Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Left-wing Populism

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To keep beating the drum of the customary rich-versus-poor theme at this year’s Democratic National Convention, it’ll be no surprise if a prime time speaking slot goes to a struggling small business guy who installed some faux gold faucets in the rest rooms at Trump’s Taj Mahal and never got paid.

“Beth Rosser of West Chester, Pa., is still bitter over what happened to her father, whose company Triad Building Specialties nearly collapsed when Mr. Trump took the Taj into bankruptcy,” reported Russ Buettner and Charles Bagli in their recent New York Times article “How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions.”

Explained Buettner and Bagli: “It took three years to recover any money owed for his work on the casino, she said, and her father received only 30 cents on the dollar. ‘Trump crawled his way to the top on the back of little guys, one of them being my father,’ said Ms. Rosser, who runs Triad today. ‘He had no regard for thousands of men and women who worked on those projects.’ ”

Sticking with Trump versus the little guy, or versus the little old lady, the convention spotlight could also focus on the case  of Vera Coking, the elderly 5-foot-3 widow who lived by the sea in a ramshackle house next to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.

Trump wanted Coking’s property for his casino’s limousine parking lot. “He’d come over the house, probably thinking, ‘If I butter her up now, I’ll get her house for a good price,’” Coking told the New York Daily News. “Once, he gave me Neil Diamond tickets. I didn’t even know who Neil Diamond was.”

Talking with the Daily News, Mrs. Coking called Trump “a maggot, a cockroach and a crumb,” reported the Washington Post. “Trump responded by suggesting that Coking was making a play for sympathy in the media in hopes of getting him to pay more for her land. ‘Did she put on her old clothing for you?’ Trump said to one reporter.”

After Coking rejected his offers, Trump joined a lawsuit by the city’s Casino Reinvestment Authority that sought to knock down the widow’s house and seize her property through the power of eminent domain.

The battle with Ms. Coking ended when the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled against the Casino Authority and Trump.

The drumbeat of the powerful bulldozing the little guy will likely be a nonstop message, just as it was used against Romney in 2012, seeking to buttress the case that inequality and exploitation can best be fixed by Democratic politicians in D.C. through more central controls, more federal mandates, more taxes, more entitlements, more income redistribution and more debt.

Still, nothing will likely be said at the Philly convention about how Hillary Clinton put the little guys in the crosshairs when Bill Clinton handed her the job of reforming the nation’s health care system.

In her 1993 testimony on Capitol Hill, Mrs. Clinton delivered an imperious reply when asked by Rep. Norman Sisisky what could be done to ease the financial burden and potential bankruptcies imposed on small businesses by the costly regulations and penalties in her proposed health reforms.

“I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America,” she autocratically declared, craftily dodging the fact that it was otherwise sufficiently-capitalized small businesses that could be forced into undercapitalization and bankruptcy precisely by the edicts and expenses put forward in her blueprint for reform.


Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

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