It’s been more than two years since the last post here at Rhoades to Madness. The reasons for this lengthy hiatus are many, but the reason for my return is singular:
We have arrived at madness.
A little less than two weeks ago, my country elected Donald Trump as its President, a stunning end to a revolting election cycle. As a straight white man, I was horrified. I can’t begin to imagine what a gut-punch this must have been for women, minorities, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community that Trump’s campaign repeatedly threatened and now has the means to carry out those threats.
I can and will speak more to all of that…later. The fact is, Trump won on the back of these hideous threats, not despite them. America’s complicity in this is an even more horrifying prospect, and needs more room to unpack.
Today, I’m just going to talk about something that seems inexplicably destined to be a footnote in Trump’s ascendancy: The Trump University Fraud case.
On Friday, Trump settled with over 6,000 former students of Trump University, all of whom alleged that the instruction they received was either inadequate or non-existent. At least one claimed to have spent over $35,000 in tuition at the University and that all he got was “books he could have got at the library.”
During his campaign, Trump was emphatic about his desire to win this suit and clear his name. He has also repeatedly railed against the very concept of “settling” and has even attacked other businessmen who’ve settled suits against them. In May, he even attacked a judge handling two of the cases, claiming that the judge’s Mexican heritage would unduly affect his decisions. Despite all of this, the judge granted a delay that put the suit out of play until after the election. Now that the election is over, however, and Trump is victorious, this suit is apparently beneath his attention.
At first, the $25 million settlement might look like a victory for the claimants. It might even look like a kinder, gentler Trump is emerging, one who is willing to put the country’s interests above his own. He was, after all, determined to fight (and win!) this thing.
But then, we do the math.
Naturally, only a fraction of that $25 million actually goes to the claimants. Much of it will go to lawyers, court costs, and other fees. But even assuming that every penny went to the over 6,000 people who brought the suit, they’d receive less than $4,200 each. That barely begins to recover the tuition paid to a school that allegedly taught nothing and now doesn’t even exist.
These 6,000 people were Trump’s first supporters. They believed that the Trump name and Trump’s business acumen could help them achieve a better life. They thought that if they could get just a fraction of his knowledge, or be imparted just a bit of his skill, they could improve their standing. Well before Trump declared his run for President, well before the rallies, well before the red “Make America Great Again” hats, these people believed in Donald Trump.
One of Trump’s foundational campaign promises was jobs. Jobs will be created, jobs will be brought back from places like Mexico and China, jobs will return to America one way or another. And here was a golden opportunity! 6,000 Americans, students of his own University, could have been put to work somewhere in his real estate empire or even in his administration. Trump could have returned on this investment in him. He chose not to.
Trump’s current supporters should be taking a long, hard look at this settlement. If they really believe that a President Trump can make their lives better, that the trust they put in him will be repaid, that he can create millions of jobs…well. He couldn’t even create 6,000.
Perhaps Trump University has something to teach us after all.