Posted Saturday morning, April 22, 2017.
He’s trying to play us all for suckers
I’m not sure what to make of this as a metaphor: “Trump Plaza was one of four casinos to close down in Atlantic City in 2014. In this Oct. 6, 2014 photo, a worker applies caulk to holes in the facade of the former Trump Plaza casino.” Photo by Wayne Parry/AP, courtesy of AP, via NJ.com.
I might have been a little intemperate in my post the other day regarding the political media and their coverage of the 2016 election and to make amends I should maybe start a hashtag. #NotAllPundts. There were plenty of political journalists, including some who didn’t particularly like Hillary, who saw Trump for what he was from the start and tried to warn us. Business Insider’s Josh Barro was one, as he reminded readers in a column Thursday, A quote from 'The Art of the Deal' perfectly explains Trump's presidency.
I wrote two columns about the book for The New York Times back in 2015, and I highlighted one quote from the book that keeps haunting me during Trump's presidency.
"What the bulldozers and dump trucks did wasn’t important, I said, so long as they did a lot of it."
Trump was talking about a stunt he pulled in 1982, when he owned a piece of land along the Atlantic City boardwalk and wanted Holiday Inn to partner with him on the construction of a casino.
Contrary to his representations to Holiday Inn, hardly any construction had taken place on the site, and he was concerned the company would decline to invest once they saw what was basically a plot of empty land.
So in advance of a site visit by Holiday Inn executives, he directed his construction manager to hire dozens of pieces of heavy equipment to move dirt around on the site, digging holes and filling them back up if necessary.
We see this strategy repeated over and over in Trump's presidency. Trump signs executive orders to great fanfare, even if they have no effect beyond instructing his cabinet secretaries to prepare reports months from now. He demands that Congress pass a healthcare bill, with no particular concern for what's actually in the bill.
Trump aims to generate the appearance of activity, to do noisy things that demonstrate that he is a do-something president.
From the New York Times this morning, Trump Vows to Unveil Tax-Cut Plan Next Week, Surprising Staff:
WASHINGTON — President Trump promised on Friday that he would unveil a “massive” tax cut for Americans next week, vowing a “big announcement on Wednesday,” but he revealed no details about what is certain to be an enormously complicated effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code.
Mr. Trump offered his tax tease in an interview and again during remarks at the Treasury Department on Friday afternoon as he raced to stack up legislative accomplishments before his 100th day in office at the end of next week.
His announcement surprised Capitol Hill and left Mr. Trump’s own Treasury officials speechless as he arrived at the Treasury offices to sign directives to roll back Obama-era tax rules and financial regulations. Earlier in the day, when reporters asked Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, how far away a tax overhaul proposal was, he said he could not give an answer. “Tax reform is way too complicated,” he said.
Mr. Trump told The Associated Press in the interview that his tax reductions would be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.” But he faces an enormous fight among clashing vested interests as Congress tries to rewrite the tax code….
The details of Mr. Trump’s tax plans remain the subject of intense speculation, with stock markets regularly gyrating when White House officials discuss the subject. Since taking office, the president has suggested that he wants to enact the deepest cuts to individual and corporate tax rates in history.
But despite Mr. Trump’s statement on Friday that his tax overhaul “really formally begins on Wednesday,” White House officials quickly cautioned against high expectations that Mr. Trump would provide the legislative text of a detailed tax plan next week.
Instead, a senior administration official said the president would release only the “parameters” that Mr. Trump expected a tax plan to follow in the long congressional debate that would surely follow. Another official said the information released next week would be more like a “broad” outline….
In other words, come Wednesday, the bulldozers and power shovels arrive and start digging holes and filling them in again in an attempt to fool the media, Congress, Wall Street, and voters into thinking real work is being done so Trump can keep his presidency, which has become his business, going and making money for another month.
But as Barro says, “In the long run, it matters what the bulldozers and the dump trucks do.”
In business, Trump's strategy for when his counterparties figured out he was screwing them was to tie them up in litigation, get paid to go away, and then find new marks. He could find somebody else to fool with a bunch of useless bulldozers: new investors, new lenders, new customers.
In politics, as he is learning, there is no new set of marks. He has to face the same Congress and the same voters over and over.
You don’t need me or Barro to remind you, but Trump Plaza went bankrupt. The hotel and casino have been shuttered since fall of 2014 and now there’s talk of tearing the whole thing down. Not fun to think about that news as a metaphor.