Donald Trump

Spending Other People's Money Makes Trump a Perfect Fit for Washington

Staring into the abyss.


If you're looking for a silver lining on the mushroom cloud of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, consider the way it has exposed the phoniness of certain commonplace pieties.

Last week, in comments about getting other countries to pay for safe zones in Syria, Trump boasted of using other people's money: "It's called OPM. I do that all the time in business. It's called other people's money. There's nothing like doing things with other people's money."

The comment rocketed around the news-osphere, and quickly became part of a Clinton campaign ad, in no small part because he made it the same day it was reported that he used money from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits against him. But it also got plenty of traction because it reinforces the dominant (and correct) narrative about Trump: that he's an unscrupulous, chiseling swindler. People of good character put their own money where their mouths are.

Really? Somebody better tell Washington, then.

In the nation's capital, spending OPM is S.O.P.—to the tune of trillions of dollars every year. It's the chief political pursuit, in fact. Most of the arm-twisting in D.C. gets done for the purpose of taking a nickel from one person's pocket to put in somebody else's.

A great deal of that happens through social-welfare programs. Granted, the recipients usually spend the money on food, medical care, shelter, and other necessities—and the desire to keep people from dying in the streets is a noble one. But that doesn't change the fact that social-welfare programs cannot exist without a constant, huge supply of OPM. And many people think it's a national sin that the supply isn't even bigger.

The same holds true for a vast array of federal programs—from Amtrak to the National Institutes of Health to the Voice of America. That's how most government programs and policies work: Somebody comes up with a bright idea, and then decides it is so worthy everyone else should be forced to pay for it. Modern presidential campaigns are largely built around this: Candidates appeal to the voters by promising things to Smith—rural broadband! Universal pre-K! Free college! A giant border wall!—that Jones will have to pay for.

Of course, Washington can't afford to pay for everything directly. Hence much effort also is expended finding indirect ways to use OPM. These are nearly limitless. Should low-skilled workers be paid more? Support candidates like Hillary Clinton, who will raise the minimum wage. Do we need to bring back American manufacturing? Support candidates like Trump, who threatens to impose huge tariffs on Chinese imports. Should employees get paid family leave? Support either Clinton or Trump, since they both promise to make companies provide it. Some people will benefit. Others will get stuck with the bills.

A few days before Trump made his "other people's money" comment, The Washington Post ran an exposé on "How Donald Trump Retooled His Charity to Spend Other People's Money." Rather than use his own personal funds for worthy causes, Trump convinced others to donate money to his foundation—money he then passes out, often leaving the impression it had come from him.

"Trump," the article grimly reports, "had found a way to give away somebody else's money and claim the credit for himself."


This is exactly what politicians do all the time. "Congressman Storpingoiter Proud to Announce $15 Million Federal Housing Grant for District," goes the typical press release. Often there will be a little ceremony so local officials can stand around and applaud the congressman. That Storpingoiter sure is a swell guy, bringing home other people's money like that. Isn't he?

The story on Trump's charity is full of sentences that apply just as well to elected officials. "Nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump," it notes. "Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump's own money."

Gee, who does that remind you of?

When Trump takes other people's money and re-gifts it to worthy endeavors, critics blast the practice as "slimy and shameless." When Washington does the same thing, it's called "housing assistance" or "federal crop insurance" or the "Foreign Market Development Program" or the "Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

This is no defense of Trump, mind you. The similarity between how Trump operates and how politicians operate is not an exoneration of him but an indictment of them. And while the analogy here lines up neatly in many ways, there are still some significant differences. For instance, donations to the Trump Foundation are voluntary. If you don't want to give, you don't have to.

But just try saying no to the IRS.

This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. Donald Trump likes to spend other people’s money. Can you imagine that in Washington?

    No, I can’t imagine a president who would spend other people’s money. I mean our president for the last 8 years … oh wait…

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  2. “This is no defense of Trump, mind you”


    1. Pay no mind. It’s like the disclaimer for comments on DVDs. You have to put it in.

      1. It’s like they’re writing for a libertarian audience, but they have to apologize to their proggy friends every time they say something that might be considered a micro-aggression by idiots. It’s tedious.

        1. This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

          Yep, it’s totally like that.

  3. Just fucking endorse her already.

    Mind you, does Reason have to endorse anyone?

    1. Have they ever endorsed anyone?

      1. In the print edition, most of the writers (who said they were going to vote) said they’d vote for GJ/WW.

    2. It’s going to be so fucking awesome watching the heads of 95% of the Reasonoids explode when Trump wins, followed by the total 180 degree shift of the tone of the magazine that will then follow as a result.

