Thursday, April 6, 2017

There's Only So Much Indignation To Go Around

Warning: This is going to be a long post, and a bit of a rant. So everyone, please take a deep breath and stick with me. Or not. Your choice. :)

A couple of days ago, I saw a Facebook post (from whom, I can’t remember) that fell under the “indignation click-bait” category. You know the type … all those pre-election posts with the screaming headlines along the lines of “OMG, what they just found will sink Hillary/Trump forever!” in pretty much equal number between the two major candidates.

Oppose Trump if you wish on policy matters. You are even free to dislike him personally. That is your right. But save your outrage for things that actually have some substance.

Apparently the latest indignation in the leftward quarters concerns the fact that President Trump can (gasp) draw money out of his own accounts! Release the hounds! Let the impeachment hearings begin!

Can we have a little sanity? Please? As I understand it, all of a sitting president’s personal assets go into a “blind trust,” meaning he (or she) has no say and no knowledge of which assets within, say, an investment portfolio are being bought or sold. This is done, of course, to head off the possibility of the president giving preference in legislative or executive matters to some entity he has a financial interest in.

Having one’s assets in a blind trust does not, however, prevent the owner of the assets from withdrawing money. Again if I understand it correctly, the manager(s) of the blind trust will be the ones to decide which asset(s) are to be liquidated to supply the owner with the requested cash.

I don’t have a trust, and if I did, it wouldn’t be blind, because I am not the president, nor do I hold any other high office. Or any office at all. But to put this in its simplest terms, let’s say I have a savings account at my local bank. (Yes, I know savings accounts are just about the worst investment there is in today’s financial climate, but stick with me here.) I put money in the savings account, and the bank invests that money and pays me a small percentage of the profits on those investments. I have no idea exactly what those investments are, what companies, what funds, etc. And when I withdraw money from the savings account, I do not ask, nor do I really need to know, which assets and which investments will need to be liquidated to give me the cash I’m asking for.

My simple savings account example can be, in large part, extrapolated to the president’s situation. He is entitled to withdraw his own money from the trust, but while he is president, he is not allowed to decide or even to know which assets are being bought and sold to give him the cash. I expect, though, that the trustees would have some guidelines in place as to which sorts of investments are the preferred liquidation targets. This way, they could not, for example, sell off Trump Tower without Trump knowing about it.

So . . . why would the president need cash?

How many of us know that living in the White House is NOT a free ride? Yes, the rent is covered by we the taxpayers, but all personal expenses including food and soap and toothpaste and the like are covered by the resident first family. Laura Bush wrote in her autobiography that every month, they were presented with a bill for groceries and the like. She also wrote that she was “expected” to purchase a large number of designer gowns, on her own dime, in order to keep up the image precedents set by previous first ladies.

A president who, like most, is being paid and accepting the salary for the job, has money to pay those bills and any others he/she incurs for personal expenses. But what about a president who, like Trump or Kennedy before him, is donating his salary to charities? With no income, how are they supposed to pay for groceries? Soap and toothpaste? School expenses for their children? Gas for their personal vehicles back home? The utility bills and homeowners’ insurance for their personal residence back home? Etc., etc., etc.?

Um . . . they withdraw money from their savings account? Or their blind trust?

So, in other words, this whole hullabaloo about Trump spending his own money is just another nothing-burger. You don’t like his policies? That’s your right. You don’t like his hair? Go ahead and pile on. You don’t like his tweets? Tweet back—but please tweet something with substance, not just ad hominem attacks. But don’t get on his case about using his own money to pay his everyday expenses. Okay?

Now, if it were to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the president or any other high government official was using his own money to bribe others or commit treason, that would be an entirely different ball game, worthy of genuine outrage. So far, however, there is no such proof. If there is evidence, let the investigations go forth. But again, at this moment in time, there is no reason to get indignant over President Trump spending his own money for his own expenses.

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