Bricks and Mortars

Kushner's nightmare

By Lawrence Reichard | Apr 13, 2018

Recently I wrote about the tightening of President Trump's inner circle. But that may be child's play compared to the noose tightening around his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

This guy has some serious potential for meltdown. Never mind special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Kushner's possible trading on his lofty White House position for $500 million in business loans ― look at the loans themselves. Were the loans made, at least in part, to shore up Kushner's substantial losses on 666 Fifth Avenue, a building with a woeful occupancy rate that loses $30 million a year and is worth only three-fourths of the $1.8 billion Kushner paid for it?

The Kushner family poured in $500 million of the purchase price and leveraged the rest. And now the Kushners are staring at a $1.2 billion note due next year. The word is out: 666 Fifth Avenue ― like some of Kushner's other properties ― is toxic, and few are the investors who want to come under Bob Mueller's microscope. The termites in Jared Kushner's financial walls are getting louder, and it may be getting hard to sleep at night.

Meanwhile, President Trump has over the years pulled an amazing hat trick. He has turned failure into a business model. He has repeatedly run his businesses into icebergs only to swim away unscathed and then market himself as the world's greatest swimmer.

But as a business model that's hard to emulate. It takes chutzpah, and flamboyance. Jared Kushner has neither.

Like Trump, Kushner sucks at business. The fact is Kushner, like Trump and like most rich people, was born rich. And Trump is up to his eyeballs in debt.

The difference is that Trump may be oblivious to the termites devouring his edifice. But not so Kushner, who perpetually looks like he just emerged from a very brief meeting with Vito Corleone. And maybe he did, though his Corleone may have more of a Frankfurt accent.

For 30 years or more, Trump has had lifeboats to cling to as his businesses have repeatedly sunk. Those lifeboats are his name and his flamboyance. In recent years Trump has made the bulk of his income not from building, but from selling his name, his brand, and he has pumped up his brand by invading American homes with televised bluster. But Kushner has all the flamboyance of a Belfast Bay clam. No lifeboat there.

Kushner is foundering. He is thrashing about, gasping for air, like so many in Trump's White House, only more so. Trump, ever the showman, repeatedly told the world what a great job Kushner was doing with Middle East peace. But he was setting Kushner up for failure.

Kushner knows precious little about the Middle East. The best he can do is follow his instinct, which is to just agree with whatever Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says and does. But that's no way to peace, as was dramatically demonstrated by the March 30 killing of 18 peaceful Palestinian protesters and the wounding of 1,700 more at the hands of Netanyahu's armed-to-the-teeth cops and soldiers.

So Kushner has wisely given up on Middle East peace and has set his eyes on something he thinks will be easier. Something, anything, to show for a year of hanging around the White House looking like an Easter Island statue.

Mexico. That's it. That's the ticket. That's where he'll make his mark.

But it's unclear exactly what Kushner wants in Mexico. Does Kushner want Mexico to finally say it's going to pay for a border wall? That won't happen. Does Kushner want Mexico to issue some sort of vague promise to clamp down on undocumented migration?

Undocumented migration has long been a pressure valve on a Mexican economy that chronically fails to provide enough jobs to a young, growing and restless population. Asking Mexico to stop undocumented migration is asking Mexico to lock down that pressure valve. They won't do it.

Large-scale unemployment can lead to unrest, and unrest is decidedly bad for business. Unrest can lead to utter ruin, especially in a country still very mindful of its 1910-1920 revolution ― and of the bloody 1968 Tlatelolco uprising that killed hundreds of students; its 50th anniversary is this year.

And no one, much less the vastly inexperienced Jared Kushner, is going to get anywhere with Mexico while the boss incessantly undercuts U.S.-Mexico relations with a veritable blizzard of tweets insisting that Mexico pay, and will pay, for a wall that is a racist insult, a wall that runs headlong into Mexico's social and economic interests.

And then there's the evil-twin NAFTA tweets, a near constant drumbeat of tweeted threats to rip up NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA has devastated Mexico's rural economy by flooding Mexico with vast quantities of excessive ― and subsidized ― U.S. agricultural production. This disaster has pushed millions off their ancestral lands, into prodigious informal urban economies and into urban jobs in manufacturing for export. Tearing up NAFTA would throw a grenade into that dynamic.

Mexican workers can't just get on buses and head back to lands they no longer own. Trump and Kushner have no idea what might happen in Mexico if NAFTA were abrogated. Rapid economic disruption can create armies of refugees ― just ask Europe. And Mexican refugees won't be heading for Germany.

In other words, Kushner is again in way over his head, and without the benefit of the bluster and bravado that keep Donald Trump inflated. And with Robert Mueller nipping at his heels, Kushner is sinking deeper by the day. Kushner's life is like a nightmare episode of Trump's reality show "The Apprentice." Only for Kushner, it's all too real.

Lawrence Reichard is a first-place Maine Press Association winner, freelance writer and activist living in Belfast.


 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.