The scandal surrounding “Trump University” is already an albatross for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The entire enterprise has been accused of being a con job, ripping off “students” who trusted the developer’s name.
But as it turns out, there’s a new, related controversy surrounding the “Trump Institute,” which is something else. The New York Times reports today that the Republican candidate “lent his name, and his credibility” to this seminar business, which offered Trump’s “wealth-creating secrets and strategies” for up to $2,000.
The truth was something else altogether.
As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial – one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”
Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.
Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.
All things considered, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) referred to Trump as a “con man,” the senator may have been on to to something.
Consider the revelations from recent weeks:
* Those who ran “Trump University” have faced credible allegations of stuffing their own pockets by preying on the vulnerable, selling unsuspecting students snake oil at indefensible prices and through misleading claims.
* Trump has boasted at great length about the millions of dollars he’s given away through charitable donations – though many of these donations don’t appear to exist and many of the promises he made publicly went unfulfilled.
* And now the “Trump Institute” is facing allegations of being yet another fraudulent operation, complete with bogus claims, shady characters, and “the theft of intellectual property at the venture’s heart.”
The Times’ report added:
The institute was another example of the Trump brand’s being accused of luring vulnerable customers with false promises of profit and success. Others, besides Trump University, include multilevel marketing ventures that sold vitamins and telecommunications services, and a vanity publisher that faced hundreds of consumer complaints.
Mr. Trump’s infomercial performance suggested he was closely overseeing the Trump Institute. “People are loving it,” he said in the program, titled “The Donald Trump Way to Wealth” and staged like a talk show in front of a wildly enthusiastic audience. “People are really doing well with it, and they’re loving it.” His name, picture and aphorisms like “I am the American Dream, supersized version” were all over the course materials.
Yet while he owned 93 percent of Trump University, the Trump Institute was owned and operated by Irene and Mike Milin, a couple who had been marketing get-rich-quick courses since the 1980s.
I realize, of course, that there are many voters who trust Donald J. Trump’s word. I’m less clear on why.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016
More than three months have passed since President Obama first asked Congress for $1.8 billion to fund the fight against the Zika virus, and the full amount is still nowhere in sight.
The mosquito-borne virus, which can also be transmitted between humans, has become a growing concern in recent weeks. The CDC announced Friday that the number of pregnant women with the virus has tripled, and that number is only expected to swell as the summer months bring more mosquitoes to the United States and its territories. People with Zika do not always show symptoms, further complicating the ability to monitor the spread of the virus.
Despite the alarming developments, Republicans have balked at the request by the President, offering a fraction of his requested amount. The House on Wednesday passed the Republican-backed Zika Response Appropriations Act, a bill that would provide $622.1 million in funding towards Zika but would also lead to other cuts — including on funds allocated for the fight against Ebola — in order to satisfy Republican demands to limit deficit spending.
Democrats have called out Republicans for failing to allocate the necessary funding, which would be used for training efforts, testing, and mosquito control. The Senate on Tuesday voted to push forward $1.1 billion in emergency funding — still less than the amount requested by the President. No Democrats opposed it.
Some Republicans, particularly those representing the Southeastern United States where the Virus is expected to be the most prevalent, have called on Congress to provide as much funding as the President has requested.
“There is no reason why we should not fully fund this,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said earlier this week. Rubio went on to slam the House bill, saying “Quite frankly, that’s just not going to cut it.”
Obama warned Congress on Friday not to go on recess without first addressing the funding he has requested, noting that it is not yet time to panic but that the issue should be taken seriously. The president met with his top public safety officers and said there is still more research needed to find answers on the virus — research that can only happen once the necessary funding is allocated by Congress.
The long wait for funding has had a ripple effect on the local level, at least for the time being. The CDC was forced to move $44 million from state and local governments — including $1.1 million in New York City — to fight the Zika virus. Local governments will be limited in their ability to respond to other public health emergencies until adequate funding is made available.
By: Matt Tracy, The National Memo, May 20, 2016
“Donald Trump’s Catastrophic Ignorance”: Falling Flat On His Face Because He Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About
The general election has begun, and Donald Trump is clearly trying to pivot to the center. As my colleague Jeff Spross points out, he’s backed away from his monstrously rich-tilted tax plan, suggested more government borrowing might be in order, and raised the possibility of increasing the minimum wage.
It’s very clearly an attempt to win middle- and working-class votes for the general election. Looking past his outrageous bigotry, there’s just one problem with this strategy: Trump’s spectacular policy ignorance. It’s going to be hard to capture the center when one has only the vaguest idea of what that even means.
As the various fact-checking crews never tire of pointing out, Trump is constantly making one outrageously false statement after another. Many of them are just simple lies about how rich he is, whether or not his steaks exist, how well he’s doing in the polls, and so forth. But many other times it’s Trump genuinely trying to opine about some issue, and falling flat on his face because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
There was the time that Marco Rubio landed a rare clean hit on him during the primary debates by demonstrating clearly that Trump has no plan whatsoever to replace ObamaCare, or on another occasion when it was stone obvious that he has no idea how the old Cuba embargo worked, or what the newly opened relationship entails.
