A new analysis by Bloomberg challenges Donald Trump's claim that he is worth more than $10 billion. Based on the company's standardized method for estimating billionaires' wealth, Trump is worth only about $2.9 billion, even less than Forbes's estimate of $4.1 billion.
"Trump’s golf and resort properties are valued at a combined $570 million, based on price-to-sales ratios for similar properties," write Bloomberg's Caleb Melby and Richard Rubin. "Trump said last month that these holdings are worth $2 billion based on the June 2014 figures, without disclosing his methodology."
Trump's wealth has been an important part of his pitch to voters. "I’m really rich," he told voters when announcing his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. "That’s the kind of thinking you need for this country."
In defense of that self-assessment, Bloomberg's analysis does not include a complete look at one of Trump's most important assets: his name. In recent years, as The Washington Post's Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman reported, Trump's business model has been to license the use of his name in real estate projects around the world for a fee, investing none of his own money. Trump values his personal brand at $3.3 billion, an estimate that makes clear he is as much a salesman as an investor.
What's in Wonkbook: 1) Highway bill 2) Opinions, including Ponnuru on Clinton 3) Jeb Bush and the Florida housing bubble, and more
1. Top story: Highway bill dead on arrival
The House leadership will not consider the Senate's highway compromise. "House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy drew a line in the sand Monday, telling reporters that the House will not take up a Senate-passed highway bill, no matter the outcome of the upper chamber's deliberations. The House is scheduled to recess on Thursday, and with the Senate advancing its highway bill at a glacial pace, it remains unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to pass his long-term Highway Trust Fund extension by then. ... He said McConnell should bring up the House's bill that extends highway funding for five months, which would then give the chambers time to pass a longer-term bill or go to conference to resolve their disagreements." Daniel Newhauser in National Journal.
Even if they did, the bill won't be amended to repeal the Affordable Care Act. "Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) abruptly dropped his highly tactical plan to sidestep Senate rules and force a repeal vote. For several days leading up to the vote, the firebrand conservative had pledged to use arcane Senate procedure to attach an amendment repealing ObamaCare to the highway bill. But Lee changed course late Monday night, shortly after negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)... Lee announced his ObamaCare repeal plan on Friday, just as the Senate voted on a McConnell-backed amendment to repeal ObamaCare in the highway bill – one that had been doomed to fail because it did not meet the 60-vote threshold. Conservative groups like Heritage Action blasted that vote as a 'show vote' by McConnell." Sarah Ferris in The Hill.
The legislation doesn't solve any of the problems of highway funding. "In the Senate a bipartisan group is trying to pass a 'long-term' bill, by which they mean six years of increased road spending and three years of Mickey Mouse funding. ... Mainly the bill is a slightly larger status quo. Transportation spending would increase by $76 billion above current law, or about 3% a year. Politicians in Washington will still pick winner and loser states as they have since Eisenhower. The bike trails, scenic overlooks and trolley cars that consumed 25 cents of every gas-tax dollar in 2014 will proceed as scheduled. ... A real long-term bill with fresh thinking would give more responsibility to Governors, who are more likely to invest in repair, maintenance and modernization. We’re not among those who think the federal government has no role to play in highways, but no doubt Americans can and would pay to relieve congestion and encourage interstate commerce if they had more confidence in the stewards of those dollars," writes the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.
RAMPELL: Weirdly, the bill would also allow the IRS to privatize debt collection. "Tucked into a dusty corner of the Senate’s Highway Trust Fund bill — legislation that must pass before the fund runs dry on July 31 — is a zombie proposal to hire private debt-collection agencies to hound delinquent taxpayers on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has actually tried outsourcing tax collection activities to private debt collectors before, at Congress’s behest. Twice, in fact, over the last two decades. Both times, the experiment was a disaster. Privatizing delinquent tax collections led to complaints from taxpayers who got harassed and bullied by an industry known for rampant harassment and bullying... Perhaps more important, at least from a fiscal responsibility perspective, both times the program was scrapped because it actually cost taxpayers money on net." The Washington Post.
2. Top opinions
SARGENT: Republican voters favor deportation for undocumented immigrants. "A majority of Republicans does not think the undocumented should be allowed to live and work here even if they pay a fine and meet other requirements. This should not obscure the fact that a substantial number of Republicans are, in fact, open to legalization; it’s just that more of them apparently aren’t. ... There is a deep and intractable divide between the two parties on what to do about the undocumented population." The Washington Post.
PONNURU: Hillary Rodham Clinton's economic views are incoherent. "The most consistent story she could tell would be that everything went wrong with Reagan. ... But the story doesn't really fit the facts. The booms of the 1980s and 1990s benefited most Americans, with compensation rising and most people saying they were satisfied with how things were going. The decline of unions was not mostly the result of Reaganite hostility: It's a trend that was already underway when John F. Kennedy was president, and seems to have had a lot to do with the inability of unionized companies to compete with non-unionized ones. Perhaps worse from a political perspective, that story also makes Bill Clinton appear to have been ineffectual in protecting American workers from conservatism -- or, worse, to have collaborated with it." Bloomberg View.
