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Tomgram: Nomi Prins, Trump's Future Piggy Bank, Our Country?

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

Think of American politics today as a tale of two Donalds. First, there's Donald Trump, political provocateur, a man with his eye on the Oval Office who's ready to say just about anything to get into it. That includes insisting, in his "America First" campaign, that he -- and he alone -- will bring back millions of manufacturing jobs to this country (that are unlikely ever to return) and that he'll create boom times for both the coal and natural gas industries (though they are in direct competition with each other). And then, of course, there's the other Donald Trump, the one who will do anything for a buck (or a million bucks, for that matter), including offshoring jobs galore for his own product lines and hiring cheaper foreign labor for his hotels and resorts (or building projects).

You might think that, in the heat of this election campaign, he'd decide to take a modest hit by hiring American labor rather than foreign "guest workers," and by repatriating the making of those Trump shirts (Bangladesh), Trump ties (China and Mexico), and similar products; that, at the moment, he might put his money where his mouth is when it comes to "America First." As it happens, we have a curious snapshot of The Donald and outsourced products from the latest Trump International Hotel, the one he recently opened just down the street from the White House with full campaign trail publicity and at prices meant only for the super-rich.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank spent a night there (on Jeff Bezos's tab) and in his room ($856 plus tax) he found one all-American product: a "small package of milk-chocolate Trump gold bullion ($25)." Here was his description of what the room otherwise contained: "a Trump logo bathmat and towels from India, bone china from Japan, Italian cutlery and tiles, two telephones from Malaysia, a Swiss refrigerator, German coffee cups, Trump soaps and lotions from Canada and, from China, all four lamps, the coffee machine, the bathroom scale, the valet stand, and the shower cap." Milbank adds, "The hotel's managing director is from France. Most hotel workers I met during my stay had Caribbean or African accents."

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That hotel room fits a pattern, and don't think of it as a case of Trumpian hypocrisy either. That doesn't begin to catch the flavor of what's going on. No, when it comes to The Donald's businesses, political positions be damned. He's happy to rouse Rust Belt and other communities with talk about the nightmare of outsourced jobs for American workers and to slam companies like Ford and Nabisco for sending their factories abroad. There's one thing he's not prepared to do, however: give up what's best for Donald Trump. And if that's true now, imagine how essential it is to the man and how likely it is, as Nomi Prins, TomDispatch regular and author of All the President's Bankers, indicates today, that it's one trait -- even obsession -- that would enter the Oval Office with him and change the nature of the American presidency big time. Tom

Madoff in the White House?
How Trump's Conflicts of Interest Could Become Ours
By Nomi Prins

Imagine for a moment that it's January 2009. Bernie Madoff, America's poster-child fraudster, has yet to be caught. The 2007-2008 financial crisis never happened. The markets didn't tank to reveal the emptiness beneath his schemes. We still don't know what's lurking in his tax returns because he's never released them, but we know that he's a billionaire, at least on paper. We also know, of course, that he just won the presidency by featuring the slogan -- on hats, t-shirts, everywhere -- "Make America Rich Again!" On a frosty morning in late January, before his colleagues, his country, God, and the world, Madoff takes the oath of office. He swears on a Bible to uphold the constitution.

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The next day, everything comes crashing down. The banks. The markets. His fortune.

Madoff is a businessman, not a politician. He's run and won as an anti-establishment maverick. Now, he's faced with a choice: save the United States or his own posterior. During the campaign, he promised that he could separate the two, that his kids could run his empire, while he did the people's business. But no one wants to talk to his progeny. They want him. They want the man in the suit who owes them money.

Okay, so that never happened, though over two decades Madoff did build a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. In December 2008, he became the most vilified man in America -- at the very moment when Washington and Wall Street needed a distraction from the crippling financial crisis. He's now serving a 150-year sentence for multiple felonies.

Of course, Donald Trump is not Bernie Madoff, who was 70 when he took up residence in the Big House. Trump at 70 is eyeing the White House. Other glaring differences separate them, though certain overriding similarities can't be ignored. Let's look at those differences first.

Trump vs. Madoff, The Scorecard

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1. Trump is much richer than Madoff ever was, though we have no idea by how much. Forbes puts his wealth at $4.5 billion. Trump says it's $10 billion. (Compared to just under a billion for Madoff.)

2. Madoff took advantage of individuals. Trump extracted tax breaks from entire cities.

3. Madoff broke the law and got caught. He's in jail. As a felon, he can't even vote in this election. Trump may have broken the law, and has bragged about paying people off, but now deflects everything and is running for president.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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