Theft in Plain Sight

“Feel the pain
Talk about it
If you’re a worried man, then shout about it
Open hearts, feel about it
Open minds, think about it
Everyone, read about it
Everyone, scream about it!”– Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith

Sometimes you know something without really knowing it. For instance, the GOP raised more than 1.2 billion dollars to fund the presidential campaign. Yet, by September the campaign was running on fumes. They were pulling ads in the Midwest and crying poor.

There were all kinds of reports that campaign managers and other staffers were doing some serious skimming. Funny, but the Trump White House never said anything about it and Trump himself never complained. The 1919 White Sox probably would have been flabbergasted at how badly the campaign was tanking.

A few days ago, we found out that Jared Kushner was in charge of a shell company that somehow funneled almost 700 million of those campaign dollars for private use that couldn’t be tracked by federal election commissions. I’m sure we were all shocked. Add that to the 250 million he has raised for the legal fund to contest the election and you almost get to a cool billion.

Granted, not all of that money belongs to Trump personally. He has had to pay back the RNC for some of the money borrowed to run a fledgling campaign. He has paid some people like Kushner, Lara Trump, and others at the shell company. He also has legitimate legal expenses that he has to account for. For instance, the state of New York is nipping at his heels as they get their hands on financial documents.

Yet, we haven’t added all of the money accumulated at the Trump hotel, all of Trump’s properties, and the assorted money paid to family members because of his time as president. He once said he was worth ten billion dollars. That was based partially on the value he attached to his name. Conservatively, he has enhanced his personal fortune by over a billion dollars when you count his time as president, the money pilfered from his campaign, and the legal defense fund people are actively funding. That’s a pretty good haul.

Some people consider being a billionaire to be immoral by itself. It’s staggering when you think about it. You would have to spend a million dollars a year for 1000 years to run out of that money. To put it another way, you could give one million dollars to 1000 people and create 1000 new millionaires. That’s 100,000 dollars to 10,000 people or 10,000 to 100,000 people. You get the idea.

At some point though, buyer beware has to enter into the picture. Yes, people in the past could say they were defrauded by Trump and they could say it with a straight face. Some of his victims at Trump University for instance have a legitimate beef. Yet, even then you had to know something if you were paying the least bit of attention. Now, you have to be a real piece of Samonsonite to give him money and expect that it’s actually going where he says it will go.

A homeless guy in college approached me at a gas station. His honesty was refreshing. He told me he needed some money to buy booze. He wasn’t even going to try to lie to me to tell me it was for something else. He wasn’t like the guy that said he needed $4.29 for bus fare. I gave him a dollar. It wasn’t enough for the booze and I figured he would have to get at least two or three others to give before he got his booze. I knew what I was getting myself into in that transaction.

So, I’m not against billonaires as a general rule. If you invent a better mousetrap or discover new technology that makes our life better then you deserve to profit as much as you can. I generally don’t like billionaires that make their money off of the backs of other people that do these things, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Similarly, it could be said that no one leaves Washington poorer than they arrived. So, righteous indignation has to be relative to the amount of graft involved. At a certain point I understand the general complaints about picking which thief you want to throw the book at. Is it really that much worse to leave Washington a billionaire than it is to leave a millionaire?

There is something to be said for that. I also recall Eddie Murphy’s character in “A Distinguished Gentlemen” who had a moment of conscience even as he was a career con man that went to Washington to milk it for all it was worth. I figure most people in Washington are somewhere on that continuum. They want to do good things for people and occasionally take advantage of rules on the books to make their lives a little easier. I could judge, but there is no way of knowing how I would react in the same situation. As human beings, we are capable of rationalizing our way out of a number of situations.

Yet, it is quite rare that we find someone that cares nothing about doing good and just lines their pockets. The sad thing is that this wasn’t a case of a good man that just succoumbed to too much temptation. He has always done this and his intent was always to do this. He will keep doing it until he stops breathing. When people tell you who they are make sure to pay attention.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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