Donald Trump: The Art of the (Reckless) Deal

trump-book-cover
Gag me with a spoon. (Image Credit: Amazon.com)

With all the political commentary made during the campaign season, even after the fact of the election, certain stories or turns of phrase still stick in one’s mind while unpacking recent events. These may not even be widely publicized news reports or soundbites, just random bits of information and opinion that resonate with the individual. For yours truly, one interview which comes to mind is Snoop Dogg’s waxing philosophical on a number of topics in a sit-down with Rolling Stone. When asked specifically about politics and the subject of Donald Trump, and in particular, his reference to the yet-to-be-elected Trump being a “punk-ass,” Tha Doggfather had this to say:

How could we have someone as reckless as him running our country? I been around for a long time. I seen Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bushes, Clintons. And I never seen a motherf**ker like him.

“Never seen a motherf**ker like him.” About a man who is set to become the next President of the United States. Leave it to the one and one only Snoop D-O-Double-G to put Donald Trump’s win in historical perspective, placing the matter in its deserving context and plainness: the president-elect is as reckless as they come. On some level, I feel Trump and his supporters would approve of this verbiage which eschews political correctness. Of course, they would probably in the same breath deride him as a degenerate weed smoker, with Mr. Trump himself taking the opportunity to demean him in a Tweet-storm, but that’s how it goes these days, apparently. Any criticism must be met with an equal or disproportionately large clapping back at the source of the criticism. Double points IF YOU USE ALL CAPS FOR A PORTION OR THE WHOLE OF YOUR RESPONSE. YOU’RE SHOWING ENTHUSIASM!

The other anecdote from the campaign season which I feel got lost in the shuffle of the media frenzy that was the 2016 presidential race was a Jane Mayer piece in The New Yorker from July which profiled Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s 1987 memoir The Art of the Deal. To summarize Mayer’s report briefly, Schwartz helped paint a portrait of Trump as the consummate businessman and deal-maker, and especially in light of Trump’s newfound political prominence, he regrets that decision. In breaking a long-standing silence on his role in the deification of Donald Trump, Tony Schwartz made this cutting admission, among others quoted in the piece:

I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.

As Jane Mayer and her interviewee would have it, there are two big myths The Art of the Deal and Donald Trump’s own tall tales have helped perpetuate. The first is the notion that Trump largely made it on his own, without the help of father Fred. Indeed, the image of Donald J. Trump as the self-made millionaire has been essential to his populist appeal. But it’s an illusory one. Fred Trump was there for his son financially, politically, and even legally when needed to co-sign on business contracts to which Donald was a party. The second is that Donald Trump possesses some sort of keen intuition or business savvy, with the reality being that Trump has led both his business and personal lives with an appetite for destruction, incurring heavy amounts of business debt, getting multiple expensive divorces, and spending money like it was going out of style. As journalist Timothy L. O’Brien, also cited in Mayer’s article, adds to the discussion, Trump’s mythmaking in the form of The Apprentice is a reiteration of these themes, only to a greater extent. From there, where is there to go upward from running a business but to run the whole damn country? To a blowhard and egotist like Donald Trump, it seems as much a logical conclusion as anything.

Reckless. Time and time again, this word encapsulates Donald Trump’s approach to life. Reckless with his business finances. Reckless with his own finances. Reckless with his words. Reckless with purported facts and Tweeted graphics. Hell, the man alluded to the size of his dick during a presidential debate, which, at least for me, was the point when this campaign season officially jumped the shark. Many Americans are struggling, and people are getting killed in unspeakable ways both here and abroad, and here we are talking about Trump’s penis. That kind of low-brow fare is fodder for the likes of Jerry Springer, not for a discussion of the most pressing issues facing the nation and the world today. Bur I guess it generates clicks, so that’s all that matters, right? That’s OK. All that stuff about the Social Security trust fund running out in a matter of years was a downer anyway.

