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Friday, January 22, 2016

America Shouldn’t Gamble With Donald Trump

(See also: "God, Conservatism, and Donald Trump.")

As many of you probably well know, for over 17 years now, my wife Michelle and I have been on an unusual financial journey. (In case you haven’t heard, we’ve penned a book on the matter.) In short, about 17 years ago we committed to living our lives completely debt free. We built our home without a mortgage. We haven’t had a car loan in 16 years. Our four children attend a private Christian academy. All this, and we’ve never made more than $100,000 in any single year. We budget. We save. We invest. And we never gamble. Ever. We’ve never even purchased a lottery ticket. (Even when the payout is north of $1 billion.)

We consider ourselves financial disciples of the late-great Larry Burkett. The greatest lesson he taught us is the principle of stewardship. In fact, stewardship is the most important financial principle taught in Scripture. The Bible reveals that none of us really “owns” anything. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” We are merely stewards, or managers, of God’s property. Until we come to grips with this, we can never truly understand money and wealth.

If nothing else, gambling is poor stewardship. However, Larry had a lot more to say on the matter. Larry notes that, whatever the reason one gambles (an attempt to supplement or replace income, as entertainment, because of compulsion), all gamblers are guilty of the same thing: materialism. What’s more, gambling is “the ultimate in ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes since it fits all the criteria: Participants are encouraged to risk money they usually can't afford to lose; they know little or nothing about what they are doing; they're forced to make hasty decisions; and the idea operates on the ‘greater sucker’ theory. (That is, when you dump money into a slot machine, you believe there was a greater sucker who risked money and then quit just before the big jackpot.)”

On whether gambling is a sin, Larry writes, “In the strictest sense, gambling is a sin as much as false weights and measures. Enticing someone to gain money at the certain loss of another violates virtually every principle Christ taught. It not only breeds selfishness, greed and covetousness, but, in fact, promotes them: ‘For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things’ (Phil. 3:18,19).”

As we are now just days away from the beginning of the primary season, the practice of gambling has weighed on my mind more than usual. I’m no more tempted by it than usual, but the fact that one of the leading candidates for President of the United States has made a significant portion of his billion dollar fortune from casinos is indeed a troubling matter.

Donald Trump has been involved in multiple casino ventures in his lengthy financial career, and though he has made tens-of-millions of dollars from casinos, his investors have not been so lucky. In 1990 Trump opened the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City with typical Trump showmanship. (As the Boston Globe describes, “Trump strode onto a stage as ‘Eye of the Tiger’ blared on loudspeakers. He rubbed a giant replica of Aladdin’s lamp and a genie appeared on a large video screen, promising the young casino mogul, ‘Your dream is our command.’”) One year later the casino was $3 billion in debt and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Trump has had four bankruptcies related to his casinos.

On Trump, Phillip Sternberg, a former Trump investor who was part of a committee appointed by shareholders to negotiate with Trump during one of his bankruptcies, said “He’s the biggest [jerk] I’ve ever known…There’s nothing nice I can say about him. He hurt so many people. He bankrupted families that were two-and three-generation electricians, plumbers.” This is quite ironic for a man that many see as the hero for the American working class, and a savior of the U.S. economy.

Trump’s unscrupulous ties to casino gambling alone should be enough to give any conservative serious pause when considering him as a presidential candidate. However, there is also the matter of his three marriages, his adultery, his previous support for abortion (even partial-birth abortion), his glaring ignorance of basic Christian doctrines and practices, and so on. (Matt Walsh chronicles many of Trump’s moral shortcomings here.) In other words, for most of his life, Trump has lived out well his “New York values.”

Trump’s tough comments on immigration have perhaps drawn him the most enthusiastic support. However, tough talk (something at which Trump seems to excel) is cheap. How can we trust that he will do what he says? Even the shallowest of political observers knows well that Washington, D.C. is one of the most difficult places in the world to remain a principled person. The temptations for corruption are rampant. What is there in Trump’s life that tells us that once he gets to D.C. he will act according to conservative principles? Nearly nothing.

On gambling and the government, Larry Burkett wrote, “When governments resort to enticing citizens to gamble to raise funds, we know the state of our society.” What does it say about our society if we elect a casino mogul as President of the United States?

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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