How Did It Come to This?
Our nation has all but thrown away its reputation as leader of the free world for up-and-coming banana republic. Warren Buffett once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you'll do things differently."
That sentiment seems to be completely lost on our current White House occupant and his team of downward-spiraling misfits. Our current theatre of the absurd actors seem to believe that they're reality show contestants. Somehow, albeit barely, we've survived Trump's first year in Washington.
But the damage already rendered to our democratic institutions, at home, and to our alliances abroad will linger long after he leaves office. Global confidence in U.S. leadership has fallen to a new low, according to an opinion survey conducted across 134 countries.
The U.S. rating is down nearly 20 points from the 48 percent approval rating in the last year of President Barrack Obama's administration, Gallup reported. He evidently believes that a seemingly booming economy vindicates all. It doesn't.
Over the past year, the stock market has boomed, GDP growth has improved and unemployment is at an almost 17-year low. However, job gains were lower than any of the past six years and wage growth was less than last year. Trump inherited an economy that was on a good trajectory with solid job growth and low unemployment.
Trump's own mark on the economy will be based on the long-term impact of his new tax laws. The most significant (economic) questions going forward are how much growth will tax reform generate, and what will Trump do with the various trade agreements such as NAFTA?
These may determine what will likely happen to the U. S. economy and the stock markets over the next few years. Listening to Trump boast about the recent surge of the stock market, one might get the impression that the bull run of 2017 was greater during his first year than any other.
In fact, of the few areas where this president produced higher numbers than his predecessor, most were dubious achievements: the 2017 deficit under Trump climbed to $666 billion, up from $585 billion in 2016.
The national debt crossed the $20 trillion threshold and is projected to rise faster in the future. And America's trade deficit, which candidate Trump famously blamed on poor presidential dealmaking, was worse during Trump's first year than in any of Obama's eight. Like most of Trump's boastful pronouncements, his claims clash with reality.
America's standing across the globe has been greatly diminished by isolationism and vitriolic tweets. Trump insulted the prime minister of Australia, despite that country having stood by our country for nearly a century. He also attacked Germany, our most steadfast ally in continental Europe, leading Chancellor Angela Merkel to tell her countrymen that they can no longer depend on the United States.
But Forbes noted that the stock prices grew at a faster pace during the Great Depression. Even Obama's first year in office saw the broad S&P 500 Index exploding by 23.5 percent compared with last year's 19.4 percent clip. Wage growth also declined after Trump became president.
Trump also insulted France's young leader by expressing support for his right-wing opponent and withdrawing-contrary to U. S. interests-from the Paris climate accords. He even blasted both the British prime minister and mayor of London after a terrorist attack.
If that wasn't bad enough, Trump reaffirmed his well-documented poor character with a disgusting slur against people from El Salvador, Haiti and countries in Africa. Trump's ally-bashing was matched by his elevating the status of dictators and racist organizations. His kowtowing to Putin was as unrelenting as it was disgraceful.
Not much has changed since 2015, when he praised the Kremlin autocrat as a “strong leader" who “gets things done." Trump also praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for a bloody drug war marked by extrajudicial killings. He even saw fit to lavish praise on Turkish autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan for human rights abuses, giving him “high marks" and that it was “a great honor" to meet him.
Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of NBC
Our unrepentant Commander-in-Chief is cementing his legacy...
The most damning legacy of Trump's first year is simply that he has ruled as an unapologetic racist and sexist, incapable of empathy and anything that slightly demonstrates leadership.
He provided comfort to white supremacists after Charlottesville, attacked black athletes to garner cheap political points and fought-tooth-and-nail-to close America's doors to anyone who doesn't look, think or act like his most fervent sycophants.
At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct...
In a 2005 recording obtained by The Washington Post before the presidential election, Donald J. Trump talked about in vulgar terms to Billy Bush, then the host of “Access Hollywood," how he can get away with assaulting women, because he's famous.
Bush is no longer employed by “Access Hollywood," and Trump is now the 45th President of The United States.
Following the October 2016 release of the now infamous “Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump was recorded as boasting about grabbing women's genitals in 2005 many women came forward. Some others made their stories public months before the tape's release, and still others came forward more recently.
Trump has dismissed all of the allegations made against him as “fabricated" and politically motivated accounts pushed by the media and his political adversaries, and promised to sue all of his accusers after the election is over. Although Trump has not made good on his promises to sue these women, one-Summer Zervos-has sued him for defamation.
Summer Zervos (R). Photo courtesy of Business Insider
During the second presidential debate, Anderson Cooper asked Trump point blank whether he had either kissed women-without consent-or had groped them. Trump asserted that “nobody has more respect for women," Cooper persisted, “Have you ever done those things?" Trump denied that he had, saying: “No, I have not."
And yet, in Trump's own words, he reveals an entirely different narrative of repulsive behavior. During an April 2005 interview with radio host Howard Stern, he said that he regularly walked into contestants' dressing rooms on the beauty pageants he owned while women were not dressed: "I'll go backstage before a show and everyone's getting dressed and ready and everything else. And you know, no men are anywhere. And I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant," he said. "You know they're standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that." Despite all of Trump's denials, 50 percent of voters-59 percent of women and 41 percent of men-surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll released December 19 think the president should resign as a result of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
One accuser, Samantha Holvey, who recently spoke out again about her experience with Trump as a Miss USA pageant contestant, said that while his election was painful, she and others see the #MeToo movement as an opportunity to “try round two." At least 22 women have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013...let that sink in for a moment. He has consistently denied all of the allegations, calling the women “liars." But if there's one common theme, when it comes to Trump, it's that he has a consistent pattern for sexual misconduct and then denying it.
Once again, the question begs asking, how did it come to this?
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.