OP-ED: Trump has indeed handled economy much as he ran his businesses

Ann McFeatters
Tribune News Service
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

It turns out that Trumpers were right. Donald Trump has handled the economy much as he ran his businesses.

Spend. Spend. Spend. Borrow. Borrow. Borrow. It’s all about perception, branding and publicity. And the boss is always right.

Because of Trump and complicit Republicans in Congress, our national debt now is greater than our gross domestic product. The debt exceeds $26 trillion, greater than the annual economic output of the entire country. In other words, we owe more than we produce each year.

Is it any surprise that Trump’s reelection campaign has received $1.1 billion from wealthy donors and has mostly wasted $800 million of that sum? It went to reimburse Trump for campaign events at his clubs and hotels. It went to personal legal bills. It went to pointless Super Bowl ads and to hire a car and driver for his campaign aide, who spread the largesse among friends.

More:AP Explains: U.S. debt will soon exceed size of entire economy

More:US economy shrank at record-breaking 33% rate last quarter

Trump blithely says he will simply buy the election with $100 million of his own money, except that his financial disclosures (not the same as tax returns which he successfully has kept hidden) show he doesn’t have the money. He’s hoping his donors, for whom he has done such favors as give them access, regulatory relief for their businesses and huge tax cuts to build their products overseas, will pony up more money for him.

If Trump had wisely invested the more than $400 million his father gave him (not his siblings) to get him started in business (long before he received his massive inheritance), he would be worth more than he is now. And he wouldn’t have the stain of six bankruptcies on his record, which meant that only foreign banks would loan him money.

But the true damage is what he has done to the finances, hopes and dreams of American families. (Don’t cite the bumpy stock market. It is not reflective of the economy; the top 1% have 50% of all stock. And the top 10% in general are doing exceptionally well, building on the economic growth that Barack Obama began and the Federal Reserve Bank continued.)

More than 80,000 businesses have closed forever. Millions don’t know where they’ll get the next mortgage or rent payment. Food banks are overrun. Children are not in school. And the virus is nowhere near being controlled.

Now we know from Bob Woodward of Watergate fame, who has Trump on tape, that Trump said Feb. 7 that he knew the coronavirus was deadly, affected children as well as the elderly and spread through the air. Trump even admitted to Woodward that he was playing down the deadliness of the virus because he didn’t want to alarm people. Thus no mask in public. No orders for social distancing. Thus the nonsensical promise the virus would just disappear. No warning that he had intentionally misled American people in order to be reelected.

More:AP Analysis: In Trump's America, truths are not self-evident

More:'This is deadly stuff': Trump deliberately played down COVID-19 risks, book says

More:'Deadly stuff': Trump's own words bring focus back to virus

That was 190,000 deaths ago.

As it was in Trump’s business, when many lawyers refused to do business with him, it turns out Trump still doesn’t like to pay his legal bills. So now, Attorney General Bill Barr has told the Department of Justice to take on Trump’s defense against a defamation case that sprang from an accusation decades ago by a woman who claimed Trump raped her. The U.S. government should not legally be paying for Trump’s defense.

But then much of what Trump has done is not legal. Trump has made the presidency more powerful than it has ever been in history, again, with the complicity of Senate Republicans.

Trump’s disparaging of the military, calling Americans who were wounded or died in the service and defense of their country “losers” and “suckers,” is another indication he believes he is above all institutions. World history is replete with men who decided to become dictators and had no moral qualms doing whatever it took to stay in power.

There is serious evidence that Trump, who didn’t expect to be elected in 2016, now intends to be president for life. He covets the power of murderous dictators such as Mohammed bin Salman, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, who use their countries’ resources as their own and answer to no one. All Trump needs is a close election he can contest.

Before you vote, check your wallet. If it is worrisomely slim, don’t drink the Kool Aid, even if you drank it once and mistakenly thought it quenched your thirst.

— Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at