Monday, August 26, 2013

People Who Need To Be Rescued From Trump University Are The Luckiest People

If you are someone who hates fraud but loves hilarity, then I have good news for you today. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing Donald Trump for $40 million over this thing called "Trump University," which apparently "promised to make students rich but instead steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars," because it's a scam.
"Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers' advancement through costly programs and caused real financial harm," Schneiderman said. "Trump University, with Donald Trump's knowledge and participation, relied on Trump's name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand."
Uh-huh. Apparently, a bunch of would-be real estate moguls "enrolled" in this "Trump University," in the hopes that they would become big wheeler-dealers, only to find out that it was kind of lacking in the whole "innovative approach to a business education" thing. According to Schneiderman's suit, "Trump University," surprisingly, "didn't, as promised, teach consumers everything they needed to know about real estate." This is really too bad, when you consider the fact that "students paid between $1,495 and $35,000," to receive this "education."
(For his part, Donald Trump has said that Schneiderman's suit is "incompetent" and "terribly drawn," and also he thinks that this whole thing is somehow connected to the White House. This raises the possibility that Trump might qualify as a complainant in this suit, if it turns out, as the evidence indicates, that he received his legal training at "Trump University.")
All of this is well and good and will probably produce a lot of "laffs" for people covering the story. But there's one question that needs to be asked. Specifically: at what point does all that "feeling bad for the people who were taken in by Donald Trump" start to kick in? Because I have to tell you, I'm not feeling it at the moment.
You know, the world is filled with fraudsters. And I've no doubt that if it were up to Schneiderman, he'd take after every single one against whom he could make a case. But this "Trump University" case seems to me to be a huge opportunity cost for the state of New York's attorney general's office, because avoiding losing money at "Trump University" should be one of the easiest things in the world for a human to do.
In what world does a sensible homo sapien take $35,000 and say, "You know what? I'm going to invest in my future ... my future at Trump University." Jeezus crow, thirty-five grand was enough to pay the lion's share of my entire undergraduate education, which took place at a "University" founded by Thomas Jefferson, who has a substantially better track record as a thought leader than Donald Trump. I am pretty sure that $35,000 would have been more than enough to pay tuition on both my Master's degree and my wife's. That's two Master's degrees, people, with beer money left over.
And my Master's is an MFA, which I felt kind of weird about spending money on, until I heard of this thing called "Trump University" (and also "J-School").
Look, right off the top of my head, I'm going to make a list of five things that you could spend $35,000 on, if you wanted to:
1. The Lonely Planet's Meth Tour Of Nunavut
2. Betting on the Cincinnati Bengals
3. Twerking
4. A house made entirely of banjos
5. Arming the "Syrian rebels"
See? It took me mere seconds to come up with five things that are, compared to "Trump University," slam-dunk investments.
There is a saying, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." Now, the sad thing is that lots of friends -- far too many -- let their friends drive drunk. It's a national problem, there's no doubt. However, I refuse to believe that there are friends, in America, who would really let a true friend attend "Trump University." To be an attendee of "Trump University," you must be someone completely bereft of loved ones, and probably a bit too replete with people who want to do you abject harm.
Here's a little one-act play I wrote, about a twenty-year old human American, having a conversation with his father.
[SCENE: Lights up on a kitchen in an average suburban home. It is a spring morning: the blades of grass outside have not yet lost their dew, a gathering of songbirds bring their lilt inside screened windows, as stray dust motes dance in the golden rays of the early morning sunlight. At the table, FATHER is revealed, reading that morning's Metro page, and enjoying some breakfast tea.]
(SON enters.)
SON: Hey, pop! Say, I was thinking ... I've got a bunch of money saved up. I was thinking ... now is the time I made my way in the world by enrolling at "Trump University."
(FATHER quickly impounds son's car, freezes son's assets, and has him institutionalized.)
And that, folks, is how the whole "I'm thinking of going to 'Trump University'" story is supposed to go. It is not supposed to end up with New York's attorney general having to step in and bail out what are -- on their face -- a series of bad decisions, made by very dumb people.
Again, there is a good chance that a few days from now, I will tap into a deep well of pity and choose to sympathize with these people who were conned by Donald Trump and start rooting for them to receive satisfaction through the legal system. I am not a monster.
But one of these days, America -- maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow -- you guys are going to have to get a freaking grip.

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