Call Donald Trump What He Is: A Thief

Trump is running, in part, on his incredible business technique. This is already puzzling, because if he had just put his inheritance into an index fund and gone out wenching, he would be richer than he is now. But in any case, I don’t think we’ve seen the right summary of this technique, and it would be good if Democrats could tie it up into a package that could be referenced, repeatedly, in simple terms.  What Trump mainly does for a living is to steal; he’s not a businessman, he’s a goniff, of a fairly standard type.

Stealing is the golden thread through his whole career. First, he regularly stiffs suppliers and contractors. Not paying someone for work you arranged to buy is just stealing, no matter that you hide behind lawyers the victims can’t afford. *

Second, he revels in his bankruptcies: in a bankruptcy, a court gives you permission not to pay your debts. Not to pay your debts. The idea is to let someone who has had a piece of bad luck to start again, not to give a rich investor the chance to repeatedly stiff lenders, investors and creditors. First time, maybe misfortune; second and third looks like borrowing with intent to skip.  Not everything legal is right: Trump’s use of bankruptcy as a standard business tool is stealing.

Finally, he doesn’t pay taxes. Someone pays his taxes, so there’s a street for customers to get to his properties, a fire department that protects his buildings, a court for him to sue people in. But not paying your own taxes is stealing, in this case from other taxpayers.  Voters, do you really want to elect the guy who’s had his hand in your pocket for decades?

*afterthought, 27/IX: To be fair, Trump has a defense against this one, though he hasn’t used it: “Those people all did bad work! I just have terrible judgment of people and talent, and I keep making bad hires again and again.”

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.