        1. David Harsanyi, John Stossel, and Judge Andrew Napolitano are real libertarians, and not Obama/Hillary supporters making a living pretending to be libertarians. That’s pretty much about it though.

          1. That’s gotta be at least ten percent

  4. Ugh. I’m sick and tired of saying mean things about the Republican candidate for president. Enough is enough.

    1. It’s like the debate has awoken everyone from their post-convention slumber.

  5. Good article.

    Trump is a sleazy self-aggrandizing scumbag, but he hasn’t peddled influence to foreign governments in exchange for luchre funneled through his eponymous money-laundering operation. It really is incredible how every defect of his is true too of Clinton, magnified by ten.

    1. Check out this guy, pretending to read the article. You’re not impressing anyone.

      1. I’m waiting for that nice person who makes reasonable to have an option to block the articles.

  6. NATF, but at least with Trump, the money is what other people have willingly given to or invested with him. Not so much as with politicians who spend money that has had to be pried out of our collective wallets.

    1. I think it’s a valid criticism of Trump that he doesn’t have a problem spending shit loads of cash and leaving other people holding the bag when things go south. However, it’s also true that there is no amount of due diligence you can do to get the IRS to stop stealing your money. Ever. I just don’t trust Trump to recognize the difference between private and public.

      Despite this, Hillary is so corrupt in every way that Trump is (at least), and to such a greater extent, that I will still laugh if I wake up after election only to find Donald McPresident is going to take office.

    2. I think it’s a valid criticism of Trump that he doesn’t have a problem spending shit loads of cash and leaving other people holding the bag when things go south. However, it’s also true that there is no amount of due diligence you can do to get the IRS to stop stealing your money. Ever. I just don’t trust Trump to recognize the difference between private and public.

      Despite this, Hillary is so corrupt in every way that Trump is (at least), and to such a greater extent, that I will still laugh if I wake up after election only to find Donald McPresident is going to take office.

  7. Over the years I’ve either raised or helped to raise hundreds of millions in OPM.

    You know what happens when someone hears about a deal we’re putting together and we don’t have any more room for their money?

    They get mad. They get real mad. Why did you take his money and not mine?!

    I’m sorry, I just don’t have any more room for you in this deal. I made a promise to him before. I’ll tell you what, I’ll call you first for the next deal okay?


    Yeah, leveraging other people’s money is how you get ahead in commercial real estate–or any other business. You get investors for equity and then you use that equity to get loans. It’s called capitalism. That’s how capitalism works.

    If Donald Trump thinks of taxpayer money the way the average capitalist thinks of his investors’ money, we should definitely all vote for Trump.

    If Hillary Clinton doesn’t think of taxpayer money as OPM, then she has no business being in the White House.

    1. Why Obama’s recovery has been so tepid.

      The main U.S. policy used to counter the Great Recession was increased government transfer payments. Federal social benefits to persons as a ratio to GDP went from 8.7% in 2007 to 11.7% in 2010, then fell to 10.9% in 2015. The main increases applied to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security (including disability) and food stamps, whereas unemployment insurance first rose then fell. Unfortunately, increased transfer payments do not promote productivity growth.

      It really depends on what you want to do with OPM. Transfer payments aren’t gonna cut it, and my worry is Trump will just crony away hundreds of billions of dollars when he should be slashing tax rates and regulations.

      1. There aren’t any good choices between Hillary and Trump.

        Only bad and worse.

        I suspect Trump can read that paragraph you quoted and understand the nature of the problem.

        I think Hillary reads that paragraph like it’s taken from the Satanic Bible.

    2. To believe that Trump would be more prudent and effective with taxpayer money than other politicians is insane. Trump has an awful track record with OPM; bankruptcies and shady deals where he leaves others holding the bag.

      Trump is the self-proclaimed King of Debt: ‘Just print the money.’ And we know how he would spend the money. He would double whatever Hillary Clinton would spend on “infrastructure” stimulus.

      Trump in 2011:

      ‘If you look at what China is doing, they’re stealing our jobs, they’re taking our money. They’re building bridges. They’re building airports. They’re building cities, brand new cities. When was the last time you saw a bridge being built in the United States?’….._third.php

      Bridges to nowhere and Chinese-style ghost cities coming to America.

      Trump is not anti-establishment. Trump is not a vote against the rigged system. Trump is the establishment. Trump is doubling down on everything that was wrong in the Obama era and slapping a Republican label on it.

  8. Drink suggestions for tonight? I’m trying to spend fewer mornings reeling from a hangover, but tonight’s a special occasion. Maybe micheladas. Make Mexico Great Too.

