9 min read

Did Trump Just Get Bailed Out? Plus, Why the Authoritarians Are One Step Ahead of Democracy, and the Path Back to the Presidency

Did Trump Just Get Bailed Out? Plus, Why the Authoritarians Are One Step Ahead of Democracy, and the Path Back to the Presidency

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  1. Trump’s Truth Social is now a public company. Experts warn its multibillion-dollar valuation defies logic (CNN)
  2. Trump's Truth Social is losing money and has scant sales. Yet it could trade at a $5 billion value. (CBS)
  3. Trump’s new stock deal is just another pig in a poke (WaPo)
  4. Is It Even Possible to Become More Productive? (Esquire)
  5. Putin’s fractured world (New Statesman)
  6. The thriving US economy of discontent (El Pais)
  7. There Are Four Postelection Scenarios, and Not One Is Good (New Republic)
  8. Why do people in Nordic countries consistently rank as the happiest and what can we learn from them? (Euro News)
  9. Scams are on the rise, and they’re ruining lives. We can stop it. (WaPo)
  10. Why Is Europe Moving Rightward? (Project Syndicate)

Did Trump Just Get Bailed Out? 

Did Trump just get…bailed out? At precisely the moment he needed a major infusion of cash, pushed to the brink by massive judgments against him, on the brink of liquidating his properties…

Trump’s Truth Social valued at more than $9bn as it goes public in New York
Trump Media & Technology trading on Nasdaq under ‘DJT’ ticker, using former president’s initials

The firm behind Donald Trump’s Truth Social went public on Tuesday at a price that values the minnow social network at more than $9bn.

Shares in Digital World Acquisition, the shell company with which Trump’s social media business is merging, have been surging since the turn of the year – and rallied by more than 40% as it combined with Trump Media & Technology.

The firm is trading under the ticker symbol “DJT”, using Trump’s initials.

Trump Media’s arrival on the market netted the former president a paper fortune of more than $5bn. After the deal closed on Monday, Bloomberg said that Trump had joined the ranks of the world’s 500 wealthiest people for the first time.

Business as usual, right? Not even close, by the looks of things. Let’s do some quick, non-scary math. Hold on while I put on my CEO hat.

Truth Social, Trump Media’s main “asset,” generated (go ahead and chuckle) $3.3 million in revenue last year. Meanwhile, it lost $49 million overall. 

That’s because it has just…5 million subscribers. These days? That’s minuscule—single mid-level ad campaigns get (way) more than that, for example.

In a sane world, such a business would be valued, very, very generously, at maybe, maybe $20-$30 million, or so. You get there by doing a ten-times revenue multiples, and that’s if someone were delusional enough not to care about the overall losses.

So…now it’s valued at $5 billion? A company with revenues of $3 million, which is barely, these days a mid-size one, let alone worthy of a public listing on a major stock exchange?

What exactly happened here? Was this a bailout?

If It Looks Like a Bailout, and Smells Like a Bailout…

A “special purpose vehicle” called “Digital World” was created for the express purpose, more or less, of acquiring Trump’s weird internet ventures, when the time was right.

CBS: "Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are shell companies created to take a private business public without conducting an initial public offering. 

In 2021, DWAC announced its intent to merge with Trump's media group, sending shares of Digital World upward by more than 800%, sparking comparisons with meme stock businesses like GameStop. At that time, SPACs were also drawing outsized attention from small investors after some gained endorsements from celebrities and investors alike.

Investors who own DWAC stock will receive one share of the new company for each share of DWAC they owned, according to a regulatory filing." 

So who’s behind “Digital World”? After all, they’re the ones taking the bath here: they created a “special purpose vehicle,” capitalized well enough to get floated on the stock exchange, meaning that they poured a lot of money into it. 

“DWAC was created with the help of ARC Capital, a Shanghai-based firm specializing in listing Chinese companies on American stock markets that has been a target of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigations for misrepresenting shell corporations.

DWAC disclosed in an October 2023 regulatory filing that after investors had canceled $467 million of their commitments, the firm would return the remaining $533 million of the $1 billion it had raised."

Things are getting weird, no? 

Basically, here’s what it looks like. An “entity,” think of it as a fund, was created to essentially bail Trump out. That entity was funded generously, to the tune of hundreds of millions, by shady “investors,” and then floated on the stock market. 

If you doubt me, ask yourself. If you had a company worth $5 billion, $1 billion—it doesn’t even matter—or even just shares in such a company, would you “merge” it with one worth…literally billions less? $3 million is literally 0.1% of $3 billion. 

So the original shareholders are now the proud “owners” of a business worth 0.1% of what they put into the fund. Go ahead and chuckle, because that’s why it smells like a bailout.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, in their right mind would make this as a business decision. You have to really, really love Trump to want to…basically throw this much money away, this transparently. We’re talking about burning billions.

I’m surprised more questions haven’t been raised by the financial papers, to be honest, because this reeks to high heaven, almost comically and laughably so.

Meet the World’s “Luckiest” Businessman

The interesting thing about all this is the timing, of course. It’s just a coincidence that all this happened just as Trump was in desperate need of cash, forced to the wall, on the brink of having to liquidate his properties and whatnot. Gee, what a lucky coincidence. I wish that when I needed a bailout there was a “special purpose acquisition vehicle” willing to acquire me by overpaying by 100,000%, which is exactly what just happened here.

