energize his base of supporters. The president isn’t likely to provide forthright answers to direct questions about the Times’s story.

However, the president’s business history and the huge disparity between what a media outlet has uncovered and what he has said about that history demand a full and complete airing.

I hope the president would explain himself. My fear is that he won’t.

Another reason to demand POTUS’s tax returns

Wouldn’t you know it?

Among the first things that crossed my mind when I heard about The New York Times’s in-depth look at how Donald Trump obtained his wealth dealt with those mysterious tax returns that no one has seen.

That’s right. The president who defied political tradition dating back to 1976 continues to keep his tax returns from public scrutiny. He said while running for office in 2016 that he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Every presidential candidate going back four decades has released their tax returns for public review.

Why is that relevant today? Because the NY Times’s investigation revealed that a much younger Donald Trump used possibly illegal tax “schemes” to his financial advantage while he was taking many millions of dollars from his late father, Fred Trump, who helped him build his real estate empire.

So … the question persists: When are we going to see those tax returns, Mr. President?

I know he’s not going to release them unless someone orders it. I also believe the IRS audit is a sham, a dodge that Trump used as a pretext to keep the returns hidden from public review. The IRS doesn’t comment on specific audits, but it also has said an audit doesn’t preclude a public official from releasing them.

Meanwhile, we have this lengthy newspaper report that goes into excruciating detail how Donald Trump and his father possibly gamed the tax system to their financial advantage.

Read the Times story here.

The Times story is a long one. It’s worth your time if you want to take a peek into how a future president of the United States built his financial empire in a way that contradicts his own statements that he scaled the mountain all by himself.

He didn’t. He had lots of help from his father … and possibly from the federal tax system.

We cannot talk to Fred Trump, given that he’s no longer with us. The public, though, can get a good look at those tax returns to draw its own conclusions about how Donald Trump got his start in the rough-and-tumble world of business.

What’s more, the president calls the Times’s story “100 percent false.” Prove it, Mr. President. Deliver those tax returns!

What? Trump didn’t earn his fortune on his own?

The New York Times has reported something that many of us have suspected all along about Donald John Trump.

The man who would become president of the United States of America has long boasted about his business acumen, how he is a self-made zillionaire, how he is so damn smart.

Many of us out here have known that real business geniuses, real rich individuals, real smart men and women don’t brag openly about all of that.

The Times now reports that young Donald leaned heavily on his late father, Fred Trump, who gave his son lots and lots of money to bankroll his many business ventures.

Oh, and that Donald Trump well might have defrauded the U.S. government out of tax revenue through these questionable schemes.

What a revoltin’ development! I am just shocked, I tell ya, just shocked that Trump well might not be the self-made man he has boasted of being all these years.

Trump had all kinds of help

The Times is reporting that Trump received an estimated $413 million in “today’s dollars” to help build his business empire.

I guess it’s worth asking: Will any of this matter when — or if — the president seeks re-election in 2020? I’ll make a stab at answering it. Probably not, at least not to the base of supporters who continue to support the president.

Trump has bragged about getting a million bucks back when he began his business career. According to the NY Times, he got a lot more than that.

This guts of this story doesn’t really surprise me, although the detail in which the Times has reported it does reveal the amazing scope and depth to which the president sought to manipulate the system in his favor.

Yep, this is the guy who won an Electoral College victory in 2016 in his first-ever quest for any public office of any kind. It happened to be the presidency of the United States.

Gosh, I am so not proud of what we have gotten as a result.

Let’s call it NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump vowed to toss out the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it the “worst trade deal” ever negotiated … ever!

Over the weekend, the president announced a new trade agreement — which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — with Canada and Mexico. It remains to be seen whether it’s better than NAFTA. I’ll say this: Trump has delivered on a key campaign pledge to get rid of one trade deal and replace it with another.

I believe in free trade. I also believe that NAFTA was good for all three nations. It stripped away tariffs, enabling the nations to ship goods among each other. Trump contended during the 2016 that NAFTA cost the United States too many jobs, more or less echoing the mantra delivered in 1992 by Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot.

