Here at Lions of Liberty we are profiling each presidential candidate and examining the good and bad traits of their political careers. Each article will wrap-up by answering if their candidacy will have a net positive or negative impact on the liberty movement. Check out previous profiles here.
The American public has become intimately familiar with Donald Trump the reality TV star over the last decade. But before his hit show The Apprentice and later Celebrity Apprentice launched Mr. Trump to pop culture fame, he was known as a savvy, bombastic real estate developer, golf course designer, and casino mogul in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
Like it or not, the time has come for the American public to get to know Donald Trump the presidential candidate. First, before we dive into this assignment, let’s investigate how Donald Trump became Donald Trump.
Donald John Trump, the fourth of five children, was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens New York. Donald’s father Frederick Trump was a builder and real estate developer who specialized in constructing and operating middle-income apartments in Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn.
When Donald was thirteen-years-old his parents shipped him off to the New York Military Academy. From the military academy he went on to attend Fordham University, and later transferred to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from UPENN in 1968 with a degree in economics. After graduation Trump joined his father’s company the Trump Organization. In his early career, Donald showed a knack for creating leverage and expanded the company’s holdings by convincing his father to be more liberal with loans based on the equity in their apartment complexes.
Trump was not satisfied with his father’s “small time” real estate development firm, so he began to target Manhattan. There he went to work making a name for himself and became involved in large building projects that offered the return of higher profits. In 1974 Trump made a move that would serve to take his career to the next level. He obtained an option on one of the Penn Central’s hotels, the Commodore, in an excellent location next to Grand Central Station. Next he inked a partnership agreement with the Hyatt Hotel Corporation. Trump then worked out a crony deal with the city that granted him a forty-year tax abatement and arranged financing. Having sufficiently lowered his risk, he completely gutted the building, constructing a striking new facade of reflective glass. He renamed the hotel the Grand Hyatt. When it opened in 1980 it was a smashing success, which made Donald Trump the city’s best known and most controversial developer.
As time went on Trump expanded his business holdings to include golf courses, casinos, and many more hotels. I won’t go into the details of other Trump deals, however his career as a real estate developer has not all been roses. Trump’s businesses have a history of filing for bankruptcy, but he always seems to come out unscathed. Trump encountered one particularly perilous situation in the early 1990s as the real estate market declined. He was forced to take out a massive amount of loans and went $900 million in the red. He was able to fight his way back, and by 1998 he was worth $2 billion.
Donald Trump has had a rocky personal life that included three marriages. He has five children and seven grandchildren. His current wife, Melania Trump, is twenty-four-years younger than the Donald.
Trump has flirted with political runs in the past. His attempt in 1999 to secure the Reform Party’s nomination is often forgotten. The seat went to Pat Buchanan, but Trump put his views on the record. Unsurprisingly, many beliefs he once held differ greatly from the platform he touts today. In 2012 Trump again flirted with a run at the White House when he publicly announced that he was mulling a run for the GOP nomination. Ultimately, he decided to sit out in 2012, but he’s continued to criticize the Obama administration and Democrats in general.
Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June and has since catapulted himself into the political spotlight with the gracefulness of a bull in a china shop. Predictably, reactions to Trump’s candidacy thus far have been all over the map. Reason.com has referred to him as the “Idiocracy Candidate” and Anne Coulter recently referred to Trump as being “magnificent now.” Trump is a lot like Hillary Clinton in that it seems people either love him or hate him. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
Without further ado, let’s begin examining the good and the bad of presidential candidate Donald Trump. At the end we’ll try to determine what kind of impact his candidacy could have on the liberty movement.
Favors cuts to government spending
The latest political version of Donald Trump purports to prefer a smaller government to a larger government. These political beliefs do not appear to be grounded in a strong philosophical foundation, but at least he’s not promising to fix the US government’s vast problems by increasing liabilities on the balance sheet. In February 2013 Trump was interview by Greta Van Susteren for her show On The Record. He had some harsh comments for those opposing the impending sequester and spending cuts being discussed by congress at the time.
