Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman (Part 2)

A Fifteen Hour Workweek. Leisure time is scarce in modern society, but why is that so? By 2030, Keynes predicted that mankind would have trouble filling up their spare time. Earlier, Benjamin Franklin predicted that we would work 4 hour days only. Employers were not keen to let their employees work for so short hours everyday. Henry Ford discovered that a shorter work week made employees more productive. In 1938, legislation to protect the 5 day workweek was passed. After WWII, leisure time continued to rise. It was predicted that machines would do all the work in future. Working would only be reserved for the elite. The spread of boredom might be a concern for Mankind. There was a concern that too much free time would bring about boredom and idleness. Are scientists prediction of what life would be like in 2062 come true? The irony is that in modern society, the working week is actually growing. It has to do with the feminist revolution. Parenting is a lot more time-intensive nowadays. The smartphone might even lead to the ordinary worker working even longer hours. Consumption has increased a lot more recently. Would our standard of living decrease if we work less? Productivity and long work hours do not go hand in hand. Even in the modern society, 40 hour workweeks might be too much. Research has shown that 6 hours per day is optimum. Working less solves the problem of stress and leads to increased levels of happiness. It might solve climate change and reduce the number of accidents too. It might address unemployment too. Paternity leave is extremely important nowadays. It might address the issue of aging population too. Nowadays, people tend to show off if they are busy. There is not enough paid work to go around. Is the strategy of shorter working hours what we all want? The answer is yes. The countries with the shortest workweeks have the largest number of volunteers and social capital. We all are capable of handling the good life.

It’s quite simple, really. Time is money. Economic growth can yield either more leisure or more consumption. – Rutger Bregman

It is worth noting, however, that the line between work and leisure has blurred in recent times. Work is now often perceived as a kind of hobby, or even as the very crux of our identity. – Rutger Bregman

There’s not a person on Earth who on their deathbed thinks, “Had I only put in a few more hours at the office or sat in front of the tube some more.” – Rutger Bregman

Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. – Oscar Wilde

Why It Doesn’t Pay to Be a Banker. The trash workers went on strike. The streets were extremely stinky. It actually pays to strike. These are essential services which actually do much good to others. However, wall street traders don’t do much. These are the jobs that simply shift money around. Now, in modern society, more people are able to earn without contributing anything tangible to society. Ireland did okay without the bankers for 6 months. It did not have a debilitating impact on daily life. Creating complex financial products actually destroys wealth. Why are we working harder than ever before? Many people admit that they are doing bullshit jobs. Banking is very exclusive to the elite few. Some people feel that their job had no meaning and significance. This is a problem with the capitalist society. The modern society is concerned with nothing but profit. Now, it is all about milking the cash without innovation. Just imagine how society will be if we just focused on creating things of value. It does not mean that you earn much, it automatically means you are contributing to society. In modern times, more people have sought to move to banking. We need to tax higher earners even more. A teacher has a direct hand in shaping the future. We need to intervene at the classroom level. Which knowledge and skills do we want in our children in 2030? A shorter work week allows us to spend more time on ourselves. Society determines what has real value. After the strike, the garage collectors had a significant pay increase.

Making money without creating anything of value is anything but easy. It takes talent, ambition, and brains. And the banking world is brimming with clever minds. – Rutger Bregman

The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. – Arthur C. Clarke

Race Against the Machine. Machines help to eliminate certain jobs. Robots should help to reduce the average number of working hours. People are educated, but your skills might be superfluous after a while. Moore realized the power of computers and that it would soon surpass humans. Machines help in the transportation sector, such as container shipping. The ratio of capital to labour is not constant. Technology has been advancing at an astounding rate. Who’s profiting from this? There are fewer winners as time passes. Inequality has been increasing in developed countries. Many jobs are at risk to be overtaken by machines. It will come in the next 20 years. That are some that argue that automation will create new jobs. Productivity is at record levels in the 2000s. Even the most modern of computers can defeat chess masters. Robots can hone our mental capacities. Automated cars might take over drivers on the roads soon. By 2029, it is predicted that computers will be as intelligent as people. There is no limit for machine computing power. In 1811, some men declared a war on machines, but the machines won. The whole point of robots is for them to do tasks that humans would rather not do themselves. How can we compete against the machine? It seems like there is limited hope and that inequality will continue to increase. Should we continue to focus on education? However, the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked. Maybe a solution is to bring a hammer. Humans still have the ultimate say as to how to shape our destiny. We need a massive redistribution of income.

The reality is that it takes fewer and fewer people to create a successful business, meaning that when a business succeeds, fewer and fewer people benefit. – Rutger Bregman

The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment. – Popular joke among economists

Beyond the Gates of the Land of Plenty. Should we try to give everyone on Earth the joys of the Land of Plenty? We spend a lot of money on developmental aid. Nobody knows whether it has helped much or not. Sometimes, the usage can be different than what was intended. Is the remedy worse than the disease? The first form of aid happened in 1998. Studies have shown that providing free textbooks does not improve scores. We all should aim to take the guess work out of policy making. Is it better to give out free mosquito nets or to sell them? Even microcredit has not been proven effective at combating poverty and illness. Handing out cash is better. However, not everything is measurable. There are the 3 Is of development and they are ideology, ignorance and inertia. There needs to be strong measures against tax evasion especially in poor countries. Opening the gates is one way to give the poor a chance. After the war, countries protected their borders tightly. The world is wide open except for people. Opening borders to labour would boost wealth tremendously. The inhabitants of the Land of Plenty are filthy rich. We turn away refugees way too easily. Americans earn a lot more than their South American counterparts. Opening the borders is one of our best strategies against poverty. However, people often lament that by doing so, you will bringing terrorists in. The risk of terrorism is low. Immigration actually reduces in a decline of terrorist activities. They are not all criminals. There is practically zero correlation between ethnic background and crime. They will not undermine social cohesion too. Diversity cannot be used to blame cohesion in society. There is an argument that foreigner influx can help create more employment opportunities. Will cheap immigrant labor force wages down? A think tank has showed that immigration has virtually no effect on wages. It is not true that foreigners are too lazy to work. Immigrants actually take less advantage of public assistance. Governments can set criteria for them and make it harder for them to get PR. One way is to create language and culture tests. Open borders actually promote immigrant return. Opening the borders is not something we can do overnight. Just cracking the door around migration will help us tremendously.

How Ideas Change the World. There were some people who believed that the world would end on Dec 21, 1954. This was a prophecy that failed. Humans tend to suffer from cognitive dissonance, where people recalibrate reality rather than amend their worldview. Humans tend to stubborn. The more educated you are, the more unwilling you will be to change. Can new ideas like a universal basic income truly change the world? However, people’s ideas can indeed change over time. Sometimes, a single opposing voice can make all the difference. Had we invested too much in our old convictions? There is a lot we can learn from Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. There are lessons we can learn from Neoliberalism. The world is getting richer and safer. It is okay to dream and keep plugging away.

People are most likely to change their opinions if you confront them with new and disagreeable facts as directly as possible. – Rutger Bregman

Utopia is on the horizon. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I may walk, I’ll never reach it. So what’s the point of utopia? The point is this: to keep walking. – Eduardo Galeano


The Fix by Jonathan Tepperman (Part 1)

How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies. – Groucho Marx

Introduction. This book is about success stories which the author has seen for himself. This is about finding solutions in an uncertain world. It is possible to overcome the problems if the right strategies are adopted. The negative news in the media can easily overwhelm you. Life is difficult and some of us have problems to make ends meet. Many Americans are not optimistic about the economy. After 2008, things seemed to go downhill. Even in Russia, there is negative economic growth rate now. In 2011, there was conflict in the Middle East. The US-Iran nuclear deal has been a disaster. Growth is predicted to slow down. Greece almost went bankrupt, the EU is no longer as united as before. ISIS is gaining ground again. Many refugees are heading to Europe. China’s economy is also slowing down. The emerging-market growth rate from 7.4% to 3.8% between 2010 and 2015. The liberal, rules based global order doesn’t seem to be working all that well now. A lot of our global failures is due to the failure of politicians to lead. We need to understand the problems actually and notice that they can be fixed. The stories in the book will show that it is indeed possible to solve. The first problem is inequality. It can certainly pose a lot of problems for us. The income gap in the US is widening and the poor get more disgruntled. The solution is to grow the economy in the past. A lot of corporate profits might be ending up in the hands of the rich. The second big issue is immigration. Many of the displaced are heading to Europe. Trump denounced immigration in a harsh manner. Attacking immigrants might not be the best solution overall. A lot of bright Americans are not retained by their country. The fact is that there is little evidence that immigrants cause a lot of trouble. Although Germany has let refugees in, they are not given the support to integrate in society and they end up causing trouble in the end. The third big issue is Islamic extremism. The Syrian rebel forces were allowed to grow and the Islamic State was formed. The Jihadists seem to be expanded in recent years. Civil War is the next big issue to hit us. Iraq is now in a big mess after the US troops pulled out. There are other civil wars in Africa, Syria etc too. Corruption is the next big issue to face us. Corruption tends to affect both poor and rich countries alike. This often leaves the poor at a disadvantage. It undermines the trust in the government and the system of rule. The Resource Curse is our next big issue (6th). Africa is known to have a lot of untapped natural resources. However, will they be able to handle this wealth? They might invest in the wrong things that do not aid the people. It is also common for resource-rich countries to be run by dictators as you can bribe your people to win yourself votes. Energy is also a big concern. There was a shale revolution in recent years. A lot of the countries that have shale are unlikely going to tap on them. The next big issue is that of the Middle-Income Trap. It is hard to reach the developed country status as there needs to be productivity increases. It might sound easy, but politicians are not up to the task. Many countries know what to do, but executing it is hard. The next major problem is gridlock I. Infighting among political parties in Mexico, Italy etc have caused many problems. Even though India’s Modi is good, he is still facing gridlocks. Despite all the problems in the World, it is not wise to abandon hope. We just need to look for the right fix.

