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Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the Rule of Pampered Princelings

Published in The Intercept

“Boring.” That was Donald Trump’s instant verdict on the New York Times’s blockbuster investigation into the rampant tax fraud and nepotism that undergirds his fortune. Sarah Huckabee Sanders heartily concurred, informing the White House press corps that she refused to “go through every line of a very boring, 14,000-word story.”

Welcome to a new political PR strategy premised on the shredding of the American mind — you don’t want to even try to read that interminable article; check out my Twitter feed instead, and this viral video of me saying rabid things.

The Times investigation, published as a standalone supplement on Sunday, is about as boring as a car accident. It shows in lavish detail that Trump’s creation myth is and always has been a work of fiction. No, he did not take a “very, very small” million-dollar loan from his father and use his deal-making acumen to parlay it into a $10-billion global empire, while paying the original loan back with interest.

Trump has been sucking on a spigot of his father’s cash nonstop since he was in diapers, becoming a millionaire by middle school. According to the Times, when all was said and done, “Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.” Moreover, “much of it was never repaid.” As for the rest of the mythology, not only was he spending his father’s money, he blew much of it on disastrous deal after disastrous deal. Only to be bailed out by his father’s millions time and time again.

Rather than bothering to deny any of this, Trump and his surrogates have simply spun a new creation myth. No longer the scrappy, self-made man, Trump is being reincarnated in real time as the chosen son, with he and his father acting as partners in wealth creation. “One thing the article did get right,” Sanders said, clearly reading from notes, “is it showed that the president’s father actually had a great deal of confidence in him. In fact, the president brought his father into a lot of deals and made a lot of money together. So much so that his father went on to say that ‘everything [Trump] touched turned to gold.’”

This shift is more significant than it first appears. After a couple of years of hobnobbing with Saudi monarchs and Queen Elizabeth II, the president appears ready to embrace his true identity as a scion of a dynasty who did not build his fortune by himself, but who is, instead, the product of an especially blessed family that passes a magic touch through the generations.

What makes the Times’ revelations more important is that they are a rare window into an even larger story about the growing political and economic role of inherited money in the United States — the culmination of decades in which a handful of sons and daughters of bequeathed wealth waged a fierce and relentless battle of ideas against the very concept of equality and majority rule, all based on the same corrupting belief in their own inherent superiority.

Trump may be the highest profile of such heirs to wield political power, but he never would have gotten where he is without the ideological scaffolding carefully put in place by other scions of dynastic families — from the late John M. Olin and Richard Mellon Scaife in the ’80s and ’90s to Charles and David Koch and Rebekah Mercer today. These are the key figures who bankrolled the think tanks, financed the extreme free-market university programs, and funded the tea party shock troops that moved the Republican Party so far to the right that Trump could stomp in and grab it.

Read the rest of the article in The Intercept




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