Owing Money and Owing Favors


The New York Times has reported that “companies belonging to Donald Trump have at least $650 million in debt, more than twice the amount shown in public filings made by his presidential campaign”: “The paper employed a property information firm to search publicly available data on more than 30 US properties connected to the Republican candidate, including offices and golf courses. In addition to the $650 million liabilities, a substantial portion of his wealth is tied up in three passive partnerships that owe an additional $2 billion to a string of lenders.” [The summary is from a report written posted by ABC Media, Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/donald-trumps-companies-owe-650-million-reports/7769774]

So there are at least three major implications to this data.

First, in the filings made by his campaign, he underestimated his total debt by at least 50%, and that does not include the $2 billion in debt owed by the “passive partnerships.” Furthermore, the study of Trump’s debt included the records related to “30 properties,” not to all of his holdings: that is, it is an indicator of his level of debt and not at all a complete calculation of his debt.

Second, although Trump calculates his total worth at $10 billion, no reputable source believes that estimate. Forbes has calculated his wealth at $4 billion, Bloomberg at $2 billion, and his unauthorized biographer at about $250 million. (Trump, by the way, has sued the writer twice for slanderously underestimating his wealth, and in both instances, the case was thrown out because Trump could not or would not provide actual evidence that he is worth more than $250 million.) So, regardless of what Trump’s actual wealth is, it is doubtful that this level of debt has been part of the previous calculations, and that debt amounts, most optimistically to about 60% of those previous calculations. (Of course, if the current calculations are way off base, he can always make that case by releasing his tax records for any or all of the years of the last decade.)

Lastly, Trump has been railing against Chinese influence on U.S. corporations and the U.S. government and against the Big Banks’ influence on Clinton because of the speaking fees that she has earned by speaking to banking groups. Well, it turns out that a large portion of the $2 billion in debt owed by the “passive partnerships” in which Trump’s wealth is “tied up” is owed to a Chinese bank and to Goldman Sachs.

Of course, Trump’s financial and ethical liabilities do not mitigate the concerns that Clinton has developed too many cozy linkages to the Big Banks and to American corporations. But Trump’s financial and ethical liabilities do make it blatantly hypocritical for him or his surrogates to level those charges against Clinton because he clearly owes the Big Banks, including one major Chinese bank, much more than she does and ever will—both literally and figuratively.

Ironically, the media and political speculation has been largely focused on Trump’s possible financial ties to Russian oligarchs. It turns out that the bigger part of this story has been much closer to home and much more predictable.


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