Profits to the People (How Brazil Spreads its Wealth). How did the former Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, turn inequality into a manageable problem? Economic growth is not working the way it is used to. Thomas Piketty suggested a global wealth tax. However, the rich can get around paying tax and it might get controversial. How did Brazil do it? It is hard to imagine Brazil as a model for anything. Brazil is blessed with resources and a young population. Many are living on less than $2 a day. However, by 2011, its economy was growing by 4% a year. Inequality fell as well. Lula had a 87% approval in 2012. Lula had humble beginnings. He worked hard and climbed in the Sao Bernardo Metalworks. Later, he founded the leftist Workers’ Party. He lost the president election 3 times. Many people didn’t trust him at the start and Brazil was in shambles in 2002. However, his predecessor, Cardoso’s structural reforms were not popular. Lula listened closely to the ground and understood the problems people faced. He cut spending and reduced budget deficit and demanded a budget surplus when he took officer in 2003. Within 6 months, their bond value had risen by 20%. Now, he launched a social welfare campaign. His programme handed people money instead of goods or services. These were effect at eradicating poverty. Many denounced the idea as giving the poor dietary staples would be more practical. The food programme launched in the past was a flop as corruption was rife. It was shown that many families did not squander the money. The scheme would be targeted at those in extreme poverty. However, it came with conditions, like parents needed to send kids to school, women needed to go for checkups etc. The critics thought that the money would be better used to build schools etc. There was also concern for welfare dependency. He made the public feel that they ‘earned’ the cash by fulfilling the conditions. Lula had issues dealing with non-compliance with conditions. Also, he had to deal with undeserving candidates applying to the scheme. It worked after he set up a ministry to deal with these issues. The trick was to imposing conditions for assistance. The programme does not give out excessive amounts of money, just enough for the family to get by. It is a cheap antipoverty programme. It was certainly an innovative welfare program. Lula also adopted conservative macroeconomic policies. He offered large firms cut-rate loans. He was not upset that the rich got richer. He wanted the greatest good for all. The results of his policies were great. Bolsa Familia, the social welfare programme, worked wonders. In addition, vaccination rates are increasing, infant mortality is dropping etc. The poorest Brazilians are also more optimistic about their futures. The money was paid directly to the beneficiary, with no intermediary. The rich do not care about the programme as it is run cheaply. Even in 2006, when Lula was allegedly accused of corruption, he still won. Lula was an everyday man who could relate to the poor. However, despite this, there are still 28 million Brazilians living in poverty. The good thing is that the payments given out are quite low and people are still incentivized to work. Many of the international media have lauded this programme as being successful. Many other developing countries are also trying to learn from Bolsa Familia.

If there’s one thing I’m not ashamed of, it’s profit. But I want people to know that my philosophy, at heart, is that of a mother. No one is fairer than a mother. Even if she has 300 kids, she will treat them all equally. That’s what I used to say to the Brazilian people: that I govern for all. – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Let the Right Ones In (Canada’s Immigration Revolution). The middle of the last century was turbulent indeed. In the 1940s, Canada were strict with their immigration policies. Justin Trudeau is their new PM. They took in Syrian asylum seekers. Canada has one of the highest immigration rates in the world. More than 20% of their population is foreign born. People from the Philippines, China and India are there too. Many of their residents don’t mind. There is sufficient public support. There has not been anti-immigrant riots in the last half a century. The government has been good at convincing the people that immigration is a necessity and is good. Pierre Elliott Trudeau was PM from 1968 to 1984. He was extremely charming and smart. He studied in the UK at LSE and gained a holistic picture of the world. The French militant group caused havoc in Quebec in 1967. Trudeau took power in 1968. Trudeau transformed Canada from a bi-national one to a multicultural one. The two language policy of French and English won’t cut it. He wanted to treat the minorities better. He also set up the Human Rights Commission in 1978. He wanted to create a distinctly Canadian identity. Some politicians in Europe have denounced multi-cultural policies. For Trudeau, he still wanted to keep the native and core culture intact. There were two problems: cultural divide and the assimilation of immigrants. It is the world’s second largest state by landmass. There was also a push by the government to increase its population due to the large land mass. In addition, many workers were moving to the US from Canada. In the 1940s, Asians were largely not accepted. In 1962, Canada abandoned ethnicity as a basis for evaluating immigrants. However, Ottawa was slow to adopt this new stance and there were still issues. Later on, the point system was created based on 9 criteria: education, age, fluency in English etc. More non-Europeans entered the country. In the US, immigration still centers on family reunification as the primary entry criteria. However, in Canada, it was different. Ottawa now focuses on formal education. Trudeau oversaw the development of Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All these policies have helped avoid the backlash that modern economies have faced in recent years. Indeed, the immigrants rely less on welfare and their employment rate is also highest in the OECD. This definitely helped to overcome the shrinking and aging workforce. Many see immigration as a way to strengthen nation’s identity. Brits are very hostile towards immigration. The immigration story of Canada has a lot to do with pragmatism and necessity than idealism. The US should study Canada’s success story

There cannot be one cultural policy for Canadians of British and French origin, another for the original peoples, and yet a third for all others. – Jonathan Tepperman

Canada has the highest naturalization rate in the world, with 85% of eligible permanent residents becoming citizens. That’s important because citizens are more likely than guests to invest in their new homeland and be welcomed for doing so. – Jonathan Tepperman

Kill Them With Kindness (How Indonesia Crushed and Co-opted Its Islamic Extremists). In 1998, Indonesia tossed their leader out of office. It has more than 10000 islands. Suharto was a tyrant, but at least he was competent. He kept the economy growing at 7% per annum during his 30 year reign. Although it is a Muslim state, where 90% of the people are Muslims, he crushed those who tried to make it more Islamic. People feared that Islamist militias would start bombing the place. Now, Indonesia is a stable democracy. Terror attacks are rare. The majority do not believe in extremism, unlike in the Middle East. They are close to eliminating the threat of extremist violence. Islam was never imposed in Indonesia in the past. The people are more open minded. The Islamist political parties are also not competent. The irony thing is that as the population became more devout, Islamic extremism declined. Although people want to embrace sharia law, they don’t like the way it is being enforced. Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono managed to do a good job on this front. They all wanted to consolidate the country’s fragile freedoms. The leaders wanted to seem popular by appealing to the common Man. Wahid was a sick old man, but his pluralistic policies were lauded. Megawati was related to Sukarno and didn’t tackle the issues well. However, she got the army out of politics. Yodhoyono was a democrat at heart, despite being an Army General. SBY also protected the minorities and guarded against discrimination. He also actively eradicated corruption. He launched major anti-poverty campaigns. Between 2006 and 2011, Indonesia did very well and doubled exports. Indonesia also learnt that attempts to eliminate Islamic parties like in Egypt have failed. They invited some of these parties into their coalition and cabinet. This was a very intelligent move. Megawati reacted to the Bali bombings and set up an anti-terror unit. It was called Detachment 88. Many of the JI members have been killed or captured. Also, they have been able to dig information out of the criminals. Also, they have tried to rehabilitate those who can be helped. Those prisoners who co-operate are rewarded as well. In July 2014, Joko Widodo was elected as President. He seems even more democratic than SBY and seems willing to fight extremism too. He also doesn’t have an elite background. He is also very into technology and knows the benefits of it. Jokowi is often compared to Obama, who doesn’t have a lot of national and international experience. He is a symbol of hope.