Before the election, there at least was the small amount of solace that Donald Trump’s brazen disregard for others was confined to his business dealings or to political debates. Now that Trump has won the presidency and is meeting with heads of business and heads of state, however, the blast radius of his heedless myopia has multiplied exponentially. I mean, dude’s not even President yet and already he’s pissing people off. On a domestic front, President-Elect Trump recently negotiated a deal to keep Carrier, an HVAC and refrigeration brand under the United Technologies Corporation banner, from relocating some 1,000 jobs to Mexico. Sounds great, right?

In actuality, it’s a terrible bit of negotiating. In a piece for FORTUNE Magazine, commentator Robert Z. Lawrence explains just how bad the Carrier deal is for American manufacturing. First of all, Lawrence outlines how, in no uncertain terms, the actions that led to Carrier/UTC staying in the U.S. were part of unsound policy, and the reasons are several, at that. For one, threatening to “blackball” Carrier for moving jobs to Mexico—even though this is perfectly legal—is a clear example of government overreach on President-Elect Trump’s part. Also, in a potentially more injurious way monetarily, by negotiating a tax break for Carrier/UTC to prevent them from leaving the country, Trump has opened the door for other large companies stationed in the United States to demand similar treatment, or else they will threaten to bail for climes with cheaper labor/yet more favorable tax treatment. In addition, Lawrence points out, if Carrier acts in accordance with advice from Donald Trump and/or his administration, and theoretically faces financial struggles afterward, the company will be wont to seek some sort of assistance from the federal government. Three strikes, you’re out, Mr. Trump.

Lawrence has yet more to say on how dumb Donald Trump’s approach to addressing the expatriation of multinational corporations is, including the sheer illegality of what he has suggested doing with tariffs relative to participation in the World Trade Organization, not to mention the modest gains in employment in the manufacturing center that would be realized in the event he manages to knock all his “deals” and “negotiations” out of the park, but for our purposes, we already have enough to construe that “the Donald’s” agreement with Carrier was ill-advised and reckless. The reactions from prominent critics to the deal second the notion that this bit of negotiation is, as the kids say, not all Gucci. Bernie Sanders, finding a topic right in his wheelhouse—you know, bad trade deals, losing jobs and tax revenue to foreign countries, that sort of thing—is among those decrying Trump’s move and what it may signify for his broader economic policy. Sanders even went as far as to pen an op-ed discussing the implications of the Carrier/UTC deal. From the piece:

President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly announce a deal with United Technologies, the corporation that owns Carrier, that keeps less than 1,000 of the 2,100 jobs in America that were previously scheduled to be transferred to Mexico. Let’s be clear: It is not good enough to save some of these jobs. Trump made a promise that he would save all of these jobs, and we cannot rest until an ironclad contract is signed to ensure that all of these workers are able to continue working in Indiana without having their pay or benefits slashed.

In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to “pay a damn tax.” He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How’s that for standing up to corporate greed? How’s that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?

In essence, United Technologies took Trump hostage and won. And that should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.

A point well noted amid Bernie Sanders’ commentary is that this is a tax break for a company that is not one of the little guys, and one that is not exactly hurting in terms of business, either. As Sanders cites in his essay, United Technologies made a profit in 2015 of $7.6 billion and has also received more than $500 million from the Import-Export Bank as well as sizable tax benefits. Insert quip about the rich getting richer here. What makes the Carrier deal especially egregious is that it directly flies in the face of Trump’s campaign promise to get tough with corporations who abscond with jobs that could be done in the United States. Granted, on some level, we expect politicians to renege on pledges made during stump speeches and rallies. In Donald Trump’s case, the man has a known proclivity for prevarication, so to many of us, it’s even less surprising. It doesn’t make it any less reckless on Trump’s part, however, and it’s all the worse considering over 60 million people voted for him with hopes of positive change in some way, shape or form. Many more thousands of American manufacturing jobs potentially hang in the balance, and the President owes it to his constituents to do more than make hasty deals that expedite the widening inequality in this country.