Trump said “not a lot is going to happen” as a result of the automatic sequester, dismissing the “over-exaggerated” alarm and added that the cuts do not go far enough. He told Van Susteren that the nation is going to have to endure far deeper spending cuts in order to get a balanced budget.
Van Susteren asked Trump what would happen if the U.S. government resists the urge to cut spending. Trump predicted that if this happens, then in a few years there will be a “big fat explosion” in the nation’s economy and “it’s all going to come to an end.” He acknowledged that action should be taken to make the United States great again, “because it’s not that great right now.” He attributed the nation’s economic woes to both incompetence and partisan politics.
The “big fat explosion” has not yet occurred in the economy, but Trump accurately states that trouble is likely on the horizon if the status quo does not change. If the federal government continues down the current path, then when spending cuts do come, they will not be implemented by choice, but rather out of necessity. As President, Trump claims he would at least try to avoid or reduce this threat by slowing government growth.
Wants to Repeal Obamacare
In his announcement speech candidate Trump declared that Obamacare is a “big lie” and that he would repeal and replace the “big lie, Obamacare.”
It’s great that Trump now wants to repeal Obamacare, but his prior political policy stance and donation history paint a very different picture. When Trump attempted to secure the Reform Party’s nomination in 1999, he released a book titled, The America We Deserve. In it he called for universal health care as the only means to halt rising costs. Additionally, he has a long history of supporting and donating to Democratic campaigns.
The list of Democrats who received Trumps donations should raise the eyebrows of his Republican supporters. He’s donated to Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, and many more! Now, it just so happens a lot of these politicians happen to be “serving” constituents in states that Trump has real estate interests. This raises awareness to the possibility that there could be a crony angle to these contributions, but also could explain why he was supporting politicians who favored Obamacare, which he now claims not to support. We’ll just have to take Trump at his word for his opposition to Obamacare for now, because his actions don’t support it.
Wants to end the Drug War
Donald Trump claims that he’s never touched drugs, alcohol, or coffee. This is shocking, because as Mike Ditka famously said in the movie Kicking and Screaming, “Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions” and I thought Trump desired to be a champion. Trump has found success without the assistance of some of life’s simple pleasures.
All kidding aside, it really doesn’t matter to me if Trump smokes weed or avoids it like the plague. What does matter is that he is not in favor of locking away those who possess or use certain plant-based substances. Trump favors legalization and taxation of drugs. And he’s felt that way for a long time.
In fact, this isn’t a new policy stance for Trump. He’s favored the legalization of drugs since at least 1990.
The Chicago Tribune reports on a speech Trump gave in South Florida in 1990:
Billionaire New York developer Donald Trump says that legalizing drugs is the only way to win the war against what he considers one of America`s most serious problems.
Trump blamed the country`s drug problems on politicians who “don`t have any guts” and enforcement efforts that are “a joke.” “We`re losing badly the war on drugs,” Trump told 700 people at a luncheon Friday. ”You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
It is refreshing to see a politician that understands the economics of the Drug War and how tougher enforcement can actually increase violence and attract more shady individuals to the marketplace. This is one reason why Trump’s recent comments on immigration are even more confusing.
Naïve, nationalistic stance on immigration
If you’re currently alive – and since you’re reading this I’ll assume you are – then you’ve heard of the controversial comments Trump made about the Mexican government during his presidential announcement speech. He has since doubled and tripled down on the comments in the past few weeks.
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Trump talks about Mexico like it’s a rival company, trying to weigh down the mighty USA with the worst characters they can offer. It’s hard for me to believe that Trump actually believes the Mexican government is hand picking rapists and murderers to infiltrate the United States. As I discussed above, he understands the repercussions of the drug war and the profit it creates for “drug czars.” So it would make sense for Trump to also understand that shady and dangerous individuals are attracted to market activities that occur in the shadows. But this seems lost on him.