Learn to Live with It (Rwanda’s Wrenching Reconciliation). Rwanda’s Hutu majority tried to exterminate the country’s Tutsi minority. It happened in 1994. Kagame was the then leader of Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel army who was fighting the Hutu-led government. The Inkotanyi, Tutsi insurgents, managed to prevail. Rwanda was decimated by the war. Many of the Tutsis were slaughtered. Rwanda is one of the world’s poorest countries. Many of them were suffering from post-traumatic stress as well. The President had to heal the situation and restore order to Rwanda. The government had to deal with genocides. Kagame had to deal with the genocide suspects. There were not enough jails to house these people. Trials alone were not enough, and justice had to be served. In addition, it would not help the victims in somehow forgiving their perpetuators. Kagame was a real pragmatist. The strategy for recovery had 4 parts. The first was that RPF would establish a strong force and build a unified garrison state and control the country. Next, the government would invest in economic growth and build institutions. This included boosting human capital and providing free health care. Corruption was also stamped out. Kagame also tried to turn Rwanda into a race-blind nation. The government created 12 thousand village tribunals to hear the cases. The trials would not last for many days. It would promote both justice and reconciliation, not one or the other. Communities could select their judges, based on their integrity levels. Thus, the people had a say. Gacaca was an ambitious transitional justice projects. Kagame was criticized as many criminals managed to get away with a lighter sentence if they were co-operative. In addition, the judges were not trained. Gacaca was not a perfect system, but they managed to see many cases and speed up the process. It was a good interim measure given the severity of the situation. The tribunals also encouraged engagement between the victims and perpetuators. It also emphasized community service as a form of rehabilitation. The country is in much better shape now. Many people have been lifted out of poverty. A vast majority of Rwandans supported Gacaca. Hutus and Tutsis now live peacefully together. It was a form of enforced unity, but it works I guess. Kagame has become a polarizing figure in the last few years. His critics target his human rights record and intolerance for dissent. His government has been accused of killing Hutu soldiers and civilians. Many nations can learn from Rwanda after their civil war. Usually after a civil war, it helps to take a more radical approach. Rwanda invented a solution, Gacaca, which was tailor made to their own organization. That was remarkable indeed.


The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Part 2)

‘Better than Harvard’. Michael Sexton licensed Trump’s name for online real estate courses. Trump loved this idea. Trump University was born. He promised to handpick the professors etc but this was not true. The address chosen was also used by other criminals. Trump was prohibited using the word university unless it was authorized by the state education department. The professors were actually commissioned sales people, many with little experience in real estate. In 2012, he was sued for civil fraud. Trump, when questioned, said he couldn’t remember what the lawsuit was about. He could not even name one good live events instructor. He said that the education would be better than the best business school. This was not true at all. He also did not review the scripts used by the live events instructors. The whole Trump University was a fraud. The students were taught ‘to prey upon homeowners in financial turmoil and to target foreclosure properties’. The whole course was more of a high pressure tactic to buy into Trump U’s “Gold Elite” package. The Texas attorney took no public action in recommending penalties for Trump’s conduct. Abbott and Trump seemed to have some relationship going on. Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, would investigate Trump. Trump’s office sent a cheque to her to support her re-election. Later, Bondi failed to further carry on the investigation. When the court records was released to the public, Trump was furious. Trump was also involved in problems with charities helping military veterans.

Trump Charities. Liberty House is a small veteran’s charity. Trump wanted to donate $100k but Keith Howard declined. It was illegal for charities to participate in partisan politics. However, some charities accepted the donations. These reduced their ability to receive tax-deductible donations. Trump was questioned by reporters on whether the donated money really went to charities. There are no buildings on Philadelphia campus that bears Trump’s name. Trump often declares a large amount of money would go to charities, but in reality, less of it will be transferred. He claims he is an ardent philanthropist, but there is little record of his charitable gifts given. Trump can’t recall all the veteran organizations that he has dealt with. Trump also has imaginary employees.

Imaginary Friends. When reporters tried to call Trump, a guy named John Baron, a VP of the Trump organization, answered. He said he was Trump’s spokesperson. He explained why destroying the sculptures was the only way. It was actually Donald Trump on the phone. By posing as his publicist, he could get more attention. Sometimes, Trump would confirm what Baron has said to give affirmation to the stories. Similarly, he used this tactic to taunt his enemies. Later, after he was exposed, he switched to using the name ‘John Miller’.

Imaginary Lovers. In 1991, Trump apparently dumped Marla Maples and taken up Carla Bruni. A reporter got a call from John Miller. He pretended to be Trump’s PR man. He said that Trump was too busy to answer calls because he was taking to other beautiful women. Miller claimed that Trump was not seeing Bruni. Bruni would be later treated to a hotel stay by Trump. Carswell, the reporter, was not fooled and knew that was Trump. She doubted he was with Bruni as he knew Trump wanted to have that playboy image. Once, Maples and Trump was caught arguing. In 1991, Carswell released the news that Trump was actually John Miller. In 2008, after Carla Bruni was the first lady of France, Howard Stern asked Trump why he was no longer with Bruni. He denied dating Bruni and claimed she was flat-chested. Trump kept declining to comment. He didn’t want to criticize the first lady of France. A few months later, Bruni slammed Trump for making up stories. Now, Trump would attempt to advance his pursuit of the Presidency.

Myth Maintenance. Trump often recites facts without analysis and threatens to sue journalists. This often shuts reports and journalists from further questioning. He sued Tim O’Brien for wrongly quoting his net worth. The aim of it was to harass him and waste his time. His second strategy is to distort information and contradict himself. When queried in 2016, Trump said he couldn’t know who was on the tape in 1991. He said the voice on the phone sounded like a scam. He denied that it was him on the phone. Trump often uses the words ‘I don’t recall’ very frequently. Trump has also accepted awards that he gave to himself.

I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about. – Donald Trump

You mean you are going so low as to talk about something that took place 25 years ago about whether I made a phone call… Let’s get on to more current subjects. – Donald Trump

Collecting Honours. The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences gave awards to Trump. His golf course won the Star Diamond award. Cinque was the President of the Academy. His other buildings have won similar awards. The awards are chosen by the board of trustees. Donald J. Trump sat on the board. In other words, Trump accepted awards from a board on which he was a member. He also gave his friends and family awards. Cinque is often praised by Trump. Cinque has also a history of being involved in organized crime. Cinque also boasts about his prowess with women and his rich friends. In a recent interview, Trump denied attending any board meetings.

If a guy’s (Cinque) going to give you an award, you take it. You don’t tend to look up his whole life story. – Donald Trump

Who’s That? Felix H Sater’s name was usually spelt with one T. However, he added another T to his name, Satter, to conceal his past. His father was Russian mob boss in Brooklyn. Trump said he was unaware of Sater’s criminal background. He was allowed to work on property projects. He was eventually made ‘Senior Adviser to Donald Trump’. Trump had his name on buildings, causing investor to invest. However, they later learnt that Trump was only licensing his name. Sater had a short jail time considering the crimes he committed. Trump continued to work with Sater. When interviewed much later, Trump claimed that he would not be able to recongize Sater.

Down Mexico Way. Trump announced that he would build in the Trump Ocean Resort in a great location. It would be a world-class resort. It would be the new Cabo. The whole Trump family appeared bullish during the launch. Some people purchased because of the strong Trump brand. They would regret their decision. 200 people bought in, paying more than $22 million in deposits. In 2007, construction was underway. 3 months later, the market crashed by Ivanka assured that the project would carry on. Even in 2008, construction did not start. In fact, neither Trump nor the Trump organization was involved as investment partners. They had use licensed the use of their name. All the buyers sued him as they felt that Trump was the developer. Trump denied any wrong-doing. Many of the buyers were given too short time to decide whether to purchase the house. It was unfair business practices. Trump has done something before which was similar too. The fact that Trump licensed his name was not disclosed to buyers.

Trump Beaches a Whale. He wanted updates on the baccarat game at the Atlantic City casino. Akio Kashiwagi was a huge gambler, a billion dollar customer. It was year 1990. He was known as ‘The Warrior’. Trump was very anxious because Akio was up 4.2 million. Wynn was very rich too and personally talked to high rollers. He made the customer feel special. Trump didn’t treat his big customers as well. He was greedy and wanted bigger profits from high-rollers. Many casinos wanted ‘The Warrior’ to play. His life was mysterious. Trump didn’t understand the maths of the games well. The Warrior had already bankrupted a casino before after he won too much. Akio never varied the size of the bets whether he won or lost. Akio brought $12 million to the Atlantic casino and was preparing to lose it all. As a high roller, Akio received wonderful treatment. Baccarat was his game of choice. He left for meals only but continued playing. Akio made the same flat bet every time, this was pure maths. Many of them believed in lady luck. Marcum knew that the odds were 5 to 1 that he would lose his bankroll before doubling it. The house had slim advantages but it would multiply over time. It was predicted in 10,000 bets, Trump could win 5,125 bets to Kashiwagi’s 4875. . Even on the second day, Akio was winning. Trump introduced Khashoggi to Akio, but Akio didn’t know him. It was awkward indeed. Trump was nervous and appeared to ‘sweat the action’. Trump panicked when Akio was up 6.8 million. Trump asked whether Akio was cheating. The next day, his profit was only $4.4 million. Trump said Akio was the greatest when he was only down to $2 million cash. This was dishonourable. Akio left and never came back. In 1992, he was murdered by the yakuza. He died after owing Trump $6 million, on top of the $5.4 million he had previously won. Trump lost big time.

