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“Suckers For Trump Need To Believe”: The Psychology Of Chumps And How They Get Taken

Here is how Donald Trump suckers the little people. What follows is a telling of his methods, not commentary on his lack of scruples.

The Question: Why didn’t the trail of wreckage left by Trump’s failed businesses deter students from forking over as much as $35,000 for a class at Trump University? The Answer: They wanted to believe in a plot that favored them.

The skilled con artist knows how to identify chumps and work their emotions. As Trump U salespeople were instructed to tell prospective students, “let them know that you’ve found an answer to their problems.”

Trump’s been at this a long time. In 1995, he raised $140 million from ordinary stock investors for Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Why would people put good money in a company built on two casinos that had already gone bankrupt under Trump management?

Because Trump had convinced them that he had become a rich man — not by inheriting his father’s real estate empire but through his celebrity magic. Note that the company’s stock ticker symbol was DJT, Trump’s initials.

Trump controlled a third bankrupted casino hotel, which he later persuaded the company to buy at a grossly inflated price. The bankers finally took over in 2004, sending Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

When Trump was done working his “magic,” the stock had lost 90 percent of its value. For every $10 that the believers had invested at the initial public offering, they had $1 left.

A turndown in the casino business could take blame for some of Trump’s other casino problems, but not in this case. During this period, the stock of Harrah’s Entertainment more than doubled. Shares of Starwood and MGM quadrupled.

Trump’s explanation for the diving stock price? “People don’t understand this company.”

Maria Konnikova has studied the psychology of chumps and how they get taken. The skilled con men, she writes, “are exceptional creators of drama.” They spin a story “that makes everything seem legitimate, even inevitable.”

It’s a very human desire to believe the good we’re told will come our way, and it’s not limited to the uneducated. Konnikova tells of a University of North Carolina physicist who fell for an online dating swindle that led to his smuggling cocaine from South America. Elsewhere, the president of a famous New York art gallery was conned into selling forged paintings, including one with the artist’s signature misspelled.

The two patsies conceded the psychological tricks played on them. Konnikova explains, “Faced with incongruous evidence, you dismiss the evidence rather than the story.” Actually, you don’t even see the evidence.

Over at Trump University, economically struggling students ate up the story that Trump himself would be instrumental in blessing them with his secrets to real-estate wealth. They so believed a video promising to teach them “better than the best business school” that they maxed out their credit cards to pay tuition. For those lacking an adequate line of credit, salespeople urged taking on more credit cards. And they did.

Trump University is now defunct and about to go on trial amid charges it defrauded students by $40 million. Trump smeared the judge in the case for his Mexican heritage.

Business reporters trying to get at the truth of Trump’s wealth already assume it is a fraction of what Trump claims. A wish to keep that amount under wraps may account for his refusal to release tax returns.

Evidence of Trump’s confidence games keeps growing, but the pile was already high before he ran for president. Thing is, evidence doesn’t matter to the saps he plays with. It’s always the story.


By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, June 2, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump University | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why There’s No Outcry”: At Some Point, Working People, Students, And The Broad Public Will Have Had Enough

People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.

First, the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has.

In earlier decades, the working class fomented reform. The labor movement led the charge for a minimum wage, 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, and Social Security.

No longer. Working people don’t dare. The share of working-age Americans holding jobs is now lower than at any time in the last three decades and 76 percent of them are living paycheck to paycheck.

No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have.

Besides, their major means of organizing and protecting themselves — labor unions — have been decimated. Four decades ago more than a third of private-sector workers were unionized. Now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.

Second, students don’t dare rock the boat.

In prior decades students were a major force for social change. They played an active role in the Civil Rights movement, the Free Speech movement, and against the Vietnam War.

But today’s students don’t want to make a ruckus. They’re laden with debt. Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can’t be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating.

To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home.

Reformers and revolutionaries don’t look forward to living with mom and dad or worrying about credit ratings and job recommendations.

Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible.

When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed.

It’s hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don’t believe government can possibly work.

You’d have to posit a giant conspiracy in order to believe all this was the doing of the forces in America most resistant to positive social change.

It’s possible. of course, that rightwing Republicans, corporate executives, and Wall Street moguls intentionally cut jobs and wages in order to cow average workers, buried students under so much debt they’d never take to the streets, and made most Americans so cynical about government they wouldn’t even try for change.

But it’s more likely they merely allowed all this to unfold, like a giant wet blanket over the outrage and indignation most Americans feel but don’t express.