Trump has been no less frustrating or even worrisome on a foreign policy/diplomacy front. Recently, according to President-Elect Trump, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called him to congratulate him on his electoral victory. Just a social call, right? No harm, no foul? Not when the very existence of Taiwan as an autonomous, distinct entity is debated, it isn’t. As the reporting team of Amy B. Wang, Emily Rauhala and William Wan, writing for The Washington Post help communicate, the history and relationship between mainland China and Taiwan is complicated. Once upon a time, in the year 1895, China ceded control of China to Japan, only to regain it some fifty years later when Japan surrendered in World War II. Since that time, China has insisted Taiwan is part of China, much as it has with Tibet. The United States, for its part, hasn’t done anything to challenge this claim, even though it has maintained a working relationship with Taiwan, notably in the area of arms sales, which has ruffled China’s feathers in the past. By and large, however, America has striven to, um, not piss the Chinese off on the subject of Taiwan, and despite its reality as a self-governing, democratic island, since 1979 and as a function of re-opening diplomatic relations with China, we don’t have a formal, in-name relationship with Taiwan. In fact, no American president had even spoken with a Taiwanese president, either in person or over the phone, since that stipulation was enacted over 35 years. That is, of course, until Donald Trump just went ahead and exploded that wall of silence with his big yap.

Details are murky surrounding the circumstances behind this phone call and what its true intent was. As noted, Trump alleges President Tsai called him unsolicited. Taiwan, meanwhile, has averred that the two sides worked together to set up a conversation, and since Trump is a congenital liar, I tend to believe the alternative account. As for the purpose of the call, both Trump’s transition team and the Taiwanese government have explained the heart-to-heart under the premise of some vague sort of discussion of “economic, political and security ties” or “strengthening bilateral relations.” Even that, though, may be cover for what some suggest are Trump’s true intentions: building a hotel in Taiwan. Donald Trump’s seeming reluctance to break all ties with his business operations or to put his holdings in a blind trust, paired with reports that a representative from the Trump Organization visited a possible site for the hotel in September, raise serious doubts about whether his foreign policy is driven by a legitimate desire to benefit the United States as a whole, or merely line his own coffers, even if indirectly. Even putting that potential conflict of interests aside for the moment, though—an admittedly big ask, mind you—Trump’s willingness to engage with Tsai Ing-wen in defiance of China, a major player on the world’s stage and one which regards even slight breaches of tradition as provocation, is just throwing reckless fuel on the reckless fire. Either Donald Trump was ignorant of the U.S.’s long-standing policy with China regarding Taiwan, or he intentionally disregarded it, but whatever the case, it portends poorly for his negotiations with other nations. Even if China is inclined to give him some leeway, we shouldn’t be encouraging Trump as POTUS to dance with the Devil.

Whether it’s picking the likes of Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development when the man has no public policy experience and didn’t even really want the job in the first place, flirting with countries with which we have no business talking and alienating allies and trade partners (“Hey, Pakistan came on to me!”), or shooting from the hip when deciding which corporations get what benefits and which get snubbed and Tweeted about (“Boeing was mean to me! Big mistake!”), Donald Trump’s childish temperament, deficient knowledge of domestic and foreign policy, and overall reckless behavior are sure to negatively impact the nation. What’s more, if not picking dangerously unqualified candidates like Carson, he’s doing the exact opposite of what he claimed he would do. He’s not draining the swamp, but as I’ve heard it said, he’s instead feeding its alligators. He’s not making America great again, but rather making it better only for the wealthiest Americans and the top executives of large multinational companies—and essentially giving the rest of the country the middle finger as he does it. The Donald Trump less than half of America elected is a myth, a liar, and quite frankly, not a good human being. He may have won TIME Magazine‘s coveted Person of the Year award, but only because of his newfound stature that he won dishonestly. In reality, he’s not worth the paper his picture is printed on, and the sooner the American people realize the man synonymous with “The Art of the Deal” isn’t the leader he is made out to be, the sooner we’ll all realize what a shitty deal we got.

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