There are no such things as lucky streaks, but all gamblers believe in them. – Marcum

Probability is like a wave. Because of the house advantage, over time the player dips lower and lower until he stops crossing the midpoint and ultimately loses all his money, unless he quits first. –  Marcum

Biggest Loser. Bob Libutti was the biggest loser. Trump treated him like a friend and tried to seduce his daughter. Lubutti was involved in evaluating racehorses. He was charged for civil tax fraud etc. In the 1980s, he led the high life. Trump treated him like a king. Trump took him on helicopter rides and top sporting events and shows. His daughter was Ebie Libutti. Libutti confronted Trump when he approached his daughter. Trump kept fulfilling his demands. Libutti was a very hot tempered man.

Epilogue. Trump is a household name in US history. Voters should definitely ponder about his conduct before voting in November 2016. Action is character. This book is about his relationship with criminals etc. Often, they were profitable in nature and were not subject to greater scrutiny. Trump has threatened to sue me. He dismisses others who do not see him as he sees himself. Trump values money a lot whereas I value honour more. Money can always be earned back again. His conduct should make us reflect on what we want to see in a leader of our great nation. Many of the things he does in business cannot be applied in politics. From his campaign speeches, some of the things he plans to do makes him seem like a dictator. Trump is smart in that he is tapping into people’s frustrations with the current state of affairs. Whether he can put up viable policies is another matter altogether.


The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Part 1)

Introduction. I have been an investigative reporter since young and have freedom to report on what I want. I also happen to be good at what I do. In 1988, I met Donald Trump in Atlantic City. It turns out that he knew nothing about the casino industry. I have a trove of his documents with me. He first mooted the idea of becoming President in 1988. Trump would make a profit in his 2016 campaign. He is always thinking of how to make profits. Through the book, I hope to expose the things he has done. Trump is smart and can deflect enforcement investigations and threatens to sue others. Sometimes, he can come across as ignorant in the way he conducts himself. This book is a presentation of the facts. Trump even hired people to show up and clap during his campaign.

Family History. His family name was Drumpf and he has German roots. Donald’s grandpa was Friedrich and also flouted some rules in his life. He arrived in the US when he was 16. Friedrich started the Diary Restaurant. Trump did not vote regularly at elections. Friedrich’s foray into mining projects were a flop. He later headed for Yukon Territory and started a bar called the Arctic. The gold rush was present and he made some money. Later on, he met Elizabeth Christ, a 20 year old blonde. Later, the family headed back to Germany. Frederick returned to the US and started new ventures. However, he passed on the 1918 influenza pandemic. Donald’s father was Fred.

Trump men favouring busty blondes would become a family pattern. – David Cay Johnston

Family Values. Fred was charged for battling NYC policemen. However, Donald continuously denies the charge. He pretended that if he heard nothing, it meant there was no charges filed against Fred. The public should not know about crime and its implications. Later, Fred built single family houses and even a supermarket. He was a fast learner and turned in a small profit. Often, his buildings were built using cheap materials. To attract attention, Fred would hire beauties in bikinis etc. Fred was also investigated on whether he was into profiteering. He was a household name. Donald denied that his dad profiteered. Nothing came of the investigation though. Fred borrowed money from Tomasello, who was engaged in illicit businesses. Much of what Donald does is learnt from his father. Fred gave Donald much support when he was younger. Donald’s older brother tried to help with the business but didn’t do well. Donald attended the New York Military Academy as he was ill-disciplined when young. Later, he went to the University of Penn. Fred Jr became a pilot but subsequently had alcoholism problems. Donald claims that he was a good student in the University of Penn. However, he doesn’t know what Net Present Value is and how it is measured.

Personal Values. Trump was giving advice to a crowd on how to succeed in life and business in 2005. He was working with a convicted felon and swindler named Felix Sater. He did not prepare for the presentation. Trump did not show the audience any respect by not preparing for the speech. His mentality is to trust no one, even employees. He has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits. He has written more than 12 books. Once, he trusted a female employee and when he wanted her to call her friend at a big bank and she refused, Trump fired her. He hates disloyal people, like Rosie O’Donnell. This act of vengeance is certainly at odds with what the Bible preaches. He can’t remember his favourite Bible verse.

Get even. If somebody screws you, you screw them back 10 times over. At least you can feel good about it. Boy, do I feel good. – Donald Trump

I have to tell you about losers. I love losers because they make me feel so good about myself. – Donald Trump

I love getting even when I get screwed by someone – yes, it is true…Always get even. When you are in business you need to get even with people who screw you. You need to screw them back 15 times harder… go for the jugular, attack them in spades! – Donald Trump

A Sickly Child. His dad died in 1999, at age 93. William Trump had problems at birth and Fred Trump Sr would cover the medical expenses. After he passed on, William Trump’s family knew they were not collecting their anticipated share of the estate. The judge ruled that medical coverage resume until the matter could be resolved. Fred Jr sued Donald Trump’s father. Donald was obviously not pleased when someone sued his father. The will excluded Fred Jr and his children. Donald appears to be very vicious in his motto of vengeance. This caused divisions within his family. He also had a close relationship with the notorious Roy Cohn.

Making Friends. Roy Cohn was a notorious attorney and Donald Trump wanted to get close to him. They had a great relationship. Trump always wanted to join Le Club, a hottest club in the city. However, he didn’t know anyone. He hired Cohn to sue the federal government after Trump was investigated of racial bias when hiring operators. Trump allegedly didn’t hire rent out apartments to blacks. As a result, the Federal Government sued Trump. This was a high profile discrimination case and appeared to violate the Fair Housing Act. Cohn claimed that the government was unfair as they were trying to force Trump to rent to people on welfare. Cohn lost the case and the government could proceed with the investigation. Eventually, Trump folded and settled. When confronted by reporters in future, Trump claimed that the government couldn’t prove its case and that he only had to make a minor settlement. Trump learned to place loyalty over everything else. Trump knew he could count on Cohn. He was also associated with powerful Mafia figures who worked in the demolition and construction industry.

Trump’s Most Important Deals. Trump applied for a casino license in New Jersey in 1981 and his background was not thoroughly checked. The government didn’t want a mob-run casino on Atlantic City. Trump talked to the attorney general and told him there was no need to check his background thoroughly. Trump threatened not to bid for the casino if they wanted to check him in detail. Trump had indeed been under investigation before but there was no mention of it in the DGE report. No charges were filed. There were about 4 cases where Trump was involved in shady dealings but these were not reported. Trump did not tick the box for civil misconduct. Lying in his application would result in disqualification. The concrete he used was controlled by a concrete cartel. Roy Cohn helped to ensure that the Mafia bosses would not have the unions stop work on Trump Tower. Barrett was a reporter who managed to examine some of Trump’s business practices. Cody was another crook who knew Roy Cohn. Trump also took kickbacks from contractors etc. Soon, those contractors who fixed prices for concrete were convicted.

A Great Lawsuit. Football made Trump famous. He bought the New Jersey Generals in 1983. The attendance at the games were decent, but were nowhere that of National Football League. Trump was aiming the NFL league. Dixon started the USFL league to slowly compete with the NFL. USFL could celebrate the scoring of goals whereas for the NFL, players couldn’t. Trump held cheerleader try-outs at the Trump Tower to attract attention. He brought them to sleazy bars and some of the girls were offended. In 1984, Trump, together with the other USFL owners, sued NFL. The lawsuit for that NFL allegedly monopolised the tv contracts. Roy Cohn would represent Trump again. The USFL was awarded damages in $3. This was humiliating to Trump. Trump’s legal strategy backfired. USFL folded after that. The court also dismissed claims that Trump wanted to merge the USFL with NFL. USFL wanted to grow fast, but failed. One cannot disagree with Trump. It is like to be a loser.

Showing Mercy. Trump dealt with a drug trafficker named Joseph Weichselbaum. He did unusual favors for the felon, even putting his casino license at risk. When Trump met him, he was already a twice-convicted felon. He was arrested for grand theft auto and embezzlement previously. Joseph and his brother ran a helicopter service and ferried high rollers to and from casinos. Their main client was Trump. Trump also retained Dillinger Charter Services, whose owner was John Staluppi. The mysterious thing was why did Trump keep supporting Joseph’s team when he could have used other firms? Did Trump finance Joseph’s activities? In 1985, he was convicted of drug trafficking in Florida, Ohio and Kentucky. Trump kept paying $2 million per year for the helicopters. One of Joseph’s court case was also transferred to the state of New Jersey, where Trump’s older sister Maryanne Trump Barry was assigned to the case. When she was eventually replaced, Trump asked for leniency for Joseph. Joseph eventually only served a mere 18 months jail. The DGE did not ask deeper questions on Trump’s relationship with Joseph Weichselbaum. There are still things unknown about Trump’s relationship with Joseph. When asked to recall his relationship with Joseph, Trump said he barely recalled who he was.

