So, to start, let me be clear: I do not personally think that Donald Trump should be president.

Actually, I don’t intend for this to be a political commentary at all. It’s more of a thought experiment.

As a New Yorker, I rarely run into people who support Trump.  Most people here dismiss his legitimacy.  He’s crazy, he’s a lunatic, etc… Some of that is probably warranted. However, one of the things I like most in life is understanding the perspective of different people. It can be easy to dismiss people at face value and jump to conclusions, it’s much harder to truly understand the situation. Part of being a product manager is digging deep and really understanding what other people are thinking – even if you don’t share any personal characteristics with them.

So, here we go: the best explanation for why Donald Trump should be president.

In order to start this explanation, we need to set the stage with the fact that things in our country are fundamentally broken. Not just a little broken, structurally broken.

The best evidence I’ve found for this viewpoint is The $1.5 Trillion Airplane.

In his Quora post (linked above), Jack Menendez tells the story of the F-35 airplane. The post is pretty compelling. Here’s a short summary:

Sometime in the 80’s there was a proposal by the US government to build a new super fighter jet to replace all of the existing fighter jets out there. That proposal turned into the F-35 program, which ended up costing the US government a whopping $1.5 trillion.

To put it in perspective, at $1.5 trillion, the F-35 costs 3x more than the entire interstate highway system and 14x more than Apollo program (both adjusted for inflation). That’s a LOT of money.

However, in reality, the F-35 program shouldn’t cost anywhere near $1.5 trillion. The only reason it’s so expensive is because we’re building the airplane in the least efficient way possible.

You see, in order to get Congress to vote for the F-35 program, the sponsors of the program had to make sure that every congressperson got something in return for their vote. They had to “buy” the votes from Congress by creating jobs in many different congressional districts. By creating jobs – they allowed the congresspeople voting for the F-35 to go back to their constituents and say, “Look – I created jobs, now re-elect me!”

The congresspeople voted for the bill, jobs were created in many different congressional regions, the congresspeople got re-elected.  Everyone is happy, right?

Well – the end impact of this quid-pro-quo arrangement is that the F-35 airplane is broken down into lots of little parts and constructed in many different congressional districts. A little something here, a little something there – the parts for the airplane scattered all across the country.

Building dozens of factories, training thousands of workers from different regions, shipping the parts around the country, re-assembling, etc. etc. – that’s how you get to $1.5 trillion dollars.

Pretty gross, isn’t it? Well – that’s the system that runs our country.

In this specific case (assuming Menendez has his facts right) Congress was ineffective and borderline corrupt.  It’s screwed up.  It’s terrible.

Congress should change.

The problem is: only Congress can change Congress – right? That’s a big problem.

Now – take a look at Donald Trump.

He’s a man who has little or no ties to special interest.  He (at one time, maybe) was self-funding his campaign and he is someone who is a complete Washington outsider.  It’s a long shot, but maybe he could come in and try to change the system.  Unlike a lot of other candidates, he hasn’t made his career as a politician, so he didn’t come up through the broken system. In this light, it’s possible that he’s someone who could break our current congressional system and rebuild it.

That’s why, I think, some people like Donald Trump.

Now – the platform I describe here isn’t really the one he’s running on.  But he could.  If he did, and it weren’t for all of his rough edges, I could probably be convinced to vote for him.

The (Hypothetical) Case for Donald Trump
  • Well, I think that *is* the platform Donald Trump is running on. He’s an outsider, with no attachment to the current political game (and some real disdain of it); moreoever, he’ll bring in “the best people” from the nation, not just those who are friends of those slimy politicians.

    Also, Donald Trump says many things. It’s very easy to pick a handful of statements he makes that you agree with, and ignore the ones that are somewhat-or-completely contradictory. The 24-hour news cycle makes this a little worse, since it’s easy for FOX and others to pull together cohesive narratives with just the things he says.

    I’d also be wary of the F-35 story, and the $1.5 trillion number. A quick check on Wikipedia shows this document as source for the number:

    Two comments:
    First, the $1.5 trillion estimate is in “then year” (TY) dollars, that is accounting for inflation through to 2070*. In 2012 dollars (BY12), the total cost is $934 billion. It seems more reasonable to use that number.
    Second, the $934 billion cost is the total estimated cost through *2070*, and the vast majority ($620 billion) of that is in operating and service costs. Net, R&D over the entire time period will be ~$60 billion, and procurement will be $249 billion.
    Not nothing, but when I think of the “cost” so far of the program, that cost is probably < $100 billion. That's a far cry from $1.5 trillion.
    * they seems to be assuming ~1% interest rate, which is awfully low. I wonder where they're getting that from? Continual process improvement from O&S?

  • Wow – touché on the F-35 data. Apropos of the larger point here, I suppose people like to quote the $1.5 trillion number to try to convince people of a specific POV without really understanding the underlying facts :)

  • You can just say you’re taking inspiration from Trump :D

  • Mike

    This sounds like a post as to why Michael Bloomberg should be president =).

  • Haha- I would definitely vote for him. But only if he promised to keep up with his Spanish language announcements during emergency broadcasts.

  • Bren Eifler

    So I’ve been thinking about all this too. A lot. ..And I love that you purposefully took the opposite viewpoint that you would naturally agree with. This is very impressive. Normally we humans like our confirmation biases, and nurture them, coddle them, and twist the facts (knowingly or unknowingly) to support them. ( …

    After reading Michael’s expose of the 1.5 tril (thanks for that!), I found myself swinging back from the “oh no, everything must be fixed” point of view. …Side note… There have been a number of things I have felt were utterly, ineptly broken, but when I actually dig deeper, I discover some reason that makes me go “OH, so that’s why things are like that. Hmm..”

    So I have a question: What is broken about our political system and what only SEEMS broken? (Or is made to look broken, but with further research we discover isn’t as broken as we thought?)

  • I often find myself doing the same thing: assuming something is broken and then digging in and finding that it’s actually much more complicated than it originally looked. I think this is part of human nature too.

    With regard to the current presidential election – i think that many people in the country are feeling bad for a variety of reasons (many of them related to the economy as we’ve been in slow recovery for the last 7 years).

    Unfortunately presidential candidates that give an easy explanation for what’s wrong with the country (it’s the immigrants! The big banks!) have been more popular than anyone who can give an accurate (much more nuanced) assessment of what needs to happen to speed our recovery.

  • Bren Eifler

    I agree. It seems the economy has been the #1 issue for decades. Except… Maybe… Until now. – Reading your reply I remembered an article that made a lot of sense. It may even be the main reason for the Rise of Trump:

  • Just saw this article about what we’re getting for our money with the F-35.

    It is pretty cool. Probably not going to help us too much with ISIS, but we’ll be well prepared for world war 3.

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