Monday, March 6, 2017

Reducing taxpayer cost of maintaining Trump family

To Senators Shelby and Strange and Representatives Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer and Sewell

Can Congress do anything to reduce the taxpayer cost of maintaining President Trump and his family?

Just how much is too much for the taxpayers to be called on to pay?

Is the situation that of President Trump practicing his "art of the deal" prowess on the American people, in which Congress needs to negotiate on behalf of the American people against President Trump?

Costs of President Trump's family living arrangements
One current estimate is that Melania and Barron's living in New York is costing New York about $150,000 a day, and New York is seeking reimbursement from the Federal government and the American taxpayers of these costs..

The Hill estimates that the cost of a President Trump weekend  at Mar-a-Lago (now up to four weekends) is $3,000,000 per weekend

This is while the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago (owned by the Trump organization) was recently doubled from $100,000 to $200,000.

Many people want access to President Trump, and profits will accrue to Mar-a-Lago from people who want to "pay to play" or augment their social profile by hobknobbing with President Trump.

Besides the costs to taxpayers, these opulent living arrangements for President Trump and his family are imposing significant business costs on other people. This is being reported currently in the Mar-a-Lago area. Businesses in the Trump Tower area suffered significant costs before January 20th. The situation currently is not clear.

Taxpayers paying for Trump business
President Trump is giving every indication that he seeks to increase his wealth as much as possible while he is President, and he will exploit the Presidency to benefit the Trump family business. Moreover, taxpayers are going to pay costs in support of the Trump profit making enterprise.

In January, Eric Trump made a Trump organization promotional trip to Uruguay, and the United States taxpayers will foot a bill of about $100,000.

. As the news article reporting on the Uruguayan trip says:
The Uruguayan trip shows how the government is unavoidably entangled with the Trump company as a result of the president's refusal to divest his ownership stake. In this case, government agencies are forced to pay to support business operations that ultimately help to enrich the president himself. Though the Trumps have pledged a division of business and government, they will nevertheless depend on the publicly funded protection granted to the first family as they travel the globe promoting their brand.
Only time will tell how much money the Trump organization will make off the Trump Presidency, and how much taxpayers will pay in support of the Trump family business.

Trump's "art of the deal" with the American people
One can only marvel at President Trump's deal making prowess in the above deal he is (unilaterally) sticking the American people with, including taxpayer support of the lavish living style of President Trump and his family, exploiting the Presidency to increase his family wealth and making the Trump businesses more profitable, and getting taxpayers to pay costs in support of the Trump business enterprise.

Many people were dubious about President Trump's character and motivations in running for President and thought he ultimately would be seeking his own glorification and did not care very much about helping the American people. The "art of the deal" President Trump is practicing on the American people will only be validation for the skepticism of these people about President Trump.

Those who are ardent Trump supporters may begin to have doubts about President Trump's character and motivations in considering the above deal President Trump is trying to stick the American people with.

Those supporters may start to find some hollowness in the President words in his inauguration address. As President Trump lives his opulent life style at taxpayer expense and as he exploits the Presidency to increase the Trump family wealth, supporters may wonder how genuine President Trust was in saying things such as
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
Congress needed to represent American people in the deal
In this unilateral deal that President Trump is trying to stick the American people with, Congress needs to step forward and represent the American people.

The below Feb. 22nd op/ed piece in The Wall Street Journal makes a good suggestion that Congress ought to put forth on behalf of the American people for their deal with President Trump. The idea is basically to put the Trump business in a public trust while President Trump is in office, with profits to flow to the Federal government while President Trump is in office and those profits can be used to pay for both the lavish lifestyle of President Trump and his family and also to support the conduct of the Trump business.

Congress may come up with other ideas in negotiating for the American people against President Trump.

A Real Fix for Trump’s Conflicts of Interest

Congress should establish a public trust to oversee his company.

Shortly before becoming president, Donald Trump announced that his business empire would be placed into a trust overseen by his two eldest sons. All profits generated by foreign governments at his hotels will be transferred to the U.S. Treasury. The plan represents a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough to settle doubts about conflicts of interest in the Trump administration.
Congress and the president should instead work together to establish a public trust that oversees the Trump Organization throughout Mr. Trump’s presidency. All profits from the business would be paid directly to the U.S. government. His family could still be involved in the business, but ultimate authority would go to a congressionally appointed independent government trustee or board.
The profits could be used, among other things, to offset the cost of Mr. Trump’s weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago or the extra security required for his family at Trump Tower in New York. Since the government would have ultimate control over the business, it would have an incentive to align the interests of the business with those of the country. If a particular deal is good for the Trump Organization but bad for the U.S., the company would side with what’s best for America.
The president in West Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 17.
The president in West Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 17.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
This solution is not without difficulties. As head of the executive branch of government, Mr. Trump could define the “national interest” in ways that unduly favor his business interests. The Trump children and other employees of the Trump Organization, who know better than any government overseer, could manipulate “profits” and investments to postpone revenues and reduce the amounts to be paid to the government.
Nevertheless, government ownership and control may be the best of many imperfect options. It would provide greater transparency about exactly what the Trump Organization’s interests, assets and liabilities are. This could facilitate more-open debate on how conflicts of interest should be resolved. Ambiguity only encourages unfounded speculation and conspiracy theories.
Congress could try to go it alone and pass such a plan with veto-proof majorities, though it would be standing on shaky legal ground because of the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. But Mr. Trump should realize that such a proposal is in his best interest. This setup would severely undercut any argument that he is working in his company’s interest, not the country’s. As soon as he leaves office, his family will likely inherit a strong and untainted business.
If Mr. Trump continues his current strategy, he can expect an endless stream of lawsuits, boycotts, political criticism and second-guessing of his motivations. Handing off the company would stop much of that immediately. And if he does well as president, his business will prosper. Joining these public and private interests would be exactly the kind of innovative solution that Mr. Trump applauded as a businessman.
Mr. Cohen is a professor of law at the University of Virginia.

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