Polish Brigade. Trump knocked down Bonwit Department store before he built Trump Tower. It was a really famous store. He promised to give the architectural treasures to the Museum of the Art. However, he didn’t keep this promise. He used a Polish contractor and the men need not wear safety gear. It was primitive. The workers were not paid in accordance with wage laws. They were underpaid and made to work like slaves. The crew had huge numbers and suffered. Trump was also known to delay the payments. Trump was told to fire them if he didn’t want to get into trouble with labour laws. Trump would always want to collect more money and not paid people. He was downright greedy and did not care about the workers’ welfare. Surprising, there was no safety inspection of the demolition. The union was under the main control of Roy Cohn, his lawyer. Only when the men threatened to not work, did Trump start to pay them more regularly. Trump testified that he had no knowledge that any worker was unpaid. The judge found that Trump wanted to cheat workers of their pay. Trump had to settle in the end. He also claimed that removing the art would cause a lot more, hence they would be demolished instead. The museum curators were furious. Yet, Trump claims to be an ardent philanthropist.

Feelings and Net Worth. Trump has given different figures when asked to present his net worth. Sometimes, a different figure could be quoted just within a few days. He sued Tim O’Brien after he quoted wrong net worth figures in his books. Trump’s image is really important to him. A lot of information was not disclosed in the financial statements, making it hard to determine how much Trump earned. Sometimes, Trump might even hide debts and other liabilities. Mortgages were not recorded. When estimating his net worth, values of properties are very high. However, when answering to tax authorities, he quotes very low valuation prices.

I would say when I publicly state my net worth, I base it on my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies. – Donal Trump

Trump’s net worth is central to his public persona as a kind of modern Midas. – David Cay Johnston

My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try. – Donald Trump

Government Rescues Trump. Trump made over $375 million between 1986 and 1990 (not profit). However, in 1990, he could not pay his bills. He lacked the money to pay for the construction for Trump Taj Mahal. His casino also risked being shut because Trump could not pay. Trump was bleeding dry fast. Cash was burning and he still had his private jet. The regulators also did not regularly monitor his finances. Lawyers and accountants started going over his books. The Leventhal report showed his net worth was -295 million. The DGE, despite this, did not ask very difficult questions of Trump. Overall, Trump owed $3.2 billion and it was terrible for his creditors. A deal was planned and Trump had to live on $450,000 per month. The press was not allowed to say the word bankrupt. The commission would approve the deal between Trump and his bankers and Trump would be safe. Many reporters did not know that Trump was on the verge of bankruptcy. Donald Trump was saved by the government. Because of this, Trump had to restructure and sell off stake in some of his enterprises. Investors lost more than $1.5 billion when he shrugged off 4 bankruptcies. He was lucky to have escaped.

Gold and Taxes. Trump gives variable values on his property values. Many civil settlements have resulted and these files are all sealed. He overvalued his Trump National Golf Course at more than $50 million. However, when talking to the tax assessor, he quoted the golf club to be less than $1.4 million. He told a reporter subsequently that the value was $9 million. When the town was flooded and covered in silt because of the golf course, Trump refused to pay. The storm water facilities at his golf course failed. The litigation between the town and Trump remains unresolved. Trump valued the National Golf Club Bedminster at more than $50 million and said it had annual revenue of more than $16 million. He paid lower property tax on it because he had goats on the active farmland. He did the same for another of his golf course. Often, he ends up suing the town.

Income Taxes. Jack Mitnick prepared Trump’s income tax returns. They had a close relationship. In 1978 and 1979, Trump paid no federal income taxes. His tax returns showed negative income because there was a rule in Congress that let big real estate investors offset income from salaries, stock market gains, consulting fees, and other income with losses from depreciation in the value of their buildings. A review by the tax authorities concluded that Trump owed more tax in 1984. Once, Trump’s returns showed zero income from the consulting business. The auditors demanded supporting documents for Trump’s large deductions. Penalties were levied against Trump because he could not substantiate. Mitnick claimed that he did not prepare the tax return. When I questioned Mitnick about it last year, he claimed he could not remember. How did his signature get on the tax return then? Judge Barrie ruled that the penalty be upheld. In 1991 and 1993, Trump paid no taxes too.

Empty Boxes. In 1983, Trump had 2 empty boxes mailed to him from an out-of-state address. This was to evade sales taxes on expensive items. Back then, the law was that under NY law, a visitor who buys good and has them shipped to her home state does not have to pay NY sales tax but then owe an equivalent tax to their home state, known as a use tax. But this was not readily enforced. The tax auditors uncovered this scam. There were other rich people involved in this scam. Adnan Khashoggi was an arms dealer who partied with Trump. He also evaded sales tax. It is amazing why billionaires would want to escape small taxes like these. A criminal charge like this would be sufficient to revoke his casino license. Howard Rubenstein defended Trump throughout this saga. The Bulgari staff and the master-mind would be jailed. Trump was let off.


Great Again by Donald J. Trump (How to Fix Our Crippled America)

You Gotta Believe. I realized that there were many naysayers in my life. These include some politicians and lobbyists. Unemployment has been at a high. Congress has been deadlocked and can’t make decisions easily. 45 million Americans are stuck in poverty. President Putin is putting together a coalition in Syria. Our leaders are failures in the military front and wasted trillions in the Middle East. I want to do something great for our country. I have an outstanding business track record. My brand is associated with success. I strongly aim to stop illegal foreign immigrants into our country. I persevered to fight a strong campaign despite all the odds. I say the truth and do not mince my words. In this book, I will state some of my plans for the US. What the US is better leadership. This book will give me a better understanding of my future. It is time to turn America around.

Winning Again. America needs to start winning again. America shouldn’t be bullied. We need to walk away from unfair negotiations. The nuclear treaty with Iran is just one example. Also, we are bringing in too many refugees from Syria to destroy our country. How can we start winning again? Congress hasn’t done much for the people. We need smart people to run things and manage things. Many journalists cast doubts on my abilities. My job is to prove people wrong. Even Hispanics, black people and women are listening to me because they are frustrated with the current regime. I create jobs, build buildings etc. I do not need to make anyone happy. Winning matters a lot.

I’m a practical businessman who has learned that when you believe in something, you never stop, you never quit, and if you get knocked down, you climb right back up and keep fighting until you win. That’s been my strategy all my life. – Donald Trump

Our ‘Unbiased’ Political Media. The media loves me. People sincerely need to hear the truth. Megyn Kelly is certainly one that was against me. Throughout my life, I am known to be a winner. Some people question my temperament. The more the press flames me, the more attention I get. With this attention on me, I can use it to my advantage. I give viewers what they want. My relationship with the media is mutually profitable. There are of course journalists who are decent and whom I respect. Criticism doesn’t affect me much. Sometimes, the media exaggerates on the wrong aspects of things. I deeply respect Hispanics and black people. I am not afraid of the political media.

I learned a long time ago that if you’re not afraid to be outspoken, the media will write about you or beg you to come on their shows. If you do things a little differently, if you say outrageous things and fight back, they love you. – Donald Trump

I find the people who are the best in the world at what needs to be done, then I hire them to do it, and then I let them do it… but I always watch over them. – Donald Trump

Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbors. My immigration policy certainly attracted a lot of attention. A lot of countries were dumping their bad people on us. I later said that I would build a great wall to stop them from coming. We need to take greater action. We need to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. Too many people have been ignoring the problem. Immigration is good if the people coming in are of quality. We have problems tracking who is coming into our country. There is a need to stop illegal immigration. Some of the Mexicans in our country are up to no good. The Chinese had the courage to build the Great Wall of China. The wall will be a superb one. Construction will begin and Mexico will pay for it. The trick is to get the criminals out. I would also increase the number of immigration officers. Also, there is a need to enforce visa regulations. I want to make it clear that legal immigration is okay. Our immigration policy needs to make our country great again.

Foreign Policy: Fighting for Peace. Our foreign policy is messed up. We need to learn to operate from a position of strength. We need to push for what we want to create alliances. To protect others, we need to be paid for it. We need to better fund our military budget. There is a need to better pay our military and give them better benefits. Many of the wealthy countries are being defended by us for free. We spent too much money in Iraq without reaping the benefits. If you want to fight a war, there needs to be a clear objective. We should only fight to further national interests. To me, Iraq is of no threat and our plan to leave was a failure. Without Iraq, Iran would dominate. We need to fight the Islamic State. To get rid of ISIS, it would be useful to bomb their oil fields. That oil is the source of their wealth. Iran is a threat to us, because they are a threat to Israel. President Obama negotiated a horrible deal with Iran. The US cannot allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon. I want to shut down their nuclear program. China is also quietly building up their military strength. They also hold a lot of our debt. They also devalue their currency, upsetting the balance of trade. We need their trade more than we need them. How are going to compete with them? To me, they have destroyed entire industries by using of low wage workers. I would like them to stop devaluing their currency. We buy almost 20% of all their exports. Now, we need to get tough with them. It is important to hold our cards and not to reveal our plans so soon. It is better to remain unpredictable. One should learn to keep the cards close to the vest. Everything begins with a strong military.