BERSHIDKSY: Europeans are talking real unification now. "Now that Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan has joined calls to create a political union, parliament and budget for the euro zone, it's clear that closer euro area integration is on the immediate agenda. And it's no wonder: The Greek crisis has brought the issue to a head. Greece's new status as a 'colony' under tight outside control, much bemoaned by critics of the country's third bailout, now looks as if it may be a precursor to what awaits all the other countries that use the euro. ... He says euro area finance ministers, in their meetings on the Greek problem, have begun discussing closer integration. And he predicts the talks will be revived in September. The Italian finance minister appears to be on the same page as French President Francois Hollande, who last week resumed his call for a euro zone government." Bloomberg View.
The Greek crisis has brought the continent to the verge of collapse, writes economist Shahin Vallée. "It has undermined what little Franco-German cooperation was left in economic affairs; it has made the single currency as it stands politically indefensible in France; and it has substantially increased the risk of euro exit across the monetary union. ... Germany established that some democracies are more equal than others. By doing so, the agreement has sought to remove politics and discretion from the functioning of the monetary union, an idea that has long been very dear to the French. ... The currency union that Germany wants is probably fundamentally incompatible with the one that the French elite can sell and the French public can subscribe to. ... This will force all parties, including pro-European ones, to engage in a discussion about the potential merits of leaving the currency union and it will encourage political posturing, especially in France, where there is an undercurrent of Germanophobia that is easy to rekindle." The New York Times.
3. In case you missed it
Jeb Bush can thank Florida's housing bubble for his economic success as governor. "According to interviews with economists and a review of data, Florida owed a substantial portion of its growth under Bush not to any state policies but to a massive and unsustainable housing bubble — one that ultimately benefited rich investors at the expense of middle-class families. The bubble, one of the biggest in the nation, drove up home prices and had many short-term benefits for the state, spurring construction, spending and jobs. But the collapse of the housing bubble as Bush left office in 2007, after eight years of service, sent Florida into a recession deeper than that in the rest of the country, and hundreds of thousands lost their homes." Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post.
The Federal Reserve gets a few fresh faces. "Patrick T. Harker will take a seat at the Fed’s 27-foot mahogany table as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Harker was picked for the job in March and took his post July 1. He replaces Charles Plosser, who had led the regional bank for nearly a decade and was an outspoken critic of the Fed’s easy-money stance. It’s unclear whether Harker shares his predecessor's philosophy. ... Monetary policy is at a crossroads. ... Many of the officials who responded during the darkest hours of the crisis have since moved on, including then-Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. His second-in-command, Janet Yellen, is now at the helm of the Fed, and there already has been significant turnover within the top ranks -- with more still to come." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.
Wildfires have charred millions of acres in Alaska. "The staggering 2015 Alaska wildfire season may soon be the state’s worst ever, with almost 5 million acres already burned — an area larger than Connecticut. The pace of the burn has moderated in the last week, but scientists say the fires are just the latest indicator of a climatic transformation that is remaking this state — its forests, its coasts, its glaciers, and perhaps most of all, the frozen ground beneath — more than any other in America. ... Arguably the most dramatic change — threatening to transform the state’s 126 million acres of forests and, perhaps, worsen climate change in the process — is occurring with the state’s wildfires. Alaska’s forests make up 17 percent of the U.S. total, and while they’ve always burned, they may now be entering a major new combustive period." Chris Mooney in The Washington Post.
The migration of Puerto Ricans to Florida creates a target for party operatives. "As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are relatively easy to register to vote, and they are attracting unprecedented attention because they could change the political calculus in a state that President Obama won by the thinnest of margins in 2012: 50 percent to 49.1 percent. ... Puerto Rican voters tend to lean Democratic, but a great number of the newcomers do not identify with any party, making them appealing targets for politicians and recruiters on both sides. Like those living in other U.S. territories, people in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president in the U.S. general election." Mary Jordan in The Washington Post.
The placebo effect is more complicated and more powerful than you think. "Understanding the magnitude of the placebo effect and the factors that cause it to be strong has ballooned from a quirky side branch of medicine into an area of increasingly rigorous study. Research has found that a costlier fake treatment can work better than a cheap one, that patients taking a real drug labeled as a placebo do as well as people taking a placebo labeled as a drug, and that even knowing the medicine is fake doesn't erase the effect. ... [A] new study brings into focus a different and less well-known part of the placebo debate: the complexities it can introduce when trying to figure out how one treatment compares with another." Carolyn Johnson in The Washington Post.
The former Greek finance minister had an odd plan for establishing a new currency. "Yanis Varoufakis has insisted he did nothing improper as part of a five-month clandestine project he ran as Greek finance minister that prepared for his country’s possible exit from the euro. The scheme, which was almost completed but not fully implemented, involved hacking into Greece’s independent tax service to set up a parallel payment system — accessing individuals’ private identification numbers and copying them on to a computer controlled by a 'childhood friend' of Mr Varoufakis. ... The disclosures about Mr Varoufakis’s 'Plan B' come on the heels of revelations by the Financial Times and other media organisations that far-left members of the governing Syriza party were contemplating a far more radical plan to seize government reserves and take over the country’s central bank in a transition to a new currency. James K Galbraith, the University of Texas economist and a longtime Varoufakis associate who worked on the finance ministry plan, issued his own statement saying their efforts never overlapped with the more radical efforts." Peter Spiegel and Kerin Hope in The Financial Times.