The Accidental President

trumpputinAlmost everyday, we’re inundated with new revelations about Donald Trump’s connections and involvement with shady Russian officials, who successfully disrupted our most sacred democratic process, the election of the President of the United States.  The consistency and the pace of these new revelations, can be considered overwhelming to the extent of diluting the more sensational and impeachable accusations against our sitting president.

Since Trump has taken the oath of office, swearing to uphold the allegiance of our nation above all other duties, it appears that he was already compromised by the Russians before even taking that solemn oath.

Trump dismisses the avalanche of allegations with his often repeated defense, “fake news.”  A tactic that’s designed to question the credibility of his critics and sow seeds of doubt into the minds of his avid followers.

In light of all the pending scandals, we must ask ourselves, why would a candidate for the highest office in the land, subject himself to potential treason and risk the security of the nation?  The answer is that he never expected to win.   Trump has made his “fortune” by cutting deals and charging a lucrative licensing fee for his name to be associated with prized real estate around the world.

The Trump Moscow Project is a great example of his ambitious desire to expand his empire and become friendly with Putin.  So why would someone who was pursuing a flagship project in Russia, with shady officials amidst allegations of money laundering, not expect to be exposed at some point during their presidency?

Surely, he knew the risks in attempting to hide his ambitions while serving as the Commander-in-Chief.   Despite Trump’s non-stop campaigning during the 2016 election, he knew that he was not favored to win.  But Trump was planning to win by “losing,” there were reports that he was planning to launch a Fox News rival, called TrumpTV, and use that platform to poison a Clinton presidency and further enrich himself.

However, as we’re all aware, he won, he actually won.  Trump seemed shell shocked on election night, his wife seemed especially shocked at the outcome, which may have been based on unconfirmed reports that they were planning to divorce after the election.   Trump divorcing his wife after a few years of marriage doesn’t seem far-fetched.  His previous high-profile divorces of Ivana Trump and Marla Maples, were suspiciously timed around fast approaching pre-nuptial expirations.

According to Axios, Trump did not have a completed acceptance speech prepared on the night of the election.  He and his team were prepared to concede and return to their lives as private citizens, and Trump was probably looking forward to dating younger women again, playing golf more often, closing real estate deals and expanding his empire.

Despite the poll numbers prior to the election, Trump campaigned with indefatigable vigor.  He constantly jetted around the country, making speeches, greeting his followers and signing his ubiquitous MAGA hats.  All of this effort was to demonstrate that he was not a quitter, but with Putin’s help, his campaign was able to distort Clinton’s message and ultimately propel him to the presidency.

Trump may not have been fully aware of the Russians’ ability to create chaos and discord in the presidential election, but Putin and his minions, through the use of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts and polling data supplied by Kushner and Bannon, successfully undermined Clinton’s credibility.

I doubt that Trump actually wanted to be president, he may have wanted the title, but not the actual work involved in leading the country and arguably the free world.  As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”



The Real Fake News

Trump Screaming.jpg

It’s nearly impossible to disassociate Trump from his now famous moniker, “fake news.”  He often uses the term to rail against news networks such as CNN, MSNBC, New York Times and the Washington Post.  However, he reserves any criticism of Fox News, which has become a Soviet Union-like, state sponsored propaganda machine for Trump’s ramblings.  The term “fake news” originated during the 2016 Presidential campaign, when it was discovered that the Russians, at the behest of Putin, meticulously planted misleading stories about Hillary Clinton on several social media sites.

The Russians were apparently successful in subverting Clinton’s image by planting false stories on Facebook, Twitter and other news outlets, that were designed to sow seeds of doubt among prospective Clinton voters.  As part of the Congressional Committee’s investigation into the fake news operation, it was revealed that the Russians had purchased 3,000 ads on Facebook over a one-year period.  They also planted fake stories on Twitter that criticized Hillary and former President Obama for allowing illegals to easily cross into the States.  Other examples of fake news stories, included ads linking Muslim terrorists to the Democratic Party and an ad featuring comedian Aziz Ansari, advising Clinton supporters that they could vote for her via Twitter.

