Trump screwed Gary, Indiana; now he’s asking for its vote

Donald Trump is asking residents of Gary, Indiana, to vote Tuesday to make him the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States. And he’s courting New Jersey residents to vote for him in the primary to be held there June 7.

However, in the recent past, after promising to make Gary and Atlantic City, New Jersey, great again, he screwed them both. He sucked each city dry and left town.

His move on Gary was part of a plan he’d hatched to raise money for his Atlantic City operation, which he had previously run into the ground.

According to nationally respected reporters, here’s how it all went down:

New Jersey gambling boss

In the mid-1980s, Trump was on his way to become the biggest gambling boss on the East Coast. He owned two large casinos in Atlantic City and when the developer of the half-finished Taj Mahal casino died suddenly, he made his move.

Only one thing stood in his way: he had to convince the New Jersey casino commission that he could raise enough money to complete the Taj, which he re-named the Trump Taj Mahal.

In an NPR interview, Washington Post investigative reporter Robert O’Harrow said that in 1988 Trump bragged to the commission that he could get more money than other developers because he wouldn’t have to rely on high interest junk bonds to finance the project.

O’Harrow said “Along the way [Trump] was questioned by regulators who were supposed to look out for the state and Atlantic City. ‘Well, how can you do this when nobody else can?’ And his answer was very clean and clear: ‘because I’m Donald Trump, banks are always asking to loan me money … I’m going to get money at such a low rate that this is just going to become one of the greatest successes of all-time.'”

In effect, Trump said he would build the biggest, best, most amazing, casino/resort hotel ever, “believe me.”

O’Harrow said the similarities between what Trump said to win permission to build the Taj and what Trump is saying in his presidential campaign “are really striking. And the core of his promise then and now … comes down to two words: believe me.”

Trump won permission to build the Taj and immediately reneged on his promise not to rely on junk bonds. Despite the fact that he was paying his employees as low as $6.25 an hour, the Taj went belly-up a year after it opened.

According to O’Harrow, in March of 1992, Trump’s Castle and his Plaza casinos also filed for bankruptcy.

Hundreds of workers lost their jobs.

Furthermore, according to O’Harrow, “… the lenders definitely lost money through the cascading failures of these three casinos. But small-time investors who had bought the bonds directly or through retirement funds also suffered losses. And so did small business owners who sold the Trump organization paint, equipment, food, limousine services.”

O’Harrow concluded, “A lot of people recall having to struggle to get by after these bankruptcies.”

On the other hand, Trump himself made out like a bandit. His company went bankrupt, but he did not.

In one of the early debates between Republican presidential wannabees, Trump said, “I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I’m very proud of it. … very, very proud.”

Trump does Gary

Jeff Nichols of the Chicago Sun-Times, reports that after his Atlantic City-based casino company went into bankruptcy, Trump came up with a new scheme. Instead of cutting back, he would expand the company’s operations to include places around the world, including Gary, Indiana. Maybe he could pull moolah out of these ventures, pour it into Atlantic City, and get his properties out of hock.

A few years earlier, Trump had lobbied hard and publicly against legalizing gambling in Indiana, saying it harms poor people and does little for the general economy. (The real reason for his opposition was that he was afraid gambling in Indiana would create competition for his Atlantic City empire-in-the-making.)

But Indiana had okayed gambling. And Trump figured he’s Trump, so no one would call him out for reversing himself.

Nichols writes that starting in September, 1993, Trump launched a million dollar campaign to get a license to launch a river boat from Gary.

One of Trump’s presentations featured a 48-square-foot model of his proposed casino boat and a video of Tina Turner singing Simply the Best.

According to Nichols, Trump boasted to the Indiana Gaming Commission that he ran the largest casino operation in the world. “He didn’t mention his lingering financial problems. According to Newsday, all three Atlantic City casinos were still $1.5 billion in debt.”

Trump had once warned the Chicago Tribune that a Gary casino would add to the local welfare rolls and “empty the pockets of people in Chicago.” But now his company presented estimates for revenues to the Gaming Commission that far outstripped those of its competitors. To sweeten the deal, Trump even insinuated he could woo Michael Jackson back to his hometown for a concert.

In December, 1994, the Commission voted unanimously to give Trump his license.

The Indianapolis Star wrote that the “gullible” gaming commission “bought a bill of goods from a notorious self-promoter.”

Trump’s company operated the river boat for 11 years and, sure enough, poured money from it into Atlantic City. But the company was too far in debt. It was too heavy a burden for the Gary river boat to carry, even though Trump paid his employees 18 percent lower than a similar company. Their average compensation in wages, tips and benefits was $24,931.

By 2004, Trump’s casino company as a whole was about $1.8 billion in debt, its stocks were worth about one tenth of their 1994 value, and Trump sold the river boat.

As had happened in Atlantic City, the working people and small business owners of Gary were left holding the bag. Workers lost their jobs and some small business owners lost their shirts.

But don’t worry. Donald Trump came out just fine. Fortune magazine estimates that Trump was compensated $82 million for his leadership in sinking his company.

“Truthful hyperbole”

Trump describes his modus operandi in his bestselling book, The Art of the Deal:

“I play to people’s fantasies,” he writes. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.”

Most people who have done business with Trump would agree that he speaks in “hyperbole.”

“Truthful” … not so much.

Photo: Trump’s deals always benefit himself at the expense of his workers and the people who live in the vicinity of his enterprises.  |  Youtube snapshot


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.