Let’s say we have an heir and an heiress. One of them inherited approximately $5 million and parlayed it into a net worth that’s conservatively estimated to be around $100 million. The other inherited around $200 million and is today worth around $4.5 billion.
Obviously, $4.5 billion is a much larger number than $100 million, so we can easily conclude that the billionaire Donald J. Trump is much savvier when it comes to business than mere millionaire Paris Hilton. Not so fast. While Trump does have billions of dollars, he’d have been better off if he’d invested into index funds than if he’d followed his own impulses.
Sure, he’d only be better off by a max of about $9 billion, but wait a second. That’s a lot of money. With that, he could build a pretty long section of border fence, if not the entire thing. On the other hand, given his connections, I’m betting Trump could build the entire thing for $9 billion. If he couldn’t, is he really the man he claims to be, the one to Make America Great Again?
Maybe, just maybe, the man vying to be businessman-in-chief isn’t quite so good at abusing eminent domain and taking advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy as he claims. Maybe a well-coiffed blond who went for ultra-reality video before settling into reality TV is better at making fat stacks of cash. Maybe it is she, and not he (who was honestly better at reality TV, but I digress), whom we should be looking toward for guidance as we navigate today, one of the stupidest of stupid times to be alive.
When the Market Beats You
This isn’t conjecture, but cold, hard fact. Hilton’s fragrances, for example, have brought in $1.3 billion in revenue since 2005. She also makes bank just for appearing here and there—from videos and birthday parties, seriously, to promotional outings—as well as for licensing her name and likeness.
Now, she is akin to Trump in that he is a brand unto himself. Unlike Trump, however, Hilton has never used eminent domain or Chapter 11 to her advantage, nor has she been removed from Macy’s. She’s all about making straight-up profits, baby, and her market presence is on the ascent. Advantage Paris.
And Hilton is only 34. She could certainly face some headwinds as she moves forward—Trump didn’t declare bankruptcy until much later in life when he was 45—but she’s also structured her wealth in such a way so as to avoid the risks that Trump loves exposing himself to via his debt.
Hilton’s 44 stores worldwide and the beach resort she designed are more about her name than her investment. She lends the brand in exchange for adding to her liquid assets. As such, who do you trust, the blonde with flowing locks who knows how to keep it liquid or the blond ginger with a dead animal perched atop his head who knows how to be beholden to banks?
In other words, while Trump was investing his inheritance to abuse eminent domain and come out worse than if he’d invested in an S&P index fund, Hilton was building a real empire. Advantage, again, Paris.
Better: Compare Donald Trump to Barack Obama
This isn’t a new observation. Kevin Williamson compared the two and also found Hilton edges out Trump on leveraging personal brand for duckets, but he was wrong to compare the Donald to Paris. The more apt comparison is to our current commander in chief—one Barack Hussein.
Roll with me here. Obama wrote not one, but two, autobiographies before he really accomplished anything. In stark contrast, one of Trump’s first decisions upon claiming the family business was to rename it Trump Organization, although he waited a bit to write his autobiography.
Obama just got to it earlier. Maybe it was the lack of inherited wealth, but he understood he had to build the brand, and he did. Since writing those autobiographies, he’s leveraged that brand into various elected positions, most notably the presidency.
And he didn’t let that victory stop him. After moving into the White House, which Obama doesn’t even own, he won an award that doesn’t really jibe with his subsequent actions. He has also abused eminent domain. (I told you they were birds of a feather.)
Obama has presided over some other financial failures, just like Trump, though history hasn’t gone on enough to see if it was him who took us all the way to Chapter 11. There were the credit rating downgrades, but, much as Trump emerged, so has the nation thankfully emerged from those dings. Regardless, one has to ask if Hilton (remember, she does turn 35 before November 2016) would be so reckless with our national finances.
Paris All the Way, Baby
No, Hilton is all about growth. She gets that building the brand and the portfolio is about success, about numerical strength built on cashflow in, return on investment, and not getting overly leveraged in her business ventures.
By no measure is the Donald better at business than Paris. It’s time we recognize that and demand more from our candidates than ridiculous pandering, an embrace of too big to fail, and a history of mediocre financial growth. America used to be great, a shining city upon a hill. It can be great again, but not if we elect a third-rate trust-fund baby to manage our finances.
We deserve better—the best, really. We deserve a trust-fund baby who doesn’t have to abuse regulation or declare bankruptcy. One who understands how to build wealth and mitigate risk. One who is really great and can build the brand—that is, our national character—better than anyone else. One who would surround herself with the savviest thinkers available. Thankfully, the numbers don’t lie, and the numbers provide us with the best option.
We need Paris 2016.