Education: A Failing Grade. My father understood the value of education. I also understood the value too and studied at the Wharton School of Finance at uPenn. How do we give the best education to our kids? Common Core doesn’t seem to work and the one size fit all approach doesn’t work. I believe in locally run education instead. Leave no student behind. We cannot fail our children anymore. In the military academy, I understood the meaning of discipline. We need a kid who can win. Teachers and students need to want more and not keep lowering the standards. Students need to learn persistence. Competition makes you stronger and I believe it is useful. Let the schools compete for the right to admit kids. Fostering competition improves the quality of education. Charter schools have also better performance than ordinary schools. The schools in the urban areas have a lot of work that needs to be done. The unions have a monopoly and I am not a big fan of them. We need to pay teachers more so as to attract them to the profession. There is a need to instil better discipline in schools to make it a safe environment for learning. The cost of education is also skyrocketing and needs to be controlled. Our society is also becoming more paper-chase in nature and many aspire to have a degree. The federal government should not be taking profit on student loans.

The Energy Debate: A Lot of Hot Air. The experts are not clear what they are doing. They can’t predict extreme weather accurately. There are many more pressing issues than climate change. To be honest, most Americans do not bother about climate change. Not every natural disaster is man-made. We are also spending a few billion dollars to develop technologies which we don’t need. Oil prices are too high. The fact is that there is still a lot of natural energy underground, sufficient for us to use for a few centuries. We are highly dependent on oil. We are often held hostage by the OPEC and then oil cartel. The US needs to drill our own oil. The Middle East is also unstable and all the more, we need to rely on our own sources of oil. Our priority is to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. To me, solar panels do not make economic sense and the cost exceeds the benefits. At least at the current stage of technology, it is not viable to be considered. Wind turbines are also troublesome. Bill Gates wants to invest in renewable energy research. Even wind power can emit more carbon dioxide if it is powered by gas-fired generation. To extract more oil, we will need fracking as well. This is also a great way to create new jobs for our economy.

Health Care is Making Us All Sick. I know how to buy good medical coverage at reasonable costs. Our ‘affordable care’ act was not very useful. Obamacare was too complex to be understood. The premiums are always increasing and it will get worse. It has to be repealed and replaced. Deductibles are way too high and even doctors are not happy. The paperwork is a nightmare. There is definitely a need for real healthcare reform and the single-payer system should not work. We should not cut either Social Security or Medicare benefits. The best way forward is to let people purchase different insurance companies across state lines. Increased competition will help to drive down prices.

It’s Still the Economy, Stupid. Many people doubted me. I am filthy rich. Most politicians do not have commercial experience and do not know how to pass a budget. That is really embarrassing. Many of them do not have the requisite leadership qualities. What we need is tough leadership to keep us going. Obama plays golf, but not with the right people. I love to shake up the status quo. This is leadership. Free market works, but only with good leadership. I will re-look at the tax code and ensure it should be biased towards the rich. Our national debt is too high and cannot afford to be any higher. Some people have suggested cutting social Security to reduce debt. We should not touch that money as many people rely on it. However, some of the rich people will not need Social Security. Jobs are being lost and the ‘real’ unemployment rate is over 20%. Whole industries have simply moved overseas because they could not compete. I sure know how to create jobs for the people. For instance, I do this via construction of golf courses, hotels etc. We shall start by negotiating better trade agreements. We have to bring back the jobs which we have lost along the way.

Our country is going through a bad time – I get it, and I know how to solve it. I’m a fighter. Knock me down, and I come back even stronger. I love it! – Donald Trump

Nice Guys can Finish First. I don’t mince my works. I will only do what is right for my country. I am very loyal to my family and friends. Terry Lundgren was not a loyal guy. I have an on-going lawsuit with Univision. Illegal immigration is a big issue and I am not afraid to talk about it. The American people seem to love me because I stand up for what I believe in and stand for their interests. A great leader should hold his principles and yet be savvy at negotiations. Many of the politicians can’t speak freely because they have to protect their own interest groups etc. My dad was a special man, who I learned a lot from.

That has always been my philosophy: If my critics attack me, then I’ll fight back. – Donald Trump

Lucky to be American. I won the ovarian lottery to be born in the US. With US citizenship, it conferred many rights. I fly the American flag in front of my house. The US flag is a symbol of equality, hope and fairness. Our soldiers are not being given enough protection in combat situations. We need to treat our war veterans better. The Department of Veterans Affairs is too political and not run competently. We will take good care of our veterans.

Being born in this country is a matter of luck. Being grateful and proud of this country and what it represents and honouring the people who have protected it is a privilege I am proud to share with all Americans. – Donald Trump

The Right to Bear Arms. In the second Amendment, people have the right to keep and bear arms. The government should trust the people with arms and the right to use them to defend themselves. I feel safer when I own guns. I also have a concealed-carry permit with me. There should be tests and people need to pass before they can carry guns. We need to start prosecuting violent criminals. Violent crime is bad in our inner cities. The Project Exile program, where if a criminal gets caught committing a crime with a gun, he would get 5 years jail at a minimum, worked. This project will help our community to become safer. Protecting ourselves is a big responsibility. We have to be vigilant when we spot crimes. People with mental issues should not be allowed to carry guns. For mass murderers, there are usually red flags that were not picked up before they committed the crimes. We need to revamp our mental health care system. The right to keep and bear arms is essential for law-abiding citizens.

Our Infrastructure is Crumbling. The conditions of our airport are simply horrible. Our infrastructure is deteriorating badly. It is falling apart and bridges have collapsed. Some of them might even be dangerous. LAX is a disaster as compared to airports in other cities. The power grid is out of date and can’t meet our power needs. The roads are filled with potholes. We really need to improve the infrastructure in our country. I have the ability to transform dilapidated buildings and make it better. It will be a massive undertaking but our infrastructure needs to be solved and improved for all Americans. In the process, jobs will be created. This will be one of my main priorities, to repair the infrastructure. This will help brings the jobs back.

Values. Rich people may not be nice. To me, family and religion make a big part in happiness. My parents were big influences in my life. I am always there for my kids. The church also had a strong influence on me. To me, the Bible is the most important book ever written. I try to visit church every Sunday. I have given women employees much freedom and treat them as equals.

I’m not going to pretend that being rich doesn’t offer a lot of wonderful opportunities, but it doesn’t necessarily make you happy. I’ve learned that wealth and happiness are two completely different things. – Donald Trump

A New Game in Town. The White House needs business acumen. We should be winning and not losing. I put my names on the products etc. We need to step up and make America brave again. Putin ignores Obama now. I am committed to the nation. You must not be away from walking away from a bad deal. When I make business deals, I keep pushing and pushing. We need to restore law and order in our courtrooms. My main message is ‘To America Great Again’.

Stand behind your word, and make sure your word stands up. – Donald Trump

Teaching the Media Dollars and Sense. Our media is hardly ‘objective’. Our media is very dishonest. Reporters like to twist the words and change what I want to say. However, it doesn’t bother me. I really respected my father as a friend and a mentor. I am the richest President in US history. I try my best to be accurate when filing my financial statements. Our country needs to stand up and fight.

A Tax Code that Works. Our tax system doesn’t work and is too complicated. I would want to provide tax relief for middle-class Americans. I want to provide security for its people. We need to eliminate deductions and loopholes for the very rich. I will also simplify the tax brackets. We need to grow the US economy and cannot let it standstill. I will make repatriation of money back to the US at a lower rate. This will ensure our country will be successful. Many of our US businesses are leaving the country and setting up shop outside the country. SMEs are the engine of our economy. How will you pay for this tax plan. This be largely paid via tax on the rich. We throw away billions of dollars each year and it is time we stop it. We want to bring the jobs back, for good this time.

Making America Great Again. I revived Commodore, a horrible building in a struggling city. I saw that it had potential. I never gave up persuading leads in order to secure the rights to build it. I worked with the cities and banks etc. The hotel was named the Grand Hyatt. This is my Trump quality brand. We can make our country great again. I have a vision where we need to accomplish our goals and ensure that we stand up to our enemies. I always emerge from our challenges and come up stronger. I will really do what it takes to make America great again. There is also a need to stop illegal immigration into our country. We also need a viable energy policy to use resources to power us back into economic prosperity. I have a proven track record. It is definitely important to learn to dream big. For the deals I have made, it certainly wasn’t easy and involved a lot of liaising work. Full employment is very important. Our best days have not passed us yet.




Singapore in Transition by Han Fook Kwang (Part 2)


This will never happen in Singapore. The state of cleanliness is troubling. Taiwanese people carry their trash with them. People were very hospitable when I visited. They do not wait for the government to solve their problems. They solve them. This is known as social capital. Singapore often pulls people apart. We need people to work together.

Maid industry needs a cleanup. Removing levy scheme and including amount under minimum wage a win-win deal for all. There has been increasing demand for domestic workers in recent years. Quality has suffered. Singapore also uses the levy system. Agencies have to look for low quality, lower cost maids. Most of them have rural backgrounds. HK has a minimum wage for them. It could be a win-win for employers. The Indonesian and Philippine government should establish a common maid agency.

The dirty truth about Singapore. Singaporeans’ poor social graces a result of a weak sense of community. Singaporeans seldom recycle goods. The service quality in Taiwanese restaurants was better than Singapore’s. The staff were polite and enthusiastic. Japanese have courteous behavior and are public-spirited. We, as a society, certainly have work to be done. There needs to be a strong sense of community and identity among the people. We need to look out for one another. Forging strong bonds requires hard work and effort. It isn’t easy to build a civic society.

