Tell me again how you care about us?

Many have confused our President’s campaign rhetoric of speaking to a disenfranchised audience with his actually protecting their interests. When you look beneath the bullying of companies which are more pomp than circumstance, he is doing an interesting low profile job of screwing over Americans.

What do I mean by this? Here are a few examples:

– He wants the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unwound or made less effective. The CFPB has been hugely successful at punishing banks, credit card companies and other lenders for aggressive and fraudulent marketing. Over 90% of the fines go to the jilted customers. They have fined WellsFargo, American Express, Bank of America, e.g.

– Within hours of his inaugural speech to protect us Americans, he signed an order that reversed a mortgage premium reduction for homeowners that were required to buy mortgage insurance – this would have benefited over a million people who could not afford a lot down on their home.

– He wants to repeal the ACA which largely helps people making less than 4 times the poverty level. These folks will likely lose access to insurance on a guaranteed issue and renewability basis along with a premium subsidy. Access without either would be detrimental.

– Selecting an EPA cabinet leader who detests the EPA will create burdens on poorer Americans as they bear the brunt of environmental problems living closer to coal ash sites, supplied water by older pipes, and subject to more air and water pollution. We must protect our environment for all Americans, but we should be mindful of the strength and pace of job growth in the renewable energy industry.

– And, as a lightning rod, he tells people to buy American when the ball caps in the audience are mostly made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh as are most of his and his daughter’s products. Do as I say, not as I do seems to apply.

There are other examples. The inanity of his words distract us from the agony of his pen and history. Pay attention to his actions. That is where the proof will lie. I do hope he does some good things, but we need to keep him as honest as we can.

Information highway has many roadblocks and exits

We have so much information literally at our fingertips. Search mechanisms can yield answers to so many questions. It is a virtual information highway. Yet, two major problems exist that provide roadblocks or exits to the information highway.

First, answers are often not that simple and depend on the questions being asked. Many problems are complex and need context, as the answer afforded by the results of searches you might click on, can steer you in the wrong direction. Any time you look for a medical solution, you must be careful not to over-diagnose symptoms. If you have ever had children, the croup is one scary looking illness. Yet, it is not as bad as it looks, and a few simple solutions can remedy the problem.

Second, all answers and sources do not have the same level of veracity. Unfortunately, there are information sources whose modus operandi is to mislead. There are groups of entrepreneurs who will craft official looking websites whose main intent is to obfuscate the truth or get a candidate elected. Then, there are portrayed media sources who, on their best day, offer a spin doctored version of the news or mask editorial opinion as news. On their worst day, they can misinform as well as anyone.

Unfortunately, the duty falls on the reader, watcher or searcher, to ascertain the veracity of the information and its source. The groups who make a living at bending the truth, do it very well, so it is hard to know you are being duped or not told the whole story. Now, we have candidates and a President-elect who tell you to doubt the media, saying they are biased. This is often done to mask that the media actually may be on to something.

The main stream media has a key bias and that is toward conflict. Conflict sells. I find they often give too much credibility to an argument and portray it as 50/50 with side-by-side arguments. Climate change deniers have been given too great a voice these days, as the scientists who know the issues have agreed it is a problem and is man-influenced. Yet, you can find websites that will tell you it is a hoax and have even influenced our President-elect.

The main stream media also has a bias toward entertainment and can be conflicted with funding sources for commercials or their owners. As a result, issues may not be discussed at all or covered in a shallow form. While our President-elect claims the media was against him, from my vantage point, they enabled his success by covering his events and controversial statements and not his business history and plans.

So, we must be diligent and dutiful to confirm sources. We must read and listen with curiosity, but remain skeptical of sources. We must ask questions – why, what, when, how and how much or long? If you do a search, look at the source. If you read routed information on Facebook, again look at the source of the underlying document. An overly biased person may also be a lightning rod that the information being routed lacks veracity. And, watch reputable news sources and not politically biased ones.

