In Business, Trump Was the Biggest Loser of All

ast October, the New York Times published a monumental exposé of how Donald Trump and other members of the Trump family engaged in sham financial schemes during the nineteen-nineties, including what the newspaper described as “instances of outright fraud,” to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on the real-estate fortune that Fred Trump passed on to his children. Last month, the three reporters who wrote the story—David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner—were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting.

On Tuesday evening, the Times dropped another story that delved into the President’s financial past. Written by Buettner and Craig, and based upon “printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service transcripts” that the reporters obtained, the story further undermined the assiduously promoted fiction that Trump, before he became a reality-television star and entered politics, was a highly successful self-made businessman. He was anything but.

Between 1985 and 1994, the Times story says, Trump’s core businesses lost money every single year, and the accumulated losses came to more than a billion dollars. “In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, the Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners,” Buettner and Craig write. “His core business losses in 1990 and 1991—more than $250 million each year—were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.”

In case you didn’t take all that in, here is a quick recap: when Trump was portraying himself as a newly minted billionaire and financial genius, his core businesses were losing money hand over fist. Assuming the Times reporters’ analysis of the I.R.S. data on high earners is accurate—and there is no apparent reason to doubt it—he was the biggest loser in the country for two years in a row.

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