To become a member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in south Florida has always been expensive. But when the Republican became president, and Trump discovered ways to profit from his office, the membership fees doubled. Now, those who want to enjoy Mar-a-Lago’s benefits have to pony up $200,000.
Since the president still owns the exclusive venue – Trump has refused to divest, as his predecessors did – this raises a host of ethical and legal questions, but it also tells us quite a bit about the resources available to the Mar-a-Lago clientele.
President Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago Friday night at a dinner where he told friends, “You all just got a lot richer,” referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier.
Mr. Trump directed those comments to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club – including to two friends at a table near the president’s who described the remark to CBS News – as he began his final days of his first year in office in what has become known as the “Winter White House.”
For now, let’s put aside the fact that describing the president’s for-profit enterprise as the “Winter White House” is a mistake. Let’s instead focus on Trump’s message itself.
I imagine his Republican allies will defend the comment by arguing that, from the far-right perspective, practically everyone “just got lot richer,” thanks to the fact that most Americans will get some kind of short-term break – even if it’s followed by middle-class tax hikes once the GOP policy is fully implemented.
The trouble is, this is wholly at odds with how the Republican plan was sold to the public before it became law.
Just a month ago, for example, Trump was in Missouri and said in reference to the GOP package, “I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s OK.” In September, the president was even more explicit, vowing, “The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan.”
He wasn’t alone. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in multiple public appearances, insisted that the Republican tax policy would not benefit the wealthy. Two weeks ago, he insisted, “There are people who are rich people that are having their taxes going up.”
The wording and grammar may have been awkward, but Mnuchin’s point was clear: he wanted Americans to believe that the GOP package wasn’t stacked to benefit the wealthiest of the wealthy, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
And yet, there was Trump on Friday night, ending the charade and boasting to his rich customers that he’s putting more money in their pockets, despite everything he told the public in the weeks leading up to the vote. It’s almost as if this entire endeavor were an elaborate con.