Donald Trump is really, really rich.
If you don’t believe that, just ask Donald Trump.
And the latest personal financial disclosures Trump has released puts his wealth at an astounding $10 billion.
However, there doesn’t seem much to back up that claim beyond simply taking Donald Trump’s word for it — his repeated, aggressive word for it. After all, that’s the difficulty with a self-reported status of wealth; there is nothing to back up the claim of wealth beyond the person’s word.
Of course, releasing tax returns for current years would help, but Donald Trump now refuses to do so, despite the fact that he began his campaign with promises of financial transparency. He then indicated that he would release his tax returns ahead of the first Republican debate back in August of 2015 but later walked that promise back. In September, after the unveiling of his own tax plan, Trump vaguely promised to release his own returns in the “not too-distant future.”
Trump continued to tease the press with promises of release, and then made the claim that he could not, in fact, release his returns because he had been audited every year for the past 12 years.
Signing my tax return…. pic.twitter.com/XJfXeaORbU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2015
The IRS, Trump claimed, targeted him unfairly because he is a “very strong Christian.”
And now, despite the fact that the IRS has said clearly that an ongoing audit is absolutely no reason to hinder Trump’s release of his tax returns — after all, Richard Nixon released his tax returns during an audit — Trump still refuses to do so. But instead of trying to pass off his lack of transparency as something beyond his control, Trump now says bluntly that his tax returns are no one’s business and that the voters aren’t interested.
But Trump’s wealth has been subjected to rigorous analysis and investigation and much of what has been found indicates that Trump has repeatedly inflated his own wealth.
In fact, most recent estimates of Trump’s worth putts in somewhere between $2.9 and $4.5 billion rather than $10 billion — or, as Trump’s own release put it, TEN BILLION.
Of course, that still puts him in a category of wealth that most will never see, but it’s still more than 50 percent less than what Trump claims to be worth. And it’s not the first time that Trump’s wealth has been found to be overly inflated by the self-reported billionaire.
Trump’s wealth was a focus of a 2005 biography, written by Tim O’Brien, who found that Trump was, indeed, wealthy — but not nearly as wealthy as what Trump himself claimed.
“Three people with direct knowledge of Donald’s finances, people who had worked closely with him for years, told me that they thought his net worth was somewhere between $150 million and $250 million. By anyone’s standards this still qualified Donald as comfortably wealthy, but none of these people thought he was remotely close to being a billionaire.”
Trump dismissed O’Brien’s claims. Trump had told O’Brien himself that anyone who said his wealth was less than what he himself claimed were simply jealous.
“You can go ahead and speak to guys who have four-hundred pound wives at home who are jealous of me, but the guys who really know me know I’m a great builder.”
Trump ended up trying to sue O’Brien for $5 billion. His case was thrown out.
Forbes, the magazine that has made a name for itself for actually counting the money of rich people also took a look at Trump’s wealth. It wasn’t an easy task, Forbes claimed, and that the process involved “interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune.”
Forbes summarily dismissed Trump’s claim that he was worth $10 billion and pegged Trump’s wealth to be somewhere around $4 billion. Again, $4 billion is a lot but falls significantly short of $10 billion.
Trump sweated the claim — not for its accuracy, but for how it made him look.
“I’m worth much more than you have me down [for]. I don’t look good, to be honest. I mean, I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion.”
Bloomberg arrived at an even lower figure in July of 2015, putting Trump’s wealth at $2.9 billion.
So how does Trump come to his $10 billion figure? It’s pretty simple — if not exactly truthful or even mathematically accurate. He simply values everything he owns and estimates their worth at a much higher figure.
For example, he valued his golf courses at $2 billion, whereas they are actually worth an estimated $570 million.
Of course, so much of this could be cleared up if Trump would simply show his tax returns. So why won’t he? After all, it isn’t that he pays a much lower effective tax rate than middle-class Americans do that he is trying to hide — he admitted that he fights as hard as he can to pay as little in taxes as he possibly can. Instead, many now speculate that what may be fueling Trump’s reluctance to release his tax returns is that his wealth is simply not as tremendous as Trump himself claims it to be.
In fact, the repeated claim by Donald Trump that he is a spectacularly wealthy, successful businessman may be the biggest whopper he’s told yet.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News]