Democracy demands an informed electorate. We just elected a President who lied about 3/4 of the time on the campaign trail and says he will represent people he has taken advantage of throughout his business career. It boggles the mind that this man was not vetted more. And, as a President, we will need to hold him accountable. We must recognize the roadblocks and exits to seeking the truth. It won’t be easy.

 

 

 

 

A few quotes to remember Tuesday

We have a Presidential candidate who has said many bizarre, untrue, misogynistic and bigoted things. There are also many things said about him from people who have encountered him over the years.

Probably, the dumbest quote uttered by any candidate comes from Trump and he has used variations several times: “Global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs.” Really, because that is some public relations conspiracy.

Another one he has uttered many times including yesterday is “America is the most taxed country on the world.” Mr. Trump, you are not even close as we trail most nations who are part of the Paris-based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. One measure has us at 31st out of 34 countries and another at 17th.

Of course, he cannot help himself, being the most prolific storyteller since Politifacts began measuring fact checking for politicians in the 2007-08 campaign. Thomas M. Wells, who worked as an attorney for Trump said “Trump lies all of the time.” Wells had several quotes about Trump, but one that caught my eye is  “He is the spoiled young man of privilege with the ‘right’ race … and family fortune to succeed easily and who looks down on others lacking in any of the above who do not.”

Trump’s history reveals a proclivity to bullying people through litigation and threatened litigation. Per Wells, a key tactic is refusing to pay contractors like painters, suppliers, electricians, plumbers, etc. under the guise of bad service. He will bully folks into settling for less than $1 for $1 or await a law suit, so that he can countersue. This tactic has been used so much, a Virginia contractor noted on a PBS voter panel about dealing with Trump Companies, “The word on the street is to get your money upfront.”

It should be noted that Hillary Clinton is not the only who has email issues. In an October 31, 2016 article in Newsweek by Kurt Eichenwald, it details Trump’s own records purges, which included “systematically [destroying] or [hiding] thousands of emails, digital records, and paper documents … often in defiance of court orders.” Eichenwald describes a pattern of a “deny, impede, and delay” strategy—which included destroying court-requested documents.

Much has been rightfully made of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape where he describes his sexual assault of women, that has been corroborated by a dozen women before and after this interview was made public. Yet, not as much has been made of accusations of him walking in on naked beauty pageant contestants, some as young as 15. Trump denies he did this, but in a 2005 appearance on Howard Stern’s show, Trump bragged about doing exactly what the women describe. “I’ll go backstage before a show, and everyone’s getting dressed and ready and everything else,” he said.

In writing this post, there was too much to choose from. But, there are two ways to sum up when to tell Trump is stretching the truth. Anything he says prior to the reminding phrase “Believe me,” is most likely untrue. The other is when he says to a reporter or to his opponent in a debate when accused of saying something, “I never said that.” What he fails to remember is he is recorded saying these things.

Let me close with a colorful reference that was made a few years back. I do not like name calling, but the choice of words by someone who successfully battled Mr. Trump is priceless. At the height of a battle with Trump who cajoled, bullied, and then sued unsuccessfully to get her Atlantic City home in 1998, 70-year-old Vera Coking said of Trump to the New York Daily News: “A maggot, a cockroach and a crumb, that’s what he is.” Using the words “maggot” and “cockroach” are interesting choices in my view, as both sponge off of others.

Set aside the comments and let’s focus on his business history

I would like to set aside all of the bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, hateful and inane comments made by a certain Presidential candidate and focus on his touted main reason for electing him, his business record. Yet, to the contrary of his claims, everything one needs to know about Donald Trump and his lack of veracity as a candidate is in his history and it is not hard to find. And, I don’t mean his history of sexual harassment and assault using his own words corroborated by a growing number of women. I mean his business history, which is less sensational.