Change is coming anyway. We cannot abide an ever-greater share of the nation’s income and wealth going to the top while median household incomes continue too drop, one out of five of our children living in dire poverty, and big money taking over our democracy.

At some point, working people, students, and the broad public will have had enough. They will reclaim our economy and our democracy. This has been the central lesson of American history.

Reform is less risky than revolution, but the longer we wait the more likely it will be the latter.


By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, January 25, 2014

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Another Great Anti-Obamacare Lie Exposed”: Data Proves ACA Not Responsible For Growth In Part-Time Jobs

One of the more popular economic myths spun by the anti-Obamacare forces is the suggestion that employers are avoiding the law by moving to an employee model based on part-time workers rather than full-time employees.

For those committed to destroying the Affordable Care act by any means possible, who can blame them for seeking to misdirect based on using only a small part of the data as it pertains to employment when telling the full story blows up the entire meme? Such a claim is, after all, ear candy for an audience looking for any reason to hate the law, even if they don’t quite know why they so are so displeased.

The problem, however, is that this popular line of attack comes with a rather significant flaw—the claim is provably false.

While there are, no doubt, a few companies out there moving to increase part-time employees at the expense of full-time workers—mostly involving retail and fast food companies that have always depended heavily on a part-time employee model—it turns out that the frantic claims arguing that the ACA is causing some massive loss of full-time work is simply not supported by the empirical data.

While we will get to that data in just a moment, to better understand how the opponents of healthcare reform are selling this bit of disinformation, it is important to know the basis of their claim.

It begins by acknowledging that 27 million Americans are currently employed in part-time jobs—a number that is, in fact, well above the historical norms.

Left on its own, that bit of information ties in quite nicely with the suggestion that we can hold Obamacare responsible for these numbers when one considers that employing full-time workers holds the potential for greater benefits obligations for a company with 50 or more employees.

However, when one looks just one layer beneath the surface—a bit of research one might expect honest brokers to perform before informing the public that the sky is falling—a very different picture emerges.

There are—as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—two classifications of part-time workers.

Those who are working 35 hours or less because they cannot accomplish the full-time employment they desire are called “part-time for economic reasons”, while those who work 35 hours or less because that is all the work they want are part-time by choice.

A more careful review of the latest BLS jobs report out last week—a review in which the anti-Obamacare forces do not want you to  engage in—reveals that while we do, indeed, currently have 27 million part-time workers in the economy,  only 8 million of these people are working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.

That means that 19 million Americans are working part-time because that is all the work they desire to have.

What’s more, not only does the September jobs report reveal that the number of part-timers wishing for full-time work showed no increase when compared to the previous month’s numbers, the report provides a piece of data far more important—

In September of 2012, the number of part-timers seeking full-time work comprised 6 percent of the workforce. One year later, the September jobs report reveals that the number has shrunk to 5.5 percent.

Thus, not only has this supposed employer desire to avoid Obamacare not increased the number of part-time workers in the country; we actually see that the numbers are on the decline.

Now, before you launch into a cynical attack on the numbers as something ‘fudged’ by the Obama Administration, you might want to bear in mind that the opponents of the ACA have based their own argument on the very same numbers—albeit using only the top-line figures to make their misleading point rather than conveying the full data that shows a very different result.

As the old saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

There is something else you should probably know when attempting to make sense of the part-time worker picture—

As the following BLS chart reveals, the number of part-time workers as a percentage of the entire workforce has been on the decline since the numbers peaked with the onset of our deep recession in 2008—well before the concept of Obamacare entered into the public lexicon and conscious. 

Does it surprise anyone that, as the economy has improved—even if far slower than we would like—the number of part-time workers have declined?

Yet, to hear the anti-Obamacare forces tell the story, not only is part-time work increasing—when it very clearly is not—they have chosen to pretend that this is the result of the Affordable Care Act rather than obvious impact our economic circumstances would naturally play in the part-time versus full-time worker scenario.

Clearly, more part-time workers seeking full-time employment have found more success as the economy has improved.

So, should we give Obamacare the credit for the reduction in part-time numbers? I don’t think so as, to do so, would be as ridiculous as the efforts to blame Obamacare for the large top-line number of part-time jobs.

More liberal babble from an Obamacare apologist?

While you are entitled to think so if this brings some measure of comfort,  you should probably know that even the staunchly anti-Obamacare publication, The Wall Street Journal—relying on data rather than right-wing hysteria—has reached the very same conclusion.