To get our politics right, get the people sector right. This is where values needed to work together for larger good are cultivated. The author feels that the economy is not as strong as before. He feels that in areas like volunteerism, donations to charities, Singapore is sorely lacking. We do not do our best to help our fellow citizen. A free market society tends to reward the individual more than the community. There is a need to develop the people sector. Civil society is more vibrant than ever before. Singapore is at a turning point.

A world apart and invisible? Beyond their economic contributions, there’s little interest in what foreign works do, how they cope. Dec 8 was the Little India riots. Many Singaporeans hate dormitories with foreign workers. Maybe the foreign workers are transient too and do not want to interact with Singaporeans. Singaporeans need to reach out to them more. Most of them are not illiterate and not extremely poorly educated. Many workers take a year to repay their loans to get to Singapore via agent. Often, some employers do not pay employees on time. The good thing is that foreign workers are protected by the Employment Act. Singaporeans need to change our attitudes towards them.

How to be a smart city (technology not included). People’s actions matter more in making city a better place to live in. There is a new Smart Nation Programme Office. It’s about using technology to enhance performance. Singapore can emulate these 3 places in the world. In Singapore, you just have to throw rubbish down your rubbish chute, where it is much easier. We could use different coloured bins for disposal of different type of rubbish. Have bicycle lanes for cycling. There are many areas where Singapore can work in.

Don’t let hawker fare disappear. The odds are stacked against hawkers – the hours are long, prices of ingredients are high and the public won’t pay more. The food is cheap and you can’t find these sort of prices worldwide. Hawker food is uniquely Singapore. However, it might be a dying trend. Their wages are low and it is tedious work. The government should try to rejuvenate the business and encourage more to take up hawker fare.


Why I am Still Writing on Transport. Mr Sim Kee Boon believed that we could solve any problem if we focused hard. Issues like car population, encouraging people to take public transport still exists. Should Singapore transport system follow HK? Here, we use government Iinked corporations. COE definitely helped, but car prices fluctuate a lot nowadays. The government also has control over how it works.

Should transport system go the HK way? There is greater competition, which spurs innovation, but less order and control. We have strong central planning capabilities, which are good. Many foreigners have praised our transport system. HK also runs the place well. People in HK are even more reliant on public transport than anything else. Competition is fierce among the different transport providers in HK. There is a sole train player, MTR Corporation. There is less restructuring of bus routes vs MTR in HK. Singapore prefers to have fewer players in the market.

Car ownership scheme should be better managed. No policy should result in arbitrary price movements with no relation to economy. In order to raise COE prices, government can reduce the supply of COEs and lower ownership taxes. They can also relax the lending requirements for owning a car. The government often defends themselves by saying that market prices dictate the price of the COE. The COE market isn’t a free market as it artificially controlled. The government reduced supply of COEs too drastically, that caused an issue. In major cities, many people do not drive and take public transport. Examples include cities like Tokyo, London, New York etc.

Taxi woes and the ghost of 1985. Why that is with so many taxis on the road, taxi queues are often very long. The government decided to raise taxi fares. However, the public stopped using their services and demand fell. Later on, they let the taxi companies regulate their own fares. Taxi demand can be unpredictable. Fees must be able to be set sufficiently so that taxi drivers can make a decent living.

The road to new model of public transport. Singapore’s public transport was overhauled. Is a two company operator model bad? LTA needs to be a strong regulator and planner and understand transport requirements. They will also need to understand our bus operators. There is now the progressive wage model. How much subsidy should the government give bus companies to operate?

Shrinking pool of engineer poses national risk. Are our engineers competent enough? We need to have top-notch engineers. Many top students choose not to take engineering. Now, government is making changes to career development of engineers. There needs to be a steady stream of fresh recruits. We are not known to be an engineering powerhouse. NUS and Keppel Corp are developing cutting edge research facilities. Buying the technology from overseas is one thing, but we still need to maintain them at home.

Satellite-based ERP: Great technology but what’s the policy? This will happen in 2020. The more you use the roads, the more you will have to pay. However, this system doesn’t cost cheap. What is our policy going to be? Shouldn’t policies be settled before you call tender on this new technology? Shouldn’t there be more debate on such important matters?

Odds and Ends – Why I write. These are articles with no one theme. I often comment on public issues. I often like receiving alternative viewpoints on issues. Writing can force readers to think more deeply on pressing national issues, which I think is healthy.

Singtel vs Starhub: It gets curiouser and curiouser. There is huge competition between the two in pay-TV. However, there is no common box for the 2 telcos yet. This is a big problem. Singtel, in the past, won the rights to broadcast the BPL. This incurred the wrath of Starhub and consumers were forced to absorb the higher cost. Everyone ends up paying more in the end. Perhaps, they should devote more time into developing their own content.

Insurers should treat customers better. If they can’t explain premium increases and policy changes plainly, they need closer regulation. I had to play twice the premiums suddenly for virtually the same coverage. Insurance companies can just raise premiums as and when they like. There should be some degree of stability in the premiums to be paid. Those with no claims should be allowed to pay less also. There needs to be minimum standards of transparency and disclosure necessary.

Doctors v Doctors. Action must be taken to curb overcharging and ensure industry is in the pink of health. Surgery rates in the private hospitals are increasing at exponential rates. The Government has abolished guidelines on professional fees. Medical insurance has led to escalating costs. Measures should be put in place to control these costs. Wealthy foreigners also come to Singapore to receive health treatments, and this results in inflated costs. Most doctors are not motivated by money, but by a higher calling. The Singapore Medical Council needs to look more into such cases. Doctors still need to meet ethical and professional standards.

Build a winning football team…and national spirit. Make a strong commitment to take care of careers and lives of those selected for national duty. To be successful, we need a great domestic league and a system to identify talented individuals. Average S league attendances have not been good. The game is also dominated by Malays. Many parents feel a football career is too short. Our football budget is not high enough. As a result, some of our talented youngsters go overseas. Football is important as it is great for the nation to bond.

Set aside places in top schools for needy, bright children. There is the Straits Times pocket money fund. Is there a link between poverty and poor grades? Obviously if you have to worry about things at home, you will have less energy to focus on your studies. However, giving these kids pocket money can go a long way for them to take part in more school activities. Poverty has been shown to produce stress/anxiety, resulting in people’s worse decision making abilities. However, more still can be done.

There’s a haze twin that is more dangerous. Finding solutions harder in haze of ignorance and misinformation. Singapore has been trying to pinpoint which are the companies who have been polluting. Haze is taking its toll on public health. In Indonesia, the situation is of course much worse and babies have died because of the haze.

To improve education, go beyond the classroom. Instead, focus on aspects which impact community and society. In Japan, students have to bring their tablecloth, collect their food, scrub the floor and clean their own toilets. Through this, they learn to care for their environment. What happens outside the classrooms are also important. The Japanese people are known for their civic consciousness and social responsibility. Many students overseas also do part-time work in addition to studying.

Singapore In Transition

Singapore in Transition by Han Fook Kwang (Part 1)

Hope, anxiety and question marks

Introduction. He was the editor of the Straits Times from 2002 to 2012. Fook Kwang writes regularly columns in The Sunday Times. We are a more rounded society now. Singapore is thriving for more civic participation and diversity of views. How can the economy continue to grow He has learnt to take feedback in his stride.

Politics. In 1989, he joined the Straits Times as a journalist. Technology and social media changed how people viewed society and politics. The public is more outspoken nowadays. Are the leaders out of touch with what is happening on the ground? The public is becoming more demanding nowadays. GE 2011 showed what happens if the government doesn’t change fast enough. Fear is always still present. It is important to read and think about the articles.

The trouble with $2,200 bikes and $600 chairs. Why were Singaporeans so upset with these purchases? The bidding period for quotations would increase from 4 to 7 days. The issue was not unfair evaluation but also the sheer cost of the bikes. Spending $2,200 on a bike wasn’t typical household spending in Singapore. Does all government need to be analyzed using cost benefit analysis? Can they incorporate assessment methods like using common sense and instincts to decide? Can an organization develop a culture and values system to do the right thing? Is there a widening gap in expectations between the general public and public sector leadership? We all need to agree on what the future Singapore should look like.

The real fear: Being pushed out of home. At the root of disquiet over foreigners is basic human anxiety of being displaced. The number of foreign workers are a concern. Immigration is a hot topic everywhere. The issue is the dilution of our culture and values. Are the foreigners integrating into our society? Mr Lee Kuan Yew had great foresight and could foresee this problem many years ago. Nobody wants to be displaced from their own back-yard. There has been a strain on infrastructure in recent years. However, infrastructure can be continually improved. People have different views on immigration. The common man is worried about their job security and foreigners stealing their jobs. Nowadays, there is also high skilled labour entering Singapore’s shores. The government needs to recognize concerns from Singaporeans and yet do what it takes to continue having a vibrant workforce and economy.