President Trump renames Obamacare to ‘Trumpcare.’ ‘it’s good now, I fixed it.’ Trump declares
— raandy (@randygdub) August 26, 2015
More recently, Trump said several times that Puerto Rico (suffering a serious debt crisis) should simply declare bankruptcy. That’s a good idea except that it’s illegal, which is actually the subject of a proposal being fiercely debated in Congress. That’s the entire problem in the first place. He’s not just ignorant, he can’t even be bothered to pay attention to the most basic content of what’s happening in Washington.
More alarmingly, he also suggested on Thursday that should the U.S. ever run into any debt problems, he would just force creditors to accept a reduction in the value of their bonds (or “haircut”). This means at least partial sovereign default. As U.S. debt is the foundation of the global financial system, this would quite literally threaten economic Armageddon — and clearly comes from a misapplication of business logic to government policy, as Matt Yglesias notes. Trump made his money by borrowing a lot, investing in rapidly appreciating real estate, cashing out the equity, then declaring bankruptcy if there was a crash later, as economist Hyman Minksy detailed at the time.
That’s a sensible if parasitic approach to business. But it’s no way to run a nation. Government policy creates the underlying economic framework that allows businessmen to take risks like Trump did building up his fortune. U.S. government debt, as the world’s safest economic asset, is a key part of that framework. Treating it like a corporate junk bond would make it massively more risky than previously thought, creating a financial shockwave that would reverberate through the entire world and cause a global economic panic.
More to the point, there’s no reason to do such a thing. Businesses borrow because it’s one way to get money. But governments can create infinite money out of thin air. With the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. government is most concerned with workers, infrastructure, raw materials, and inflation, not using bonds to make a quick buck.
There’s probably a limit to how much this sort of alarming bungling will hurt Trump. He seems to vaguely understand that people like higher wages and welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare, which will do him some good, and it must be admitted that a great many voters don’t have the slightest clue about public policy.
Still, to the small extent that anyone trusts economic journalists and pundits anymore, this sort of thing will create a deluge of coverage portraying Trump as an incompetent maniac who’s going to obliterate everyone’s job. That’s going to make running to the middle a tough sell.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 9, 2016
Feel The Bern! Trump Train! Cruz-mentum!
There’s so much talk in the 2016 presidential race about momentum — the “Big Mo,” as it’s been dubbed for a quarter century. But here’s the truth: The power of momentum in politics today is an outdated myth — an illusion.
Ted Cruz supposedly had all the momentum after his Iowa victory. Then he got creamed in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Cruz had the Big Mo again after he pulled off a strong win against Donald Trump in Wisconsin. No dice. Now that Trump has won big in New York, has he ridden a tidal wave of momentum to achieve a significant bounce in, say, Pennsylvania or California? Nope. A similar effect is playing out in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He won more than a half dozen contests in a row. Then Clinton crushed him in the Empire State. Momentum, shmomentum.
John Kasich’s entire candidacy was premised on the idea that strong showings in New Hampshire and Ohio would give him the momentum to outperform in, well, the other 48 states, where he had no infrastructure or reason to win. That hasn’t panned out.
Of Marco Rubio, the less said the better. He kept hoping that each primary would deliver that vaunted “momentum” that would push him to the next primary. Instead, like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, he kept running until he realized there was nothing under his feet, and crashed back to earth.
Why do political campaigns continue to put such faith in momentum despite the prevailing evidence that it simply doesn’t exist?
To answer that question, it’s instructive to wind back the clock to the greatest “momentum” story in recent American politics: Bill Clinton’s come-from-behind second-place finish in New Hampshire, which ended up propelling him to the Democratic nomination in 1992, and thence to history. People mocked Rubio for giving speeches after second-place finishes where he sounded like he’d won the nomination, but, hey, it worked for Clinton, didn’t it?
Well, why did it work? Because the idea of momentum works in tandem with a narrative. Bill Clinton branded himself “the comeback kid.” The media bought it. His unexpectedly strong showing prompted voters to give him a second look. Success breeds success. People want to support a guy who’s winning.
There used to be a lot of truth to this idea. But no more.
What changed? The media.
After Clinton won New Hampshire in 1992, every channel’s evening news and every non-right-leaning newspaper (meaning almost every newspaper) promoted the narrative that Clinton’s second-place finish was a big deal. The media telling voters that the candidate has done something unexpected that will give him momentum gets the voters to give the candidate a second look, to view him more favorably (he’s winning!), which drives up polls, which gives you another cycle of momentum, and so on.
The media-driven narrative of momentum used to be able to create actual momentum. But that only works when you have a unified media narrative to get the snowball effect started. And a unified media narrative is precisely what America no longer has.
Rubio did nothing to warrant winning a “comeback kid” designation in 2016. But imagine if he had, and then had been christened “the comeback kid” by CNN, and even maybe by Fox News. He still wouldn’t be called that by Rush Limbaugh, and certainly not by Breitbart (in the tank for Trump), or The Blaze (in the tank for Cruz), or MSNBC (in the tank against whichever Republican looks most electable).
The media today is fractured, fragmented. A consistent and coherent media narrative is very difficult to form around a candidate. And when it does happen, it’s in a way that is much harder to translate into momentum.
Political momentum in 2016 is a myth. And it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, April 22, 2016