The timing is enough to make enough Marlon Brando playing Vito Corleone roll his eyes so hard they practically explode. Talk about transparent. All of this happened just when it needed to, which is the really funny, weird, jarring, absurd thing—the bailout was waiting in the wings. We should all be so lucky, I guess. Either Trump’s the world’s luckiest businessman, or, well, this is a bailout.

It’s not fraud, because of course, hey, if you want to overpay for something by 100,000%, you have every right to. But it is…something in a whole twilight zone far beyond merely “odd.”

Who’s The Mark in This Con Game?

So who takes the bath here? The original investors, whoever they are, do. And whomever’s foolish to buy into this obvious contraption as a “shareholder” will, too. Because of course, there’s no way that Trump’s Truth Social ever gets close to justifying billions in valuation with mere low barely. millions in revenue—the share price will just fall, which I guess is a kind of cold comfort. 

At least in the sense that the financial press is pretty shamelessly playing along with this nonsense, and describing all this as a “meme stock,” to be owned by hapless day traders, but of course, that’s not really true, either, because “meme stocks” are based on uncertainty (“this thing could rocket!”) but here we know the facts and numbers of what the business is really, actually worth beyond a shadow of a doubt.

There’s a deeper story here, behind the comedy-villain level financial machinations, and the absurdity of watching poor old fools who are gullible enough to buy shares in this mess get fleeced (“I’ll buy shares in Trump’s new company and show him how much I love him and get rich!”)

The Path Back to the Presidency Has Already Been Made

There’s sort of a predestined path set up for Trump to ascend back to the Presidency—and all he has to do is walk it. Think about it. What passes for his intelligentsia has already drafted a 1000-page agenda for what to do the moment he takes power, right down to details of purging and radicalizing every government agency. The GOP’s been cowed into submission, and he’s already something much more like it’s tyrant, it’s Putin, than any sort of vaguely democratic leader who can be questioned and has to offer reasons, explanations, and ideas.

And now we see that waiting in the wings, for just this eventuality—a “liquidity crisis,” in financial speak, or the possibility of bankruptcy, in plainer English—was a bailout, basically, ready to go.

Pretty incredible, in a way. But this is what the authoritarian side now excels at. Preparing, smoothing the way, making it all seem inevitable, by removing every obstacle and greasing every wheel in sight. 

That tells us something, too. This is what a maturing political side looks like. When political factions mature, that’s when they become capable of smooth tricks like these. Here’s your agenda and plan, ready to go, sir. Here’s the cash you’ll need, should the eventuality arise. Here’s the army of loyalists, at your beck and command. If the goals were more normal, this would be the stuff of pretty normal politics, in the sense that this is what we expect from mature political parties and factions—expertise, competence, professionalism, resources deployed to where they’re needed most, fast. 

But to see it in this context, which is authoritarianism, anti-democratic politics, is striking. It tells us that form has matured to the side that it’s capable of professionalism and competence, at least in the sinister way that authoritarians are at their worst, really, and I’m sure I don’t have to give you examples. 

(Why) The Authoritarians Are One Step Ahead of Democracy

So all of this means something, too. It’s not just that Trump got bailed out exactly when he needed it most, by a gigantic planet-sized barrel of dry powder that was right there, not just ready and waiting, but willing to play the comical hand of “let me overpay you by 100,000%, and never mind who notices.” It’s also that all this is part of a pattern, which is the path for Trump back to the Presidency being cleared, sorted, practically garlanded with roses and sprayed with perfume.

We should think about all that pretty carefully, I’d imagine. I don’t really like to truck in conspiratorialism, and this isn’t that. If it looks like a bailout, it is one. And when a bailout’s ready and waiting for a figure who wants to destroy democracy, that should strike a sort of horror into all of us. Because what provoked that bailout, of course, was the people, literally, as in, the people versus. Cases, the rule of law, justice being done. This is a naked attempt to place Trump above the law, yet again.

And sadly, it’ll probably work, to an extent.

There’s another meaning to all this, which I’ll briefly touch on. The democratic side is terrible at this. I don’t mean laughably flimsy bailouts, fleecing people, and so on. I just mean working as a team, maybe, or this level of smooth operation. The democratic side, and this is true globally, but you can also think about it in terms of the Democrats in America—it sucks at this.

All this. Providing capital and resources—try being a politician on the democratic and lining up funding from parties or donors. It’s very, very hard to come by, much harder than on the fanatical side now. Certainly, “entities” aren’t lining up to bail you out. Then there’s the agenda and ideas aspect—the democratic side isn’t out there writing 1000 page missions. Why not? It damned well should be, too. The parts of democratic side don’t work together nearly as smoothly.

Now, partly, of course, you can cry, “you idiot, they’re authoritarians!” Democracy is always messier, but this time, the democratic side isn’t getting it together. The parts are stuck or corroded. The team isn’t working together, and the coalition of center and left is splintering, while the old generation of leaders is stuck or missing in action. The rising younger generation, like AOC or who have you, meanwhile, isn’t empowered, but demonized even within the establishment, the very one which painted figures like Liz and Bernie as “too radical.” 

These are problems of what’s called “institutional inertia” in management science, and it’s killing the democratic side. The opposite of institutional inertia is what’s happening on the authoritarian side—a bailout ready to go before the fireworks went off, and then delivering at light speed. The planning that’s anticipating the return to office. And so on. They’re one step ahead of the democratic side, and that’s why it’s losing.

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