Singapore the real winner in Punggol East by-election. The by-election was conducted fairly. The Workers Party are also a party which is not out to upend the status quo. They certainly do not have plans to become the next government straight away. WP often agrees with the positions of the PAP. WP needs to work on their policies to rival PAP’s. The electorate is more educated and sensible now. It is important to field the best candidate.

Government needs to regain people’s trust. White Paper debate shows people must be persuaded plans are in their interest. Many Singaporeans were unhappy at the White Paper. Is there a lack of public confidence in the government? People need to know that policies are in their best interest. Trust has to be earned and re-earned. There is certainly a measured approach which needs to be adopted when it comes to population growth. The government needs to explain how the increase in foreigners will benefit Singaporeans. This is crucial. The public must feel that the government is acting in their interest and is doing what is best for the country.

Who’s out of touch – our leaders or people?  While some feel the Government has become elitist, others say citizens are unrealistic. The public seems to be getting unhappier at major issues. Has the government gone soft? The first theme blames the government. If the policy makers lost touch with the ground, things might be difficult. Or are the people to blame for having unrealistic expectations of the government? Are they are grateful enough Policy makers need to deal with municipal issues as well.

50 and celebrating the spirit of questioning. People who bought property in the past were able to benefit from them. Many people have taken advantage of the real estate boom. This was one of Singapore’s icons of success. However, are resale flats too expensive? Are we a too materialistic society? Are we better off living in houses with inflated values? There are grave concerns over the Singapore economy. Are Singaporean companies losing their competitiveness? Is our economy in need of structural change? The public also wants a stronger opposition. Our government is never stagnant and is trying their best to rejuvenate the economy. As we turn 50, it is the best time to ask such questions.

What dark secret is in the Singapore basement? There are things every society is not proud to be associated with, but which still exist. What is the cost of economic growth?  Is there exploitation of cheap labour? 3 groups have sacrificed themselves for the sake of economic growth. One is the low-wage workers. However, programmes like Workfare are helping this group. Politicians who were opponents of the ruling party have suffered in the past. Some movies have also been banned in Singapore. There are also many low-wage foreign workers doing the jobs that Singaporeans do not want to pick up. These are the some of the trade-offs in our society.

Fear for Singapore propelled vote swing. Voters feared that the ruling party might be voted out. It would be the unthinkable. The opposition’s campaigns seemed to gain a lot of traction online. There was a fear the ruling party would lose seats and weaken it. Voters didn’t want to see 1 more GRC move to the opposition. Many voters could have been influenced by SG50. The WP kept emphasizing on checks and balances to improve governance. The opponent will have to thread carefully after this bad result. The WP will have to re-strategize and fight again.

Lee Kuan Yew. LKY was a fast worker. Back then, everything was handwritten and he would mail his comments to me. He would always ask reporters and editors on how his speech could be improved. LKY has a tremendous persistence and determination. Many of his initial ideas for Singapore were revolutionary at that time. Indeed, he still continues to loom large.

His conviction and personality shaped Singapore. LKY can look back at Singapore as his achievement. The country has progressed much since independence. Does the younger generation lack the understanding of what made Singapore succeed? His conviction was outstanding and he was relentless about his pursuit of success. Values were very important to him. Thankfully, PAP is never on autopilot and a lot of fine-tuning of policies need to be carried out. He can take pride on our new generation and the effort younger Singaporeans are putting in.

The original big-idea leader. His enduring legacy was that he had powerful ideas for Singapore and the courage and commitment to turn them into reality. Mr Lee was not concerned with winning his critics. The good thing about him was that he was not afraid of implementing new policies. He chose to bring in MNCs, have compulsory NS for males, introduced English as the common language and multi-culturialism. He had a great deputy, Dr Goh Keng Swee. The big institutions were under government control. Mr Lee is an extreme pragmatist. He believed in minimal public welfare and home ownership. Can Singapore sustain its growth? It remains to be seen.

I’m very determined. If I decide that something is worth doing, then I’ll put my heart and soul to it. The whole ground can be against me but if I know it is right, I’ll do it. – Lee Kuan Yew

What’s next for Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew. Passing of larger-than-life leader will bring inevitable change, but key question is what this entails. What will life be like? The current leadership will certainly feel his absence. Lee Kuan Yew also commanded a lot of respect from international leaders and Singapore’s reputation might be affected. Mr Lee had many views on rising China in the past and he built a strong relationship with global leaders. No current leader should try to emulate him though.

He wasn’t afraid to show his true colours. Open display of grief shows Mr Lee’s qualities mattered more than his actions. Mr Lee never sought adulation. He was a very serious leader. He was a very frugal man and wasn’t interested in wealth. This made him more relatable to ordinary Singaporeans. Singapore was his lifelong project. He was never afraid of public examination and he wasn’t afraid to be harsh, when necessary.

Singapore’s future according to LKY. He still thought that Singapore would be safe for 10 years. But beyond that, it depends on the other members of the team. There will be a time when the public wants to try the other side. Nobody can settle the future of a country beyond more than 10 years of his life.

Economy. Hope it isn’t the kiss of death for me. Stagnating wages have been an issue for a while now. Does the average Singaporean worker deserve higher pay than his neighbouring counterpart? How do we make workers in Singapore more competitive? People need to do their job well and display initiative in whatever they do. I was impressed by service staff overseas. Singaporeans have not developed this sense of taking pride in their work. We do not possess the deep skills and knowledge required to make our products/services world-class.

Who do you think owns your company? It’s hard to improve productivity unless employees feel a sense of ownership. Labour productivity growth rates haven’t been growing. The government has been investing a lot into the National Productivity Fund. There is a lot of financial support for start-ups. Will companies be over-reliant on government help? We need home-grown innovators. Productivity is crucial. Management’s problems should also be worker’s problems. If you ask the Japanese who owns their company, they will say that their companies belong to them too.

Do workers here believe that the company they work for belongs to them? If the answer to the question is no, if workers’ hearts are not in their companies, the company doesn’t deserve to be given taxpayers’ money. – Han Fook Kwang

The $6 billion question: Will government funds help SMEs to do better? How do you grow the pie each year so that everyone can benefit? Transformation of the SME industry was the strategy. We want to send workers’ for training and rely less on foreign labour. Singapore is known for the excellent infrastructure and tax incentives. The going will continue to get tougher. However, we have to be accountable for the amount spent in the budget. We need to review whether programmes have the desired effect.

When wages fail to grow along with economy? Stagnating incomes need to be tackled in earnest. Income rose from the 1965s to the 1990s. The median monthly rate increased tremendously. Starting salaries for fresh graduates haven’t been increasing much. Why is there economic growth but no wage increase? This issue is also not uniquely Singapore. Do we need a new growth model? These are important questions which need to be answered. Inflation rates have been rising. Will stagnating incomes affect the quality of living? If the ruling party can’t deliver good jobs and incomes, they might lose votes. Ultimately, they still need to care about the economy.

Do Singaporean workers deserve their wages? Why do our workers deserve a premium when they are not so productive? We do not fare well in case interviews too. Are our workers comparable with engineering firms in Germany? Many say workers in Singapore lack drive. We should be hungrier and more hardworking. Our workers need better skills and ability. The Swiss has managed to reinvent themselves. Let’s hope stagnating wages are not here to stay.

Is Singapore too business friendly for local firms? There are basically no entry barriers. We face the brunt of global competition. It is too easy to set up a business here than many want to try. Toyota and Nissan thrived at the start because of protectionist measures. Once they were bigger, Japan opened up their economy to trade etc. It can notorious for foreign firms to succeed in China. Japanese companies usually favour sub-contractors they know for a long time. Can the system be more nuanced? Can a more protectionist approach yield the new global Singapore firm?

Understanding productivity: Why we haven’t got it still. BCA has been encouraging construction firms to use technology. Our economy is struggling to achieve 2 to 4% of productivity growth. It is not so easy to get workers to produce more. Is the worker even doing the right job? Should he be doing something else? What is Singapore really good at producing? Restructuring of the economy comes into the picture, not just about productivity gains. There is also excessive focus on technology. We need to understand the human relationships in organizations and how employers/ employees interact

If workers do not believe that bosses are fair, that the company belongs to them as much as it does to shareholders, and that they have a future in it, no amount of skill or technology will help them excel. – Han Fook Kwang

Sake, windmills and the art of craftsmanship. Both how Japanese brew and the Dutch harness wind for energy is intriguing. There is a common pursuit of excellence. Be the best you can be. The master craftsman often hands down the skills to the younger ones. They are constantly thinking of new ways to improve the brew. They treat their job with utmost respect and care. The Dutch needed to be good at harnessing energy from windmills as they needed to clear waterlogged lands. The country sits on low-lying land. It is a deep Dutch tradition.

What it takes to get the economy buzzing. Singapore relies on trade and connections with neighbours. We lack enough dynamic individuals to take us forward. We need to develop a culture of entrepreneurship. We need to do our jobs well. People in Japan, Netherlands are very resourceful.

Singapore In Transition