The result of this massive distortion campaign was to undermine Clinton’s credibility and simultaneously boost Trump’s appeal.  It can be argued that the Russians were extremely successful in their efforts to help elect Trump.  They sabotaged the viability of Clinton’s campaign and surreptitiously impacted our electoral process, by manipulating the American psyche.  This strategy was most likely orchestrated by Putin himself, a former KGB agent, who’s highly skilled in the art of obfuscation.

But why does Trump use the term so frequently?  Trump is employing his own version of obfuscation, by utilizing a form of reverse psychology, intended to discredit any news organization that criticizes him.  By using a term that’s meant to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his presidency, he’s attempting to redefine its meaning by portraying himself as a victim of its intended usage.

Essentially, Trump frequently uses the term “fake news,” so that it can’t be used against him.  Which is similar to some African-American’s usage of the “N-word” as a means of empowerment instead of as an insult.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump quietly bought up URL’s such as,, etc., in an attempt to quash any potentially negative sites that would impact his credibility.  These shrewd acquisitions are typical of Trump’s strategy, he’s always been very protective and paranoid about his public image.  Which is why he will continue to use the term “fake news” as a weapon, instead of allowing it to be a weakness, and an indictment of his presidency.

Why Bitcoin is the next big bubble

BitcoinHeard about the Bitcoin phenomenon?  Of course you have!  Unless, you’ve been hibernating under a rock the past few months, you’re definitely aware of Bitcoin’s meteoric rise.  I’ll assume that most people know that Bitcoin is an unregulated digital cryptocurrency,…blah, blah, blah.  So, I’ll skip the rudimentary stuff and get right to the brass tacks.

Bitcoin began official trading in 2010, at the bargain basement price of just 8 cents.  Fast forward seven years later and Bitcoin is now trading at over 16K!  That’s an incredible return of 100 quatrillion percent (not an actual percentage) but you get the gist of the phenomenon.

An investment of just $500 in 2010, would currently net a staggering 100M dollars!  That’s right.  One. Hundred. Million. Dollars.   It’s seem difficult to fathom such an incredible return, and I’ve personally never seen a commodity increase at such a dramatic pace in such a short period of time.

I’ve traded stock options over the past twenty years, and I’ve seen the potential to make a lot of money in a very short period of time.  I was also a headhunter during the dotcom boom, where billions of dollars were made overnight from a sizzling IPO market — but I’ve never, never, never seen anything like Bitcoin.

The Good

The great part about the Bitcoin’s meteoric rise is that millions of people, including nascent investors are more educated about financial investing.  You’ve probably heard your coworkers, bartender, barber, Uber driver, grandmother etc…talking about investing in Bitcoin.  Most savvy investors have done their due diligence on cryptocurrency and will casually toss around terms such as mining, digital wallet and block chain.

The Bad

There’s an old saying that the best lesson for new investors is to lose money.  This is a profound statement because it’s absolutely true — nothing clarifies your investment strategy like losing your hard-earned money.  The scariest aspect of Bitcoin, is that many new investors have never invested in Forex, stock options, futures or any other high risk commodity.  Despite Bitcoin’s ascension, it will fall.  I repeat.  It. Will. Fall.

The Ugly

There are numerous reasons why Bitcoin could fall, including non-regulation, computer glitches, hackers, market manipulation by bad actors (not the theatrical kind), irrational exuberance, but most importantly – shorting by institutional investors.  Recently, the CBOE and Goldman Sachs, announced they would begin offering futures on Bitcoin.  For those unfamiliar with futures, it’s essentially a bet.  A bet that the price of a commodity will go up or down within a specified period of time.  Based on the volatility of the commodity, investors can make or lose a lot of moolah.  The reason that this is significant is because institutional investors have the ability to move markets with large infusions of cash.  Markets vacillate on a daily basis, based upon hedge fund and institutional trading.  With this knowledge and the ability to effect Bitcoin’s value, what position do you think these investors will take?

If you said “down” you’re correct – Ding, ding, ding!! Bitcoin’s rise has been based on pure speculation.  There are no quarterly earnings, board meetings or any other logistical factors that’s driving up its value.  It’s simply a gold rush to get rich quick.  The problem for new investors will be when the digital currency starts to fall based upon large future positions.

This is a natural occurrence of high-risk commodities.  Markets go up.  Markets go down.  Bitcoin has only gone up!