The U.S. does have an illegal immigration problem, but the issue has been amplified by U.S. government intervention, not by Mexican officials. Handouts and tax avoidance by illegal immigrants has pitted tax-paying Americans against illegal aliens. Certainly, there are dangerous illegal immigrants who make their way into the United States, but many of these people have either been attracted to this country to support the drug trade or to capitalize on free government handouts. If drug prohibition was ended – as Trump has advocated – and the government removed the incentive of free handouts, then the number of illegal immigrants making the trip would decline.
It’s likely that Trump’s use of nationalist rhetoric and divisive language is only a tactic, and he doesn’t actually believe the Mexican government is orchestrating the crisis. But he has touched a nerve in a certain segment of society that has been impacted by the very real problems caused by illegal immigration. Unfortunately, Trump has yet to propose any real solutions – other than his call to end the Drug War – that would help the situation.
Could raise taxes
Most Republicans probably assume that an entrepreneur and “capitalist” like Donald Trump would favor lowering the tax burden hardworking Americans have to shoulder. However, it turns out this might not be the case. When Trump was a prospective candidate for the Reform Party Nomination, he actually proposed a one-time “net worth tax” of 14.25 percent on the very rich. He benchmarked the “very rich” to be those who were worth $10 million or more.
More recently, in his 2011 book, Time to Get Tough, he presented a very different tax plan. The Tax Justice Blog described the plan.
His five-step plan includes eliminating the estate tax and the corporate income tax, lowering the tax rate on capital gains and dividends, enacting a 20 percent tariff on all imported goods and creating a new, lower income tax rate structure. The income tax would include a tax rate structure of 1 percent for up to $30,000; 5 percent for $30,000-$100,000; 10 percent for $100,000-$1,000,000; and 15 percent for income over $1,000,000.
The one aspect of the plan that would do the most damage to common folk would be the enacting of a 20 percent tariff on all imported goods. The tax burden would be transferred to consumers by importers who need to meet their margins to stay in business.
Favors a Neoconservative foreign policy and “free trade”
Trump is pretty much a cookie-cutter neoconservative when it comes to foreign policy. He is an unabashed believer in American Exceptionalism, think Obama doesn’t support Israel sufficiently, and truly believes that every trade deal or international agreement should be set up to favor the United States. In Trump’s world, the President is the CEO and it is his job to make sure his company (America) has the edge over its competitors (the rest of the world.)
Trump has toed the Neocon line for the most part on recent issues.
Trump claims “no one would be tougher” on ISIS. He has said if he wins he would put boots on the ground if necessary. At CPAC he received cheers and boos for this statement.
Donald Trump claimed that “They are laughing at us back in Iran.” He said this after the U.S. and other international powers came to an agreement with Iran on a nuclear deal. He chastised the Obama Administration for not negotiating the return of American prisoners and scolded them for returning money to the sanction riddled nation.
Trump’s foreign policy would be George W. Bush on steroids. The man would be on a mission to assert that his company the USA is the strongest.
Weak on the Second Amendment
Trump calls himself a “Second Amendment” person, but during his 2000 Reform Party run he stated that he favored an assault weapon ban and a longer waiting period for gun purchases. Today he is pretending that he never advocated for that. He even lied in a recent interview with Ammoland, when he was confronted on the subject.
I certainly stand by my opposition to Gun Control when it comes to taking guns from law-abiding citizens. You mention that the media describes the AR-15 as an ‘assault rifle,’ which is one example of the many distortions they use to sell their agenda. However, the AR-15 does not fall under this category. Gun-banners are unfortunately preoccupied with the AR-15, magazine capacity, grips, and other aesthetics, precisely because of its popularity.
I’m not even sure what he is trying to say in this exchange, but he’s obviously doing his best not to admit that he favored an assault weapon ban. The least he could do is own up to his mistake and ask for forgiveness.
Does not want marriage equality
Trump claims that he is“for traditional marriage”, but he’s been married three times himself. Which begs the question, is being married three times traditional marriage?
Short answer: no it’s not traditional.
Trump hasn’t made clear if he just opposes same-sex marriage personally, or if he would use the force of government to prevent same-sex marriage. His stance is important because it displays his lack of integrity and shows a stunning level of comfort for holding others to a tenet that he does not require of himself.