If you find yourself surprised that so much of the part-time workforce is comprised of people preferring a shorter workweek to a full-time job, you might ask yourself who, typically, seeks part-time work?

Many of us can recall our younger days as students in need of some spending money. We were not the least bit interested in full-time employment at that time, only that weekend job to earn some gasoline and date money.

Nothing much has changed in this regard for today’s high school and college students as they continue to occupy their spot in the count of part-time workers by choice.

So, where did the growth in part-time workers by choice come from following our recession?

The answer can be found in two categories—

First, we have the homemakers who elect to make the children their priority when allocating their time.

When the recession hit, many of these people found that the breadwinner in the family was being adversely affected by the poor economy and resolved to help the family finances by getting a part-time job to augment income. Now, as the economy slowly improves, some of these people are able to leave the workforce entirely and return full-time to their desired day job—”stay-at-home” mom or dad. This is, no doubt, playing a role in the declining number of part-time workers in the workforce.

Secondly, we have those who hit retirement age only to discover that their savings and Social Security payments were insufficient to support the lifestyle they had hoped to experience during their sunset years.

It is no secret that the lack of sufficient savings to support of seniors in retirement is turning into an epidemic problem. If you are, somehow, unaware of this, I recommend that you read a piece entitled, “The U.S. To Face A Married  Couples Retirement Crisis” written by my Forbes colleague, Richard Eisenberg, to get up to speed.

As a result of the difficulties facing retirees, it can come as no surprise that, as the baby boomers have reached the age of retirement, they play—and will continue to play—a major part in increasing the number of part-time workers in the country. These are people who want to, at the least, accomplish semi-retirement if they cannot afford to fully retire and opt to augment their savings and Social Security with part-time work.

When you consider how and why the numbers of part-time by choice employees grew following the onset of the recession and the arrival of baby boomer retirement, only the hardest of heads can fail to see how the top-line number of part-time workers grew, why it is now decreasing and why a full two-thirds of the part-time work force chose to be part-time workers. It would also take a very committed ideologue to avoid the stark fact that these part-timers by choice are not relevant to an analysis of the impact of Obamacare on the availability of full-time work.

What is relevant to the question are the eight million part-timer for economic reasons.

Given that the data is crystal clear that these numbers are falling year-to-year, it defies logic to claim that Obamacare is forcing these numbers upward. Indeed, even if the number of people forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time work was on the rise, it would not make the case that Obamacare is to blame as the weak economy would present a better explanation. Such a result would, however, at least give some basis for the possibility that the ACA is as fault.

But with the numbers of those who are part-time because they can’t find full time work falling, the argument becomes absurd.

As I often note, there are some valid arguments—even if I might disagree with the much of the logic behind theses arguments—to support those who wish to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act.

However, when the opinion-leaders who seek to guide your point of view away from a fair, reasonable and rational assessment of the law by feeding you false arguments and half-stories easily disproven by readily obtainable data, it defies reason that anyone—whether for or against the law—would believe anything else these people are trying to peddle.

Simply put, if you are going to hate this law, don’t you think you should hate it based on actual information and data rather than half-truths and misrepresentations?


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, October 27, 2013














October 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Jobs, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Has It Backwards”: Republicans Want To Tax Students And Not Polluters

A basic economic principle is government ought to tax what we want to discourage, and not tax what we want to encourage.

For example, if we want less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should tax carbon polluters. On the other hand, if we want more students from lower-income families to be able to afford college, we shouldn’t put a tax on student loans.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, congressional Republicans are intent on doing exactly the opposite.

Earlier this year the Republican-led House passed a bill pegging student-loan interest rates to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.5 percentage points. “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the co-sponsor of the GOP bill, said.

Republicans estimate this will bring in around $3.7 billion of extra revenue, which will help pay down the federal debt.

In other words, it’s a tax — and one that hits lower-income students and their families. Which is why several leading Democrats, including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, oppose it. “Let’s make sure we don’t charge so much in interest that the students are actually paying a tax to reduce the deficit,” he argues.

(Republicans claim the President’s plan is almost the same as their own. Not true. Obama’s plan would lead to lower rates, limit repayments to 10 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income, and fix the rate for the life of the loan.)

Meanwhile, a growing number of Republicans have signed a pledge – sponsored by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers — to oppose any climate-change legislation that might raise government revenues by taxing polluters.

Officially known as the “No Climate Tax Pledge,” its signers promise to “oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”

By now 411 current office holders nationwide have signed on, including the entire GOP House leadership, a third of the members of the House as a whole, and a quarter of U.S. senators.

