Congress is working on tax cuts, the benefits of which will largely go to the very wealthy. Some small benefits may accrue to parts of the middle class, but these will be temporary, They will sunset in no more than ten years. Other middle-class folks may find that their taxes will increase.
In eighteenth-century England at the time of the Revolution, the upper class thought it was their due that the wealth of the nation should flow primarily to them. We now have a President and a wealthy Republican donor class that seems to hold similar values. Given the massive gift Congress is about to bestow on the Trump family and other billionaires, it is an opportune time to explore how the Trumps gained their wealth.
According to Trump family biographer Gwenda Blair, Friedrich Trump, the President’s grandfather, immigrated to the US in 1886 to avoid conscription into the Germany army. He bounced around New York a few years and then headed to the gold fields of Washington State and later the Klondike. In both places, he operated restaurants, hotels, and bordellos. He sold his establishment in the Klondike just before the Mounties rode in to close the place down. Now wealthy, he returned to Bavaria for a period and married. He lost his Bavarian citizenship for evading the draft and for not paying taxes. He was then forced to return to America. Settling in Queens, he began dabbling in real estate.
Fred Trump, Friedrich’s son, and the President’s father, became a builder and real estate developer as a young man. He was successful and attained great wealth during and immediately after the Second World War. During the war he built barracks and apartments for Navy personnel and after the war federally subsidized housing for returning veterans. In the early fifties he was investigated for war profiteering. He was accused of pocketing payments earmarked for architectural and contracting services and also pocketing the excess funds from overestimating construction costs. He slickly evaded culpability by saying that keeping these funds was not strictly illegal and it was necessary to get the work done fast.
Donald Trump’s ethically challenged business practices are too numerous to fully list here, but they include lying to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to get his gaming licenses, being fined for money laundering at his casinos, bilking investors out of their life savings for condos that were never built, and promoting dubious schemes like Trump University. He has a decade’s long history of not paying subcontractors and suppliers, some of whom were forced into bankruptcy. Unable to get loans from most American banks after several bankruptcies, he turned to Putin-connected oligarchs for financing.
On October 4, 2017, the New Yorker published the results of its probe (done with Pro Publica and WNYC) into a criminal investigation of two Trump children. From 2010 to 2012 the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the Manhattan DA’s office built a criminal fraud case against Ivanka and Donald Jr. There was evidence that the two had conspired to use false information to lure prospective buyers into purchasing condos in the Trump Soho South project. An indictment seemed likely when the case was inexplicably dropped after Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, visited the DA, Cyrus Vance, Jr., and made a substantial contribution to Vance’s reelection campaign.
Grifting seems to be an inherited talent in the Trump clan, and now, the biggest scam of all is being foisted on the American people. This is the proposition that there is anything good for most Americans in the proposed Republican tax cut. Independent analyses concur that huge benefits will flow to the one-percent and that the federal deficit will explode.
This is all supposed to work out because corporations and the rich will use their windfall to reinvest in the economy and spur growth. It does not, however, take a degree in economics to know that this is blather. After the Reagan tax cuts, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing enterprises moved offshore, and the Bush tax cuts led to financial speculation and the Crash of 2008. Indeed, if the Reagan and Bush tax cuts had worked, there would be no need for Trump tax cuts. That is obvious common sense. So, why are the Republicans doing this? To paraphrase Senator Lindsey Graham, they need to deliver for their wealthy donors, and as for the Trump family, millions will flow into their pockets. The grift is in.
(Editor’s note: Image is from here, another great article on how Trump is destroying the presidency.)