The Art of the Schlemiel

June 13, 2018

According to my grandmother, “A schlemiel is the bumbling oaf who spills hot soup on someone in a restaurant, and then complains that his bowl is half empty.  This is not to be confused with a schlamazel, who is the poor schmuck wearing the soup.”

As the dust settles from the disastrous marathon of manhandled foreign policy over which took place over past few days, there is so much for us as a nation to reflect on…

But that is what I am not going to do.

The press, who’s cacophonous coverage of the events could best be described as an  macerated abortion of relevance and authenticity, seemed so keen to continuously remind us of Donald Trump’s 1987, ghost-written, semi-autobiographical business tome, The Art of the Deal.  As if it were somehow a testament to, if nothing else, Trump’s business acumen and negotiatory prowess.  So I thought it would be apt to explore the multitude Trump’s business successes which such a carefully wordsmithed business book (which Trump himself dishonestly plugged as the best-selling ever) would be validated by.

There were none.  I mean, none.  I could not find a single example of a successful venture in the decade after the book was written which could possibly be categorized as a success. In fact, by 1990, Trump was essentially in financial ruin.  His junk-bond financing of the Trump Taj Mahal was in jeopardy, having to borrow from the banks in order to make the $43 million interest payment.  This is despite the fact that he had essentially cannibalized the earnings from his other two Atlantic City casino ventures to the point of near-bankruptcy.  His Trump Shuttle airline was hemorrhaging cash.  He had to sell his $24 million yacht and temporarily cede managerial control over to the banks in order to restructure his debts.  New Jersey regulators determined that his debt around this time exceeded $3.4 billion. In December of that year, the only way Trump made his payment on another casino, Trump Castle, was through an illegally procured loan from his father. 

By 1991 the Trump Taj Mahal was in bankruptcy court, Trump had to give up 50% of his interest in exchange for lower interest rates (Trump Hotels and Casinos later purchased this property in 1996, only to run into the ground once again).  While open, it should not go unmentioned that the casino was a haven for Russian organized crime and under constant scrutiny for money laundering and other rackets.

Also in 1991 Trump Shuttle was in default when Trump could no longer make payments on the $135 million which he personally guaranteed.  Trump’s interests were transferred to Northwestern Airlines and by 1992, Trump Shuttle went the way of the dodo, and with the grace of the gooney.


These are just the lowest points, but not in any way inclusive of the stunning and unparalleled list of business blunders since The Art of the Deal was published, here are some more which have been oft mentioned:

Trump: The Game

Trump Beverages

Trump American Pale Ale

Trump Magazine

Trump Mortgage

Trump Steaks

Trump’s travel site: GoTrump(dot)com

Trumpnet (some communication company which never launched)

Trump Tower Tampa

Trump University

Trump Vodka (still technically exists for now)

Keep in mind, many of the above ended in civil litigation between Trump and his investors, stakeholders or customers, many of which are still pending.  His modus operandi has always been to make what he can and leave others holding the bag.

In fact, there is little evidence to back up Trump has any real business skills, other than an uncanny ability to curate his name into a brand and somehow attract viewers to a reality show.

If that is presidential then I guess we should prepare for President Hilton in a couple decades.

I must admit that the name Trump lends itself well to branding, could you imagine if he was born Donald Goldfarb?  None of his current significant businesses are actually managed by Trump, even prior to his election.  He simply puts his name on it and hopes it makes money, and that seems to be his only real success.

Donald Trump is considered a business genius in the same way that Elvis On Velvet is considered art. He has lost far more money than he has earned and broken more lives than he has improved, and now he is working his magic on the country, making schlamazel out of us all.