Donald Trump dumps $1 billion & shrugs it off; he loses thousands of migrant kids & rolls his eyes

Looks like he’s getting better at losing; it only took him two years to lose thousands of children at the border

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published May 8, 2019 7:00PM (EDT)

President Donald Trump speaks as he visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in Calexico, CA, April 5, 2019. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Donald Trump speaks as he visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in Calexico, CA, April 5, 2019. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Ten years? Seriously? It really took Trump that long to lose a billion dollars? That’s what The New York Times told us yesterday. The Times somehow came up with ten years of IRS documents with the figures for Trump’s 1040 personal income tax returns from 1985 to 1994, and they tell us he lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.17 billion over that time.

Take just a few of those years, for example. In 1988, Trump spent $407 million on the Plaza Hotel, a prize he wanted to pick up because he could see it from the window of his office, he told the man he bought it from. He had bought a 282-foot yacht the year before, and a year later, he bought the money-losing Boston—New York—Washington D.C. shuttle from Eastern Airlines for $325 million. In 1990, he opened the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. He took out almost a billion in loans on the casino which quickly began hemorrhaging money. Within a year, Trump was sitting in a large boardroom at the law firm, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, signing over the deeds to the Plaza, the casino, the yacht, his personal jet and the airline to more than 50 bankers who held the paper on what we know now to be his paper fortune. The banks agreed to loan him $450,000 a month to cover his personal expenses and operate his businesses, but for all intents and purposes, Trump was broke.

It was the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton who said he stole from banks “because that’s where the money is.” While Trump wasn’t exactly stealing from the banks he robbed, he was stealing from the United States Treasury. According to The Times, Trump paid no taxes at all for eight of his ten money-losing years. Not a dime. And it was only because of the alternative minimum tax provision of the tax code that Trump ended up paying taxes for those two years.

Nice work if you can get it, huh? Live in a gold-leaf and marble penthouse, fly around on private helicopters and jets, jettison a starter-wife for Marla Maples, admire your mug in the pages of the New York Post practically every day, and lose more money than any other tax-paying citizen in the entire country, according to IRS figures cited by the The New York Times. The man might not have been very good at running a real estate business, but he was certainly good at one thing: losing money.

But Trump was just getting started in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Let’s have a look at what he’s lost since taking office two years ago.

How about 2,800 migrant children? He lost them when they were separated from their parents under the so-called “zero tolerance” policy ordered by the Trump administration in July of 2018. But wait. Trump and his attorney general and director of Homeland Security lost more than 2,800 children. They lost a whole lot more. According to a report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, the family separations began a year earlier, in July of 2017. “During that time a total of 47,083 children passed through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency within the U.S. Health and Human Services that's responsible for the care of migrant children who arrive without a parent or have been separated from them,” according to a report by NPR in March of this year.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw expanded a previous court order requiring the government to reunite children separated from their parents whom the government had lost beyond the 2,800 lost during the insane “zero tolerance” policy. The government filed an argument with the court claiming the “burden” of reviewing so many family separations was too great and would take too long. "Although the process for identifying newly proposed class members may be burdensome, it clearly can be done," Judge Sabraw wrote in his order. "The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders," he wrote, and cannot be described as “unfair.”

Take a step back and consider that for a moment. It took Trump ten years to lose a billion dollars, but it took him only two years to lose what could turn out to be tens of thousands of immigrant children. Children, not dollars. Kids who came to this country either by themselves or with their parents seeking asylum and protection from gang violence in the Central American countries they were fleeing. Desperate children. Alone. Taken from their parents and then fucking lost by Trump and his heartless administration.

We know how you lose a billion dollars. The New York Times told us how Trump did it yesterday. But how the hell do you lose thousands and thousands of children? Think of it. A kid gets separated from his or her parents at the mall, or they’re late coming home from school, or they were playing in the park and now a mom and dad can’t find them, and what happens? A goddamned amber alert! Signs on the interstate! A teeth-grating beep-beep-beep coming out of your car radio! A flashing scroll on your television screen under your daytime soaps or game shows!

But lose thousands of migrant children in a system cobbled-together from makeshift shelters and tent cities, lock them up in cages and give them aluminum foil “blankets” to huddle under, and what happens? It’s left to the ACLU to file a lawsuit and a lone federal judge to issue a 14-page court order trying to make things right. And what does the Trump administration say about losing thousands of children – potentially tens of thousands of children? Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s former Secretary of Homeland Security, went before the Congress and testified that there was no policy of separating migrant children from their parents, though images of frightened children locked in cages filled television screens at the time. And Trump’s Department of Justice filed a response to the ACLU case saying that it might take “years” to locate the thousands of children who were separated from their parents and lost in a nightmarish bureaucratic maze of shelters and haphazard record keeping.

Years. It took years for Trump to lose his money, and it will take years to find the children he and his administration have lost along the border. Years. That’s what it will take to regain the respect Trump has lost from allies and enemies alike around the world. Years. That’s what Trump has lost in the fight against climate change. Years. That’s what it will take to repair the alliances and treaties Trump has trashed as he has cozied up to dictators and authoritarians like Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.   

Good job, Trump. Losing is the one thing you’re good at.

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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