Let’s focus on two main things. How did he make his money and how did he treat people along the way? Trump touts his skills as a businessman, yet while he is a superb public relations and marketing person who has merchandised himself well, his business management skills and ethics are lacking. In fact, Trump’s history is one of exploiting people for money. This includes employees, contractors, customers and co-investors.

He does this by bullying, litigation or threatened litigation, stiffing people, renting his name to other developers so they can charge more, misrepresentation, and poor business decisions leading to business failures and six bankruptcies. Whether it is bullying or suing people to get them out of their homes, refusing to pay contractors like painters, electricians, dry wallers, landscape professionals, piano suppliers, etc., misrepresenting to people about the benefits of a purchase and using strong-arm marketing tactics, or just getting over leveraged with debt which led to the business bankruptcies and almost his own personal one, his track record is not exemplary. The latter was a key reason for the $916 million loss on his leaked 1995 tax return per The New York Times.

During the campaign, non-partisan and Pulitzer prize-winning Poltifacts has noted Trump has lied more than any other Presidential candidate by far dating back to 2007. But, this is not inconsistent with his history in business. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for him, noted in an op-ed piece several interesting comments as his reasons not to vote for his old boss. Two stand out to me. First he said “Trump lies all the time.” Second, he said Trump often uses the excuse of poor work to stiff contractors. Doing it occasionally is one thing, but this is his modus operandi. One contractor who appeared on a Virginia voter panel on PBS Newshour this summer noted “the word on the street with Trump’s companies is get your money upfront.”

The dilemma is he uses a lawsuit or threat of lawsuit as a weapon. These unpaid contractors who felt wronged would sue him and then he would countersue. His attorneys and his wealth would outgun and out wait his opponents and they would drop the case. Many would have to file for bankruptcy themselves, since the contracts may be for much of their income. It should be noted some of his attorneys would go unpaid as well. Per an article in USA Today in June, 2016, it was reported that Trump has had 3,500 lawsuits, which average to 1 1/2 per week over a 45 year career.

But, let’s look at two microcosms going on today which indicate how he operates as a business leader. First, his Foundation is under investigation for mismanagement and self-dealing. It has been reported in The Washington Post that he has used his Foundation to settle business litigation, contribute to the campaign of the Florida attorney general and buy portraits of himself. Plus, the Foundation has not been registered with the state of New York and maybe other states. The Washington Post found the illegal donation to the campaign and Trump recognized the wrongdoing and corrected it, but it was also incorrectly reported on the Foundation’s earlier tax return as being made to a legitimate entity for a Foundation purpose.

Second, he is facing three class action lawsuits with Trump University which will continue irrespective of the outcome of the election. The lawsuits are for alleged misrepresentation to students and seminar goers regarding his promised hand selection of the professors and the benefit of the classes. He also tried to stop the public release of a marketing playbook in court disclosures which revealed aggressive and strong-arm pressure tactics to buy the seminars. The latter is not illegal, but indicates how he exploits people through pressure sales. It should be noted the campaign donation to the Florida AG noted above seemed to be timed to dissuade her from adding impacted Florida citizens to one of the class action lawsuits.

Finally, one of the areas of greatest concern was reported in a Newsweek piece on his global business. Per this article, he has not done much due diligence on who he has done business with and they present some severe conflicts of interests, should he get elected. One business deal is with a man whose father launders money for Iranian officials. Another is with a man in South Korea who was jailed for embezzlement and fled to North Korea. He has had poor dealings with folks in India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Turkish President Erdogan was so offended by Trump, he jailed Trump’s partner and said if Trump wins, the US cannot use their air base.

To me, these reasons paint a picture of a man who does not have a stellar business record to brag about. Yes, he can sell just about anything, but he has a hard time managing what he has sold. But, please do not take my word for it, as I have only compiled investigative research. I would ask that you do some digging. And, it will not be that difficult. You can start with the excellent reporting being done by The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Reuters, and PBS Newshour. What bothers me most is how many hard-working people have gone out of business or lost a great deal of income as a result of this man’s actions.