Let’s look at the details of this deal

Congress will have to approve NAFTA 2.0. The president wants Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, to sign it before handing his office over to his successor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who Trump once blasted as “weak” — called the new treaty a “good day for Canada.”

Midwest farmers are happy with the new agreement. I hope that happiness makes its way to Texas, with its own huge agricultural industry.

The new deal has drawn some guarded, but optimistic, responses from key lawmakers. According to Politico: “Maintaining the trilateral North American deal is an important prerequisite to preserving and extending those gains and the Trump administration has achieved that goal,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I look forward to reviewing this deal to conform it meets the high standards of Trade Promotion Authority.”

I remain committed to free trade among the three friendly giant nations. I hope the new deal, once we dive deeply into the details, is the result of the guy who has boasted of his ability to cut the best deals in the history of Planet Earth.

Does the special counsel have those Trump tax returns?

I keep getting this throbbing in my trick knee that suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller might be able to answer the question that has been bugging millions of Americans like me.

What is in Donald John Trump’s tax returns, the returns he refuses to release for public inspection?

That ol’ trick knee of mine suggests that Mueller has obtained those returns as part of his investigation into “The Russia Thing.” Trump won’t release them, making some sort of phony claim about being under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Of course, Mueller has substantial authority to get a lot of information that doesn’t come out through regular channels.

I’m waiting with some anxiousness for Mueller to finish this probe while telling us what many of us want to know: Are there business dealings in Russia that Trump wants to keep hidden from the public?

No photo ID needed … usually

I am 68 years of age. I look my age. I’ve got the gray in my hair to prove it.

I don’t usually have to produce photo identification when I go to the grocery store to purchase, um, some lettuce, a loaf of bread or even something to drink.

Now, if it’s an adult beverage, which I enjoy now and then, I will put the beverage in my shopping cart and roll it to the checkout stand.

Then I might — I repeat, might — ask the checker, “Do you want to see my ID” to prove I am of age to buy the adult beverage? Most of the time, they laugh and say, “No, uh, that’s all right.”

But occasionally, they play along. “Sure thing,” he or she might say. I gleefully pull out my driver’s license to show that I am, indeed, old enough to purchase the beverage. Then I boast about “being carded.”

Unlike what the president of the United States asserted Tuesday at that Florida campaign rally, that’s the only time I’ve ever had to show ID at the grocery store.

So there.

How do you say it in, oh, Mandarin?

Donald J. Trump has been facing this scrutiny ever since he rode down that escalator at Trump Tower and declared his intention to “Put America First” while campaigning for the presidency of the United States.

Reuters News Agency reports that the Trump re-election campaign has getting its “Keep America Great” banners from a factory in the People’s Republic of China. The Trump team denies it. Reuters stands by the story.

I am going to go with Reuters’s version of events.

You see, Trump and his team have demonstrated repeatedly their ability to lie to our faces. They’ve done so on almost any and every issue under the sun. They get away with it in the eyes of the “base” that continues to support the president.

The Hill reports: Manager Yao Yuanyuan told Reuters that she was worried Trump’s own tariffs would hurt production numbers, but said she did not know if the banners’ buyers were officially affiliated with the Trump campaign or the GOP.

Yao said her factory has been making Trump banners since the president was a candidate. 

There have numerous reports ever since Trump entered the rough-and-tumble world of politics about Trump-brand clothing being made offshore. Trump hasn’t denied it categorically. So, there’s a history of his using foreign labor to manufacture items with his name on them.

Should it surprise a single person that he would do so with the re-election campaign banners? Hah! Not even …

Some perspective, please, on GDP numbers

Donald J. Trump is damn proud of the Gross Domestic Product report given this week, showing the economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent.

Good news, yes? Sure it is! It’s even great news! But hold on, Mr. President. It ain’t “historic,” as you contend.