My best advice is to enjoy the run, cash out your “winnings” along the way, and don’t assume that Bitcoin will continue to rise (because it won’t).

Follow @40Confessions Bitcoin






African-Americans and Patriotism: The struggle is real.


On August 14th, 2016 during a pre-season NFL  game, Colin Kaepernick, the team’s former starting QB, was spotted taking a seat on the bench while the national anthem was being played.  The initial response to Kaepernick’s actions were innocuous and appeared to be the actions of a disgruntled QB, who had lost his starting position.  However, just a few weeks later, Kaepernick would reveal that he had not stood for the anthem during the entire pre-season as a means of protesting police brutality and unjustified shootings of African-American men across the country.

Since his revelation, the maelstrom surrounding his one-man protest, which evolved from taking a seat to “taking a knee,” has engulfed the country into a national conversation about first amendment rights, respect for the military and the American flag, Black Lives Matter and the players’ right to protest.

Recently, President Trump ignited the national conversation at an Alabama rally, by imploring NFL fans and team owners to disavow the players’ protest and suggested “get the son of a bitch off the field” for those players who chose not to stand.  Trump’s comments were immediately characterized as divisive and unproductive by several NFL owners and athletes.

When I initially heard about Kaepernick’s protest, I was puzzled about why he would choose the national anthem as his platform.  As a celebrity and a wealthy athlete, he could have used his influence to convene a meeting with then President Obama to discuss his concern about a rash of shootings by police against black men.  He could have also been instrumental in reaching out to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to bring more attention to the plight of young black men and police brutality.

However, I believe he chose the anthem because it would generate the most controversy and strike at the heart of a sacred national pastime.  In essence, his intention was to disrupt a sacrosanct display of patriotism that would serve as a “black fist” towards the establishment and shine a spotlight on social injustice.  Whether, or not, this was the most prudent form of protest is also part of the on-going debate.

The issue of patriotism has long been an awkward conversation within the black community.  African-Americans have overcome the viciousness of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings and desegregation, to find ourselves in a present day struggle to fully realize the American dream.  The election of our first African-American President, certainly helped to further our country’s progress towards equality for all races, but it has not created a post-racial society as some have suggested.

As a black man in this country, I’m subjected to the same disparate treatment that many black men experience in our country.   For example, I recently visited a drugstore, dressed casually in sweatpants and a baseball cap.   Upon my entry into the store, the store manager gazed at me with a look of suspicion.   I walked around the store for a few minutes but could not find the item I was looking for.  Upon my exit, the buzzer was activated, although I had not purchased any items.  I continued exiting the store, assuming that it was activated by an older white gentleman, who exited at the same time.  The store manager immediately chased me down in the parking lot and asked to see what item I had in my possession that activated the alarm.

I was incensed because I knew that the older white gentleman was the person who activated the buzzer with his purchase, but the store manager assumed that I was a thief, without any consideration that the other customer was the real culprit.  Once the manager realized that he was mistaken, he seemed almost dismayed that he had failed in his attempt to catch a black thief “red handed.” I began to chastise him for racially profiling me and admonished him for assuming that I had stolen from his store.

These types of incidents are part of our daily life as African-Americans, we bear the burden of being guilty before being proven innocent.  We also bear the burden of forgiveness.  If black people as a whole, internalized every slight, racial insult or misdeed – we would be psychologically consumed with hate towards our fellow white Americans.  However, hatred towards white people is not a common refrain that I have experienced as an African-American.

The act of forgiveness is not an overt action on behalf of African-Americans towards society, it is a necessary process that allows us to disdain society’s mistreatment towards us without being consumed with hate.  This process is not obvious nor is it recognized by white Americans, who are probably oblivious to the daily plight of African-Americans and our struggle to be respected and accepted, despite all of the contributions that we have made as a people to this country.

Since Kaepernick began his protest, many African-Americans have spoken out against the flag and the national anthem as a symbol of disenfranchisement and oppression, that were imposed upon them during a period of our history that didn’t recognize blacks as full citizens or human beings.  However, African-Americans have traditionally stood for the anthem and saluted the flag, despite overcoming a tumultuous history of oppression.

