/Analysis | Let’s put Trump’s massive 1980s financial losses into context

Analysis | Let’s put Trump’s massive 1980s financial losses into context



President Trump pauses during a news conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 30, 2018. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

May 8 at 9:45 AM

Let’s start with a quick question.

The tool above assumes, of course, that President Trump’s losses were spread out evenly over the course of a year. But still: It gives you some sense of the scale of how much Trump lost during that period.

We learned that Tuesday evening, when the New York Times published a story looking at 10 years of data from Trump’s tax returns. (The source of that information was not identified.) The numbers are stunning when you consider that Trump lost more than $1 billion from 1985 to 1994.

The Times didn’t detail every loss in every year. What it did detail looks like this, with Trump’s losses accelerating significantly in 1989.



(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Remember, too, that this was the loss reported in each year. The scale of the losses becomes more obvious when considered in 2019 dollars. The total increases from $1.2 billion to $2.2 billion.



(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

But let’s just consider that $1,173,600,000 that Trump lost, according to his returns. Just how much is that?

If you got the entire amount in $100 bills and lined them up end to end starting at the entrance of Trump Tower, the chain would stretch to New Orleans, assuming a flat surface the entire way. If, instead, you stacked the bills, they would be the height of Trump Tower — more than six times over. It would top the tallest erected structure in the world by more than 1,500 feet. Take the Burj Khalifa and add two Trump Towers on top, and the stack of Trump’s debt would still be taller.

And that’s in hundreds.

The Times story notes that Trump’s losses were among the largest for any person in the country during those years. It was, in other words, an extraordinary set of numbers. We can put that into further context by comparing Trump’s losses to what other Americans were earning.

In 1985, for example, the unadjusted median household income was $21,317. Trump lost as much that year as 2,100 households that earned that median income would have. By 1990, the estimate for what Trump lost suggests that it equaled what more than 9,400 households would have earned.



(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Or we can put it in another context. One of the reasons Trump experienced such significant losses was his purchase in 1989 of a shuttle airline service, according to the Times. A round-trip fare between D.C. and New York cost $284 in 1991 — meaning Trump’s losses that year could have covered more than 911,000 flights on his airline.

At least until May of that year, when the struggling airline slashed prices. At a new round-trip cost of $119, Trump’s 1991 losses could have covered the airfare for nearly 2.2 million flights between his hometown and the nation’s capital.

Finding customers for those flights, though, was part of the problem.

Note: The information submitted in the tool at the top of this article is not transmitted anywhere or used in anyway.