And, in fact, the rate of growth might not last, thanks to the trade war the president has launched with, oh, Canada, Mexico, China, the European Union … and maybe even the outer planets of our solar system.

As CBS News is reporting, the president didn’t inherit a “fixer-upper economy.” He took command of an economy in good condition. It has been on an upward spiral for, oh, the past eight years.

However, the president yet again took pains to disparage the growth rate during the Obama administration years. And, as is the norm, the criticism of President Obama’s handling of the economy was incorrect.

As CBS News noted: While Mr. Trump praised the 4.1 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, the economy exceeded that level four times during the Obama presidency: in 2009, 2011 and twice in 2014.

The latest numbers are quite good. There’s no mistaking it. Are they sustainable? The trade war impact on various economic sectors will reveal that in due course.

In the meantime, the president and his team — who gripe about Trump Derangement Syndrome afflicting their critics — should check their own vital signs to see if they can ever shake their Obama Derangement Syndrome symptoms.

Oh, those doggone tax returns

Pardon me for gloating for just a moment.

I have kept yapping about those income tax returns that Donald J. Trump has refused to release for public viewing. He has broken with a 40-year tradition laid out by presidential candidates of both major parties.

Now he has had that hideous press conference this past week with Vladimir Putin, calling into question yet again whether the Russians — and their president — have something, anything on Trump’s business dealings that the U.S. president might not want known to the public.

Thus, the tax return issue has returned. It’s back. Hey, it won’t go away.

The Hill reported this: The issue of Trump’s tax returns had become less prominent in recent months. But that changed following last week’s joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki when Trump questioned the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to hide behind the lie that an Internal Revenue Service audit prevents the tax returns release. The IRS — which hasn’t commented on whether it is auditing Trump’s taxes — says no such audit would prevent the release of tax returns to the public.

For that matter, Trump hasn’t even produced a letter saying that the IRS is auditing him.

The questions and suspicion about Trump’s refusal to condemn the Russian attack on our election are valid. Does it have anything to do with Trump’s business dealings in Russia? Do the Russians have the “goods” on the president? If they do, what do those “goods” constitute?

I am happy to realize that others have suggested what some of us have been saying all along: Release those tax returns. The public needs to know what they contain. Do it! Now!

Amarillo channeling OKC?

I’m hearing some similar-sounding economic rumblings from two places: Amarillo, Texas and Oklahoma City.

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Herrick, active in Amarillo Matters, a pro-business political action group, writes this via Twitter: You mean the same OKC that first built a downtown ballpark, then attracted a minor league team and kicked off a revitalization of downtown? And now they are attracting new hotels and investment because there is demand for the product?

I am going to surmise from Herrick’s message that downtown Oklahoma City is continuing to stir, to come to life, to enjoy the fruits of public investment.

Amarillo’s downtown district is beginning to rumble in much the same manner, again thanks to some public investment.

You see, OKC decided some years to invest some public money into construction of a new ballpark near what’s now called Bricktown in the downtown district. The ballpark is now home to the city’s AAA minor-league baseball franchise. Bricktown took off, too.

The city encouraged development of an entertainment district along a Canadian River tributary that flows through the downtown area. Abandoned warehouses were re-purposed. The city built a new sports venue downtown, where the Oklahoma City Thunder play NBA basketball before packed houses.

Life is good in downtown OKC.

So, where is Amarillo tracking these days? From my vantage point it appears that the city of my former residence well might be along the same track. Yes, I get that Amarillo doesn’t have a river running through its downtown district. I also understand the disparity in the size of the two communities: Amarillo has 200,000 residents; OKC is home to around 700,000. Still, there are signs of life to be seen in little ol’ Amarillo.

A downtown ballpark is under construction. The city has opened a first-class convention hotel. Polk Street is stirring back to life. Residents are moving into newly developed dwellings.

Where will the future take Amarillo? It needs to look just a bit eastward along Interstate 40, toward OKC, perhaps to get a clue.