UNDER NEW (EMERGENCY) MANAGEMENT: How Donald Trump helped end democracy in Atlantic City, New Jersey


Back in January of last year, Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stripped Atlantic City residents of their democracy and took over control of the city with an Emergency Manager. The move came after the implosion of the casino industry plunged the city into insolvency.

The road to the loss of democracy in Atlantic City began, in part, when Donald Trump, exhibiting his most trumpish self, created what Steven P. Perskie, the former chairman of the Casino Control Commission and a former state Democratic legislator, called a “Potemkin village”, a huge boondoggle that sucked large numbers of individuals and businesses into the vortex behind its false façade and then, when it collapsed in narcissistic egotistical ruin, spit them out.

While Atlantic City went broke, Trump walked away all that much richer:

Republicans are panicky, for good reason. We have seen this movie before. It’s called the Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City.

In that, the first of his enterprises’ four bankruptcies, he convinced regulators he could raise plenty of money to complete the $1 billion project, claiming his golden name meant he wouldn’t have to rely on high-interest junk bonds, as other developers did. But then he issued junk bonds. Gamblers didn’t show up and spend the money he needed. Costs got out of control. Six months after the Taj opened in April 1990, it was in default, and nine months after that it went bankrupt, followed by two other Trump casinos.

The former head of the casino regulatory authority told The Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr. that Trump had built a “Potemkin village.” Atlantic City never quite recovered, but Trump came out fine. He told O’Harrow: “I got out great.”

When the Taj went down in flames, the ripple effect was devastating. It took down investors, suppliers, and anyone who had the misfortune to be touched by Trump’s anti-Midas Touch:

On July 16, 1991, Trump Taj Mahal filed a petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code. Trump described himself in documents as the “sole Shareholder of Trump Taj Mahal, Inc.”

The consequences of the Taj bankruptcy rippled through Atlantic City and Donald Trump’s empire. […]

Large institutions took the brunt of the losses. But many small-time investors who had bought the bonds, directly or through retirement funds, also suffered losses, according to Bryant Simon, a professor at Temple University and author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.” So did the small-business owners who sold Trump paint, equipment, food, limousine services and much more. Many were eventually paid only a fraction of what they were due.

“He was a brutal and ruthless negotiator,” Simon told The Post. “People paid the price.”

What was not known at the time was that the ultimate price to be paid by people who were not Donald Trump, most of whom were not even remotely connected with the P.T. Barnum of our time, would be the loss of democracy at the local level through the imposition of emergency management. Trump walked away rich while Atlantic City ended up losing four of its twelve casinos including the Taj Mahal.

If he could do that for a single city, just imagine what he could do for America. It makes it all the more apparent that when Trump talks about making America great again, he’s talking about the late 19th Century when “avaricious rascals” like Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller cheated and robbed investors and consumers, corrupted government, fought ruthlessly among themselves, and in general carried on predatory activities comparable to those of the robber barons of medieval Europe.”

[CC image credit: Thomas Hawk | Flickr]

  • Jason Johnson

    There is little doubt that Donny can do an even better job as President/Dictator. And sadly, those who vote for him refuse to understand that EVERYTHING Donny has ever touched as turned to shit. So, assuming he’s the same Conman he’s always been, it could be very, very bad for America and donny will do what he always does.. Makes a profit and leaves.

  • Michiganmitch

    Trump’s first move seems to be as the “King of Debt President” will be to do as he has always done, stiff creditors and try to negotiate a better deal on how much is eventually paid or default outright destroying the full faith and credit that has been guaranteed since day one. Problem is the overwhelming percentage of American debt is held by American citizens and American institutions like Social Security. So America and Americans are not richer but far poorer as a result. Aside from that, he plans on applying “common sense” kitchen table micro-econ finance solutions like all business-man political execs. Wow, that always goes so well! (Rick Snyder, W, Cheney, Hoover etc.)

  • Don_K

    I don’t know any Trumpistas (I guess I don’t get out enough), but if I did I would point out that his style is to fuck over the little guys and come out smelling like roses, and how do you know he doesn’t intend to do just that to all of the little guys in the U.S.

    • Brewlord

      I know several Trumpkins, including my in laws, and no matter what facts I tell them, they just dismiss it. A lot of Fox Effect seems to be involved

      • KJ

        Trumpkins sounds much too benign. I call them Trumpanzees, known for whooping, hollering, and flinging feces…

        • Brewlord

          I am now stealing that and will spread it far and wide

          • KJ

            I stole it from someone else, so — help yourself…

  • Let me remind everyone that to be fair and balanced. You should be aware that it was Chuck Schumer who took major Wall street donations in one month and then blocked the vote to abolish the carryover tax. Watch Park Place: Money, Power and the American Dream on Independent Lens.