Donald Trump has made much of the fact that he’s been self-financing his presidential campaign – claiming it affords him independence and lessens the ability of third-parties to influence his policies, his “self-made man” image is at the root of his success. Trump isn’t just selling politics, he’s selling himself as the ultimate symbol of the American dream, and it’s working better than anyone could have possibly predicted. It’s a well-known fact that in times of recession, countries become more right-wing and in the playground of capitalism that is the States, it maybe shouldn’t be surprising that Trump has found it so easy to position himself as the poster boy for old fashioned, self-determining Republicanism.
But is Trump the genuine article? Recent reports seem to suggest not. Far from self-funding, Donald Trump seems to have written off huge loans (a not unsubstantial $50 million) to his campaign – from himself. Having started off boasting a budget of “just” $1.8 million, leading Trump to crow: “To be number one in every poll […] and to have spent the least amount of dollars of any serious candidate is a testament to what I can do for America”, it recently came to light in Trump’s quarterly campaign-finance report that he spent more than $500,000 on hats and apparel alone – and received almost $4 million “unsolicited donations”.
Moreover, following a rather bashful recent back-tracking from the campaign on the subject of funding, he’s been accused of soliciting donations from abroad, from the SNP of all people – which is not only embarrassing (you can read MP Natalie McGarry’s reply here), it’s strictly prohibited by the Federal Elections Commission.
So do Trump’s proposed financial policies stand up better to scrutiny than his claims of a self-funded campaign do? He asserts his plans will generate a budget surplus of $4.5-$7 trillion dollars through cutting taxes, social security and Medicare – interesting, when the Tax Foundation estimates these cuts will reduce revenues by more than $10 billion, as his cuts mainly benefit the rich. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts the total cost of his cuts at $12 trillion.
Like any president, should Trump be elected, he’ll have an army of advisors on hand to bring his broad financial vision to life – but is that enough? Should Trump be making promises like his $4.5-7 trillion surplus one, without a meticulous, well-considered plan behind it to back it up?
It’s possible that it’s his enthusiasm for the grand statement that holds the secret to his success – Trump is nothing if not savvy, and he knows he doesn’t necessarily have to do it, he just has to get enough people to hear him saying it. If enough people enter the election booth with $7 trillion dollars ringing in their ears, Trump’svagueness around the how’s and how-to’s may seem a risk worth taking. Yet from a financial advisory perspective, his lack of any concrete, identifiable financial reform policies are worrying, and accordingly, Wall Street is already expressing concerns on that front – but while money may not buy you love, it can undeniably buy you influence.
We can only hope that Mr Trump is mutually open to the influence of others – because as they stand, without the input of some seriously savvy financial advisors, Trump’s flamboyant fiscal policies run the risk of collapsing under their own weight.