The national anthem, with lyrics such as “Land of the free, home of the brave,” penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814, was written during an era when blacks were certainly not free and black history icons such as Benjamin Banneker, who made important discoveries about astronomy and published one of the early American almanacs, were not recognized as part of American history.

Anthem protests, confederate statue removals and Columbus Day revocations are just the beginning of a series of awkward, but very salient topics that need to be discussed.  As America becomes less white, and Latinos, Asians and African-Americans become a greater proportion of the population, younger generations (as we’ve seen recently) have begun to ask questions such as, “Why do we honor confederate generals, who committed acts of sedition to protect their livelihood via chattel slavery?” and “Why do we honor Christopher Columbus who oversaw the rape, pillaging and murder of indigenous Americans?”

Most of my African-American friends are in full support of protesting the anthem, but I may be one of the few who view the flag and the anthem as a symbol of freedom for all Americans, especially African-Americans.  The flag is essentially a symbol, that Americans utilize to portray their sense of patriotism and pay homage to soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.  Without the sense of symbolism, the flag is meaningless and the words of the anthem would ring hollow.

When I stand and honor the flag, I’m reminded of Crispus Attucks and all the brave black soldiers, who gave their lives to fight for freedom in a country that didn’t recognize them as free people.  I stand and salute for all those soldiers, regardless of their race, who made the ultimate sacrifice so that I can exercise my freedoms.

America is far from a perfect union, but despite our history, I stand and salute because I am an American – an African-American who’s proud of the contributions of my people and the hope that we live out the true meaning of our pledge, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all..”









Paying it forward pays off!


With the advent of social media, customers who feel mistreated can freely admonish and disparage companies online, usually with impunity.  A great example of this new dynamic, is the recent Twitter skirmish between conservative commentator Anne Coulter and Delta Airlines.  Ms. Coulter unleashed a barrage of insults towards Delta, over a last second seat reassignment.  She was immediately berated on Twitter as someone who was self-entitled and deserving of public shame and scorn.

Delta responded like most companies, by trying to appease Ms. Coulter and squelch the online tirade.  However, as the backlash against Coulter began to grow, Delta decided to launch a final (and sarcastic) salvo at her, by offering a $30.00 refund for the inconvenience.

As most of us have experienced, flying can be a very stressful and exhausting endeavor.  I flew down to Rio, a few years ago on American Airlines to meet some friends to celebrate the New Year.   I had been to Rio a few times before and assumed that my visa was still valid from the previous trip.  However, when I arrived, I discovered that my visa had expired and that I would not be allowed entry into Brazil.

You can only imagine how surprised and frustrated I was about flying a total of 13 hours to my destination, only to be denied entry.  I tried to persuade and reason with the Brazilian customs officials to grant me an exception, to no avail.  As the reality of my predicament began to sink in, I felt a mix of shame and frustration.  How could I have overlooked my visa status?  Why didn’t the airline confirm my visa status during check-in?

Once I accepted my fate, I began to consider my options for returning back home to L.A.  I made my way to the American Airlines lounge, where I was greeted by a very friendly and helpful employee.  I explained my situation to him and he empathized with me and immediately began to search for flights that would get me back to L.A. asap.  However, it was late and most flights were not available until the following morning.

The friendly associate was able to find a flight back to Miami, which left in an hour but my connection to L.A. would not have departed until the next day.  Which meant that I was destined to spend a night in the airport, whether it was in Miami or in the Rio airport – was up to me.

The associate sensing my disappointment, began to explain that the lounge was equipped with showers and that I could help myself to their buffet.  Once the idea of showering and eating a good meal, popped into my mind – my disposition began to change.  I accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to enjoy a festive New Years Eve in Rio, and that I had wasted my time and money traveling so far.

Despite my debacle, I was impressed with the attentiveness of the American Airlines employee.  He went out of his way to assist me which helped alleviate some of the stress I was experiencing after a long flight.

The following morning, I awoke, took another shower and grabbed a quick breakfast before heading towards my departing flight.  The helpful attendant was long gone, but I had decided that I was going to write a glowing letter of recommendation for him.

After arriving back in L.A., after another long journey.  I was completely exhausted and slept for quite a long time.  A couple of days later, I wrote an online letter to American Airlines, explaining my situation and expressing my appreciation for the employee’s assistance and professionalism.

