From the moment he rode down an escalator in the marble-clad, gold-trimmed Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for US president, Donald Trump was selling himself as a successful businessman who could run a successful economy.
It was an image cultivated with voters for a decade on The Apprentice, the reality TV show in which Trump sat in judgment on aspiring entrepreneurs and told most: “You’re fired!”
On Sunday the mask was finally torn off. According to a blockbuster New York Times investigation into his taxes, the self-proclaimed billionaire, a personification of the hedonism and extravagance of the 1980s, has been losing more money than he makes.
These are the three key points of the Times report:
- Trump is not very good at business
- Trump is very good at avoiding taxes
- Trump may have serious conflicts of interests with foreign powers
Will any of it have a major impact on his reelection chances? Up to a point.
Trump declared a staggering $1.4bn in losses from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009. He appears to have personally guaranteed loans totaling $421m, most now due within four years. The Times reported: “Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.”
Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman from Texas, told MSNBC the Times report “reveals what many people have suspected, which is the larger point that Donald Trump is a fraud, that he’s not what he claims to be.
“He claims to be a successful, deal-making businessman who built himself up from the ground and his tax records reveal that he’s actually the opposite. He’s basically a deadbeat who doesn’t pay much in taxes.”
Indeed, Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years the Times examined. In 2016 and 2017, his tax bill was just $750 – far less than almost every US citizen.
It pointed to a wider story about tax avoidance by the wealthy elite.
Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator, tweeted: “He knows better than anyone that there’s one set of rules for the wealthy and giant corporations and another for hardworking Americans – and instead of using his power to fix it, he’s taken advantage of it at every turn.”