      1. Pronounced ‘an’-‘tea’-‘freeze’.

    1. This weekend, i was making highballs of Evan Wiiliams bourbon with cranberry juice and lime Perrier. Garnish with a slice of lime.

  9. “A few days before Trump made his “other people’s money” comment, The Washington Post ran an expos? on “How Donald Trump Retooled His Charity to Spend Other People’s Money.” Rather than use his own personal funds for worthy causes, Trump convinced others to donate money to his foundation?money he then passes out, often leaving the impression it had come from him.”

    That money almost certainly wouldn’t have gone to those charities if Trump hadn’t spearheaded the effort.

    There’s this thing called “intangible assets”. There’s this thing called “good will”.

    If Trump invests his name, his intangible assets, and his good will into raising money for charity, then the amount of money he raises did come from him.

    If some reporter doesn’t think so, just call up the same people who gave to Trump’s charity and ask them for money for a charity. See if they return your calls.

    1. And the Clinton Global Initiative doesn’t to the same goddamned thing….???

      1. The Clinton Foundation accepted money from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State.

        “In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records.”

        —-Mother Jones…..arms-deals

        Did Trump abuse a public office to enrich himself and his family? Did Trump accept money from foreign governments while he was the Secretary of State?

        If the answer is no, then the Clinton Global Initiative didn’t do the same goddamned thing.

        1. Touch?.

          I was agreeing with you, but you’re response is spot on.

      2. If I understand the point you’re making, you’re saying that the left shouldn’t criticize Trump for doing something that Hillary does, too.

        What I’m saying is that we need to be cognizant of people equating the two–because what Hillary did with the Clinton Foundation isn’t anywhere near as lofty as what Trump does for charity.

        The Clinton Foundation is graft and corruption. The left wishes they could compare Clinton’s activities to Trump. If and when they do that, we should jump on them for it like they’re trampolines.

        No, Hillary abusing public office to sell military hardware to governments who may quickly become our enemies–just so she could enrich herself and her family–is not like Donald Trump raising money for charity.

        1. I sometimes think that Trump sees what Hillary has done and just wants in on the same game.

  10. Thank you Barton. A sane voice is sorely needed.

  11. I keep seeing articles saying that Hillary is really rehearsing and studying hard for this debate. I think it’s more likely to be her medics practicing different methods to see if they can keep her upright and cough free for 2 hours. Maybe they’ll OD her and we will all be spared from this horror.

    1. Did they deny the request for sitting debates?

      1. Yes, she has to stand. Also, no breaks. CNN are all Trumpets. They’ve been exposed.

    2. I do envision them spending the last several days trying different drug regimens, to find what will keep her most alert for 90+ minutes.

  12. Ok folks, we’re getting down to business with the whole election thing. Over/under on the number of days until Reason drops the “Libertarian Case for Hillary Clinton” post….

    1. About a month from now, +/- 2 days from when they post the “Libertarian Case for Donald Trump.”

      1. They will not be posting the Libertarian case for Trump…

  13. When was the last time Hillary spent a nickel of her own money?

  14. Article: Donald Trump basically a politician, there’s a lot of hypocrisy abounding.

    Reaction from a lot of posters: HOW DARE THEY ACCUSE MUH ORANGE MESSIAH?

  15. Trump always uses other people’s money. The only time he didn’t was before his first bankruptcy where he actually had his own money at risk and he almost lost everything.

    He learned that he has no managerial talent, he’s solely a salesman so he never again used his own money in something that he managed. He did develop a little talent in choosing people to run his businesses and those businesses are moderately successful.

    As far as I know, he only lent money to his campaigns, money that he will be paid back.

  16. RE :Spending Other People’s Money Makes Trump a Perfect Fit for Washington

    Yeah, but it would be a tight fit.
    Like a telephone pole up someone’s butt.
    Oh, wait…all politicians do that anyway.
    My bad.

  17. smart people always use other peoples money

  18. Money is by definition infinitely fungible, so giving people money and then policing what they do with it seems like we’re paying (probably more than) twice for the shitty results we get.

  19. It would be nice if all candidates that are on the ballot in 50 states could join the debates and give Americans the chance to see there are alternatives to the usual two parties always in power. A five percent polling in a very fair number of support to be able to participate and after being on the debates I am pretty sure their numbers would go up when people realize that third party candidates can be intelligent and have good ideas.

  20. like Lucille said I cannot believe that some one able to earn in four weeks on the internet
    see more at———–>>>

  21. Really Nice Post. Thanks for sharing with us.

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