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports that two successive efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions by implementing cap-and-trade energy bills have died in the Senate, the latter specifically targeted by A.F.P.’s pledge

Why are Republicans willing to impose a tax on students and not on polluters? Don’t look for high principle.

Big private banks stand to make a bundle on student loans if rates on government loans are raised. They have thrown their money at both parties but been particularly generous to the GOP. A 2012 report by the nonpartisan Public Campaign shows that since 2000, the student loan industry has spent more than $50 million on lobbying.

Meanwhile, the Koch brothers – whose companies are among America’s 20 worst air-polluters –have long been intent on blocking a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. And they, too, have been donating generously to Republicans to do their bidding.

We should be taxing polluters and not taxing students. The GOP has it backwards because its patrons want it that way.


By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, July 6, 2013

July 8, 2013 Posted by | Education, Environment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Deadly Policies Of Red States”: Lots Of Students Are Being Left Behind

Last week, 35 former Atlanta educators were forced to take a perp walk, reporting to law enforcement authorities for arrest in connection with the nation’s biggest (so far) academic scandal. It was a disturbing spectacle. Once among the pillars of metro Atlanta’s middle class, they’ve been reduced to pleading that they don’t belong in jail.

And that may be true. The charges of a widespread conspiracy to cheat may represent the ambitions of a local prosecutor rather than any top-down plot carried out by a confederacy of criminals. But I don’t waste sympathy on the defendants: They deserve the ignominy of association with thugs.

I’m reserving my pity for the students in Atlanta’s public schools. They’re the victims of this massive fraud, the helpless pawns of adults who callously overlooked the needs of their charges and focused on preserving their careers.

Unfortunately, that’s been a recurrent theme in 40 years of school-reform efforts across the country. Whether represented by unions or organized as a powerful voting bloc or both, public school educators have put their paychecks front and center, discounting the needs of their students. Even good teachers — dedicated, hard-working and inspiring ones — have rallied to protect their peers, some of whom don’t deserve their support.

Atlanta’s scandal has reinforced long-standing criticisms of widespread testing in schools, a strategy that was exalted by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The critics are right: The overdependence on standardized tests has calcified instruction, failed students and encouraged fraud. Educators in poor neighborhoods, where students are more likely to score poorly, are singled out for official reproach.

Conversely, teachers, principals and superintendents who show miraculous results — turning failing students into suddenly brilliant ones — are showered with praise, promotions and, frequently, money. It’s no wonder, then, that some Atlanta teachers had after-school “parties” where they erased students’ answers and replaced them with the correct ones.

While Atlanta may have the best-documented case of test-related fraud, it’s by no means the only one. In an exhaustive investigation published last year, USA Today found evidence of fraudulent test scores in six states and Washington, DC. Even the vaunted Michelle Rhee, who led a reform effort in Washington, has been implicated, accused of turning a blind eye to suspicious test results.

But for all the problems associated with No Child Left Behind, Bush deserves credit for this much: He recognized the failures of public schools that are not doing very much to educate children from less-affluent homes. He described a culture freighted with “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” a phrase that still rings true.

For years, too many teachers in low-achieving schools have blamed their failures on children and parents, describing homes in which discipline is poor, mediocrity is lauded and failure is acceptable. If those teachers believe there is nothing to be done to improve the academic standing of those children, why teach? If the children are too “dumb” or too deprived to profit from their instruction, why do they stay?

Reams of research bear out the complaints of educators who say teaching poor kids is challenging: Children from less-affluent homes are more likely to read below grade-level, to need special help, to score poorly on standardized tests. But that hardly means they can’t learn.

They need teachers who believe in them. Those who believe they’re being unfairly tarnished by unworthy students don’t fit the bill. As psychologists point out, kids pick up those signals easily enough and behave as the teachers expect them to. In other words, they learn little or nothing.

In addition to dedicated teachers, those children need a community that’s also committed to them. That includes the politicians, activists and church groups who spend an inordinate amount of time defending educators rather than demanding good schools for the kids.

As Atlanta’s disgraced educators surrendered last week, a group of activist preachers — Concerned Black Clergy — assembled to suggest that racism was involved. “Look at the pictures of those 35,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald. “Show me a white face.”

Would that McDonald and his allies were as concerned about Atlanta’s public school students, 80 percent of whom are also black.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, April 6, 2013

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Education Reform, Educators | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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