Crony capitalist to the core
In the background section I mentioned a crony deal Trump made in the 1970s with with the City of New York. For a hotel refurbishment project, he was able to negotiate a tax abatement that saved him “tens of millions of dollars.” It turns out that this deal was only the beginning of a common tactic used by Trump that features the use government favors or force to gain a competitive advantage over his competitors.
In the 1990s, Trump asked Connecticut’s government to use their power to condemn five Bridgeport businesses so that he may use the land to build “a $350 million combined amusement park, shipping terminal and seaport village and office complex on the east side of the harbor.”
Around the same time, Trump tried to buy an Atlantic City woman out of her home so that he may build a parking lot and waiting area for his hotel’s limousines. The widow refused to sell her property, so Trump spent years under the guise of “eminent domain” trying to get the government to pry the woman’s land for his private use.
Luckily, In both situations, Trump lost out. But when, in 2005, the Supreme Court essentially ruled that eminent domain may be used for private development, Trump applauded the ruling.
He’s a crony to the core and he sees no moral issue with this behavior. It’s so called capitalist like Trump who give free markets a bad name.
And the Liberty?
Most of Trump’s good characteristics are not backed by action, only by his words, which he’s shown a penchant for breaking from in the past. He claims to want to repeal Obamacare, but in 2000 he favored universal healthcare. That’s quite a change in policy!
Trump has been consistent on a few issues throughout his career. His stated desire to cut government spending and push to end the Drug War are the two I highlighted. However, he does not lay out a plan as to how he would cut government spending. We know he wouldn’t cut the military industrial complex. So where would Donald cut? Your guess is as good as mine. His rhetoric to legalize drugs is refreshing, but it’s disappointing to hear a so-called capitalist immediately call for taxation of the newly legalized good.
On the Second Amendment, taxation, and marriage equality, Trump tries to toe to the mainstream Republican Party line so as to not upset the masses. His support of gun rights comes across as being insincere. On taxation, it is shocking that a businessman of his wealth and experience does not have a free market friendly tax plan developed that he’s ready to stand behind. Finally, Trump’s defense of traditional marriage is laughable, given his past.
On immigration and foreign policy Trump is a train wreck. Jeffry Tucker wrote an excellent piece ripping the “Trumpism” that was on display during Trump’s recent speech at FreedomFest.
It takes a bit to figure out what the heck he could mean. He speaks of the United States as if it were one thing, one single firm. A business. “We” are in competition with “them,” as if the U.S. were IBM competing against Samsung, Apple, or Dell. “We” are not 300 million people pursuing unique dreams and ideas, with special tastes or interests, cooperating with people around the world to build prosperity. “We” are doing one thing, and that is being part of one business.
In effect, he believes that he is running to be the CEO of — not just of the government (as Ross Perot once believed) but of the entire country. In this capacity, he believes that he will make deals with other countries that cause the U.S. to come out on top, whatever that could mean. He conjures up visions of himself or one of his associates sitting across the table from some Indian or Chinese leader and making wild demands that they will buy such and such amount of product else “we” won’t buy their product.
In theory, a self-made businessman running for President is a libertarian’s dream. But there’s one problem. Donald Trump is not a self-made entrepreneur; he is nothing more than a crony capitalist that has amassed great wealth by rigging the system to the full extent of the law. He believes that this qualifies him to pull the string behind the scenes of the most powerful country in the world.
Trump is probably no less qualified or more dangerous that 75% of the other candidates, on either side of the isle. But unlike some of the other candidates I’ve profiled in earlier editions (Ben Carson and Ted Cruz) Trump really has no positions that are grounded in the principles of liberty, other than his opposition to the War on Drugs. However, his opposition to the War on Drug comes with the caveat that he wants to tax the goods. It is very unlikely that Trump will have anything remotely libertarian to contribute to the conversation. As a result, Donald Trump’s presidential run likely will not bear much liberty fruit.
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