When I wrote my letter, I had no expectations of a reply or remuneration.  However, one week  later, I received an email from the airline, informing me that they were at fault for not verifying my visa status prior to departure.  They also indicated their appreciation of my kind remarks regarding the Rio based employee, and that they would be refunding my original ticket purchase AND sending me an additional international travel voucher.   I was elated!

I was quite surprised at their generosity and prompt reply.  Once again, I had no expectation of a refund, I simply wanted to acknowledge the great customer service I had experienced during my stay at the airport.

I assume that 99% of all letters written by customers are to express their frustration and disappointment with their service.  By taking the time, to share positive feedback on my travel experience, I was able to turn a botched situation into a blessing.

Throughout the years, I’ve made a habit of sharing positive stories about my customer service experiences and the good karma just continues to flow.  Next time you encounter a friendly and helpful employee, take the time to let them know how much you appreciate their attitude and extra effort.


Trump, the Politically Incorrect Politician

TrumpI’m almost ashamed to admit that I was once a big fan of current Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump.  Years ago, before The Apprentice and before he became a controversial politician, I discovered his best selling book, The Art of the Deal.  Trump’s business acumen and his Machiavellian style bravado made him seem like a real life Gordon Gekko.  In great detail, he discussed the intricacies of deal making and the joy that he would feel after successfully completing a significant business deal.

As a recent college graduate, who was determined to become a successful businessman, I incorporated some of Trump’s ideals and philosophies into my personal life.  But, the reincarnated Trump, bares little resemblance to the 1980’s deal maker who emblazoned his name on almost everything that he owned, from hotels, airplanes and even cologne.

In recent years, Donald Trump has managed to reinvent himself in the form of a brash, politically incorrect politician who has captured the attention of devout GOP voters and continues to lead in almost every Republican poll.  When Trump announced his most recent Presidential bid, he immediately created controversy by proclaiming that as President, he would deport all Hispanic illegal aliens back to their countries.

As a result of his proclamation, he instantly jumped to the top of the polls.  Where most GOP candidates were reluctant to make such controversial claims about immigration, Trump was undeterred and as a result, he has become the focal point of the GOP race.  His campaign rallies draw thousands of avid supporters who fervently believe that he is the answer to their political prayers.

This is Trump’s third attempt at running for U.S. President, despite never holding political office before.  Unlike his failed prior attempts, Trump seized momentum from the inception with his current campaign.  Like a savvy businessman, he learned from his past failures, reinvented himself and out maneuvered his other GOP competitors by making extreme proclamations regarding Mexican-Americans, border security and dealing harshly with Chinese and Iranian policies, to name a few.

One of the lessons I believe that Trump learned, was to not present himself as a politician.  In his prior campaigns, he appeared hesitant to shake up the status quo and quickly lost ground to ultra-conservatives like Rick Santorum.  His new platform, and his emphasis on presenting himself as a wealthy businessman who has nothing in common with his political competitors has been called “refreshing” by a large majority of Republicans and even a few Democrats.

Initially, I assumed that like his previous attempts, Americans would quickly grow tired of his rhetoric and dismiss him once again as just another wannabe Presidential candidate.  However, Trump has been able to excite what some pundits call “the angry white” voters and maintain his position atop the GOP polls.   These are the same voters who adamantly supported extremists like Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and anyone else who vocally disparaged President Obama.  But as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Washington Post in 2012, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Trump is undoubtedly preaching to a choir, whose membership is declining.  Most census data predicts that Latinos will comprise nearly half of all U.S. citizens within the next 30 – 40 years.   Furthermore, the country’s political leanings are growing increasingly more liberal and less conservative, with the advent of gay marriage, universal healthcare and the easing of marijuana laws.

As Trump continues to lead in the polls and stir up his conservative base, he’s also alienating future generations of voters who will likely perceive the Republican party as unsympathetic to their beliefs and their cultural backgrounds.  This is why many in his party are beginning to speak up and disavow him as a legitimate candidate, who doesn’t represent the “true” principals of their ideology.  But ironically, he does represent everything within the GOP platform.

