Really, America?

Donald Trump is not an option.

With his Peter Andre-esque spray-on orange hue, and his wispy toupée; his image is almost as fake as his ‘self-made man’ philosophy. Donald Trump shouldn’t even be considered for the presidency.

Donald Trump is often judged for his stance on immigration and the like; his recent comments about Muslims take Islamophobia to a whole new level. However, as much as his bigoted outlook on life disgusts many, polls have unequivocally shown him at the head of the GOP candidacy race. The main reason his supporters cite for this is his appeal to the average American: even if his views are a little extreme, his $4.5 billion net worth is testament to his immense commercial expertise, and it is this that attracts voters to him. But where does this assumption of business acumen come from?

In a 2012, Brian Millar and Mike Lapham, researchers at United for a Fair Economy, wrote a book entitled “The Self-Made Myth”. In this book they explored how key figures, such as Donald Trump, who at that point was talked up as a potential presidential candidate (in the end he decided not to run, opting instead to host another series of The Apprentice), who claimed to be ‘self-made’, had, in fact, benefitted from the very things they later wished to scrap and destroy, such as public education, research grants and government-regulated banks.

In their book, Trump’s early life is examined. He was born in New York City in 1946 to Fred Trump, a wealthy real estate tycoon. His father’s wealth afforded him a comfortable childhood, and he was educated privately. This wealth was then passed down to him upon his father’s death; an estimated $40 to $200 million. Whilst this seems paltry compared to his current $4.5 billion net worth, it is important to remember how his father got this money.

In 1934, Fred Trump was struggling greatly. The Great Depression of ’29 had hit the property market hard, and Fred was faced with a real and severe risk of bankruptcy. However, the state recognised the imminent collapse of the housing market, and moved quickly to prevent it. As Millar and Lapham write, “financing from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) allowed Fred Trump to revive his business and begin building a multitude of homes in Brooklyn, selling at $6,000 apiece. Furthermore, throughout World War II, Fred Trump constructed FHA-backed housing for US naval personnel near major shipyards along the East Coast”. So there it is; Donald Trump’s inherited wealth was brought to him through state intervention in the markets – the very thing he now stands to oppose.

However, proponents of Trump say that, whilst he inherited a successful business, he still managed to transform that small time Brooklyn-based property enterprise into a nationwide, cross-market empire. And, in part, this is true – Donald Trump became the president of his father’s organisation in 1974, and immediately began expanding into golf courses, hotels and casinos. By 1980, his personal empire was so large that he established the Trump Organization to oversee his business operations.

10 years later, Trump landed himself in serious trouble. Due to excessive leveraging, the Trump Organization found itself in over $5 billion of debt, $1 billion of which was personally attributed to Trump himself. It seemed as through bankruptcy was inevitable. A group of 70 banks offered Trump a lifeline, allowing him to take out 2nd and 3rd mortgages on most of his properties, and deferring nearly $1 billion of debt attributed to his organisation. If it were not for the banks generosity (and significant governmental influence) in 1990, Trump’s business would have failed and all because of a series of immature and amateurish risk-taking decisions. Is this really the sort of man Americans want at the head of their country?

It is clear that the persona Trump conveys to the public is not true. He claims to be self-made, and regularly speaks out against government intervention in business affairs, but were it not for that very same intervention, his wealth would be non-existent. Donald Trump is not a self-made man; he is a hypocrite who cannot recognise how much state intervention has supported his success.