Running on Empty

Published: June 19, 2015

By Jim Lichtman
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Ladies and gentlemen, gracious readers of this website, I have the distinct pleasure to announce that the most forthright, magnanimous, trustworthy, humble, most noble…


…Oh, hell, I can’t do it. I’m sorry, Donald, I’m returning your check. I just can’t vouch for your character.

In case you’ve been cocooned from radio, TV, the internet, social media, or social friends for the last 72 hours, Donald J. Trump, that singular citadel of capital enterprise, announced he’s running for President… again.

As The New York Times reported (June 17), “…brandishing his wealth and fame as chief qualifications in an improbable quest for the Republican nomination… Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in the atrium of the Trump Tower, the luxury skyscraper on Fifth Avenue in New York City, proclaiming that only someone ‘really rich’ — like himself — could restore American economic primacy.

“ ‘We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again,’ he said, repeatedly assailing China and Mexico as economic competitors, and pledging to be ‘the greatest jobs president that God ever created.’ ”

Thank you, God! America’s golden knight, armored in Trump-brand necktie and dark suit has arrived to not only tell us just how bad off we all are, but ready, willing and very able to spend as much as $100 million of his own money (boy, that’s a relief), to get elected and implement his own policies of change to bring America back from the brink.

Don’t laugh, folks. According to a Quinnipiac poll (May 28), “Rounding out the top 10 for televised debates are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 7 percent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 6 percent, Donald Trump at 5 percent, New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie at 4 percent and Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent each.”

Republicans favor seeing Trump in a presidential debate more than two current state governors with actual governing experience!

For the benefit of the five-percenters, let’s take a look at Trump’s announcement speech with a little something I like to call, the facts.

Politifact writes:

On Chevy in Japan

“ ‘When did we beat Japan at anything?’ Trump asked. ‘They send their cars over by the millions, and what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist, folks. They beat us all the time.’ There aren’t many Chevys in Japan,” Politifact points out, “but they do exist. In 2014, Chevrolet sold 597 cars in Japan. No, we are not forgetting any zeroes at the end of that figure. Granted that’s not a lot, and Trump has a point that Japan does better in the United States on car sales. But he should have used more accurate words to make his point. We rated his statement Mostly False.”

On the real unemployment rate

“ ‘Our real unemployment is anywhere from 18 to 20 percent. Don’t believe the 5.6. Don’t believe it,’ Trump said. Setting aside his paranoia about the government cooking the books,” Politifact writes, “Trump is off base even if you give him the maximum benefit of the doubt. Our research showed the highest formal statistic for underemployment is 10.8 percent, and if you use alternative measures, there’s still no realistic way to get it past 16 percent. And even that is a considerable stretch. We rated his statement False.”

On the size of the U.S. economy

“ ‘Last quarter, it was just announced our gross domestic product — a sign of strength, right? But not for us — it was below zero. Whoever heard of this? It’s never below zero,’ Trump said.

Politifact straightens The Donald out on this one. “Trump messed up his economic terms; the gross domestic product was not ‘zero.’ The size of the U.S. economy — which is what gross domestic product is — is in the trillions of dollars and not anywhere close to zero. The growth in the gross domestic product has been zero, but it’s been below zero 42 times over 68 years. That’s a lot more than ‘never.’ We rate his claim Pants-on-Fire!”

I can hear some of you five-percenters out there grousing that I’m cherry-picking fact-checkers. So, let’s go to (June 16):

“He said the ‘real’ unemployment rate is ‘anywhere from 18 to 20 percent’ and ‘maybe even 21 percent.’ We see no factual basis for this opinion,” FactCheck writes.

“Trump claimed the five Taliban leaders exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ‘are now back on the battlefield trying to kill us.’ ”

Admittedly, I believe the five for one exchange was a bone-headed move, to say the least. However, when it comes to the facts, “all five remain in Qatar, where they continue to be monitored and are subject to a travel ban, according to the State Department.

“[Trump] also made the misleading claim that health care premium costs are going ‘up 29, 39, 49 and even 55 percent.’ He’s talking about some proposed rate increases on the individual market that still need regulatory approval. There are also proposed rate decreases or single-digit increases that did not have to be submitted for review.”

Still believe I’m skewing? This from Washington Post Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler:

“A lot of people up there can’t get jobs,” Trump said. “They can’t get jobs, because there are no jobs.”

“This is totally false. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Kessler writes, “the number of job openings rose to 5.4 million on the last business day of April, the highest since the series began in December 2000.”

However, Kessler points out that Trump was not completely off-base when he cited costs for the Iraq war. Trump said, “We spent $2 trillion in Iraq, $2 trillion.”

“Close enough, for Donald Trump,” Kessler writes. “As we noted recently in a fact check of a Lincoln Chafee statement, a Brown University estimate came up with a total of $1.7 trillion through 2013, including disability costs.”

But Trump is out-to-lunch on his own financial statement.

“I have assets — big accounting firm, one of the most highly respected — [says] 9 billion, 240 million dollars,” Trump said. “And I have liabilities of about $500 million. That’s long-term debt, very low interest rates.”

“The Fact Checker,” Kessler writes, “has learned from long experience never to trust Trump’s numbers when he talks about his wealth. Our colleague Allan Sloan dissected Trump’s claim of $9 billion in assets and found it wanting for six key reasons. As Sloan put it: ‘Trump’s balance sheet is certainly over-inflated and doesn’t seem to be tethered to much of a financial reality…. If he had presented this balance sheet to me in a personal finance class, I’d have given him a short message: ‘You’re fired.’ ”

Don’t get me wrong, Washington has an enormous mountain to climb to get back to anything resembling compromise and just plain commonsense. But, at this point in time, the Washington flubdubs, as Lincoln liked to call them, are light years ahead in commonsense compared to Mr. Trump whose ego only Narcissus could envy.

Memo to The Donald: If you want to make a real difference, use the $100 million to set up a scholarship fund for thousands of bright, young kids who can’t afford what you have. That would raise your character quotient considerably.

Next week: A special “Let’s Be Honest” Trump Edition.


  1. Donald Trump already sounds like a politician. Half-truths and a lot of blah blah blah. He will definitely make the republican debates interesting.

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