Since Obama was elected in 2008, they have adopted a scorched earth policy towards him and the Democrats.  They have routinely attempted to block every piece of major legislation, threatened lawsuits over his use of executive powers, attempted to repeal Obamacare nearly fifty times, shut down the government and invited a foreign leader to address Congress without his approval.  The Republican position towards President Obama has created so much animosity that New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie is constantly ridiculed just for giving the President an enthusiastic hug.

In a recent debate hosted by Fox News, Rand Paul and Donald Trump both chastised Christie for his embrace of President Obama during his visit to New Jersey, shortly after Hurricane Sandy.  This puerile and asinine position towards our President, is a new low for the Republican party and provided the perfect platform for Trump to gain immediate credibility among those who possess minimal respect for our President, despite his achievements.

I personally lost all respect for Trump, when he became the de facto leader of the Birther Movement,  and vociferously implied that Obama was not born in the U.S.   Trump also questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s academic achievements while at Columbia and Harvard, insisting that he was given preferential treatment.  Criticizing an accomplished African-American’s academic bona fides, is a commonly used racist “dog whistle” that Trump doesn’t mind blowing loud and clear.

Whether or not Trump is a racist is up for debate, but he certainly doesn’t mind offending Latinos, African-Americans, Asians etc. in his attempt to solidify his support.  His ascendancy to the top of the Republican polls, unfortunately represents the official “dumbing down” of America.  Trump is simply a showman who has utilized his celebrity as a reality TV star and applied it to the political theater.  I suspect that his real motivation for seeking the highest office has more to do with increasing his brand, than actually winning.

Many loud and controversial politicians like Trump have made a big splash into American politics but quickly fell back down to earth.  However, he seems to have defied his 15 minutes of political fame and with only 13 months until election day, continues to maintain his lead over his competitors.  If Trump continues to lead in the polls, everyone will be anxious to see if the GOP reluctantly anoints Trump as their nominee.  The outcome of that decision will no doubt have a lasting impact on their party, as Trump has become their ring leader and their biggest liability.

Profits over Prophecy

crefloI recently watched the newly released documentary entitled Going Clear, which exposes many of the Church of Scientology’s deeply held secrets, including prison camp type treatment, harassment of ex-members, physical beatings by church leaders and the church’s ultimate victory against the IRS to declare themselves as a non-profit religious organization.  I must admit that I thought I knew a lot about Scientology and its enigmatic founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who was once a prolific science fiction writer, but the documentary revealed a lot of arcane practices and rituals that were previously unreported.

I’ve studied many religions and I’m always fascinated by what makes people become devout religious believers.  The documentary featured former high level church members who had previously defended Scientology in the media as a sound and credible institution of higher consciousness.  Several of the former members described bizarre intimidation tactics instituted by the church leader, David Miscavige, such as constant one-on-one evaluation sessions conducted by high ranking members called Auditors, which were designed to document the church members vulnerabilities and were ultimately used to intimidate ex-members from speaking to the media.

While watching the film, I began to recall similar stories about the Mormon religion and the Church of Latter Day Saints and some of the tactics they used to intimidate former members.  In a documentary entitled, This World, The Mormon Candidate, former church members recounted being harassed by private investigators who were former FBI agents.   They also discussed being “disconnected” from their friends and families who were still associated with the church, which was also a common practice utilized by the Church of Scientology.

The irony of a church encouraging family members to “disconnect” from their friends and family members, just seems unfathomable and a complete contrast to the tenets of a religious organization.  It’s this level of zealousness that’s so intriguing; seemingly stable people who completely surrender their spiritual objectivity to an organization or to a spiritual leader, who often use that blind faith to financially enrich themselves and elevate their status among their congregants and their community.

Recently, Megachurch Minister Creflo Dollar was chastised in the press for asking his followers to donate $65 million dollars towards the purchase of a new private jet.  Dollar proclaimed that he needed the new jet so that he could continue to spread the gospel around the world, despite reports that he already owns 4 other private jet planes, several mansions and expensive cars.

According to several news organizations, Dollar’s church generates an average of $69 million in annual donations, all of which is presumably tax free.  While I’ve never attended Dollar’s church, I’ve heard that devout members are required to share their annual financial information with the church and to set up automatic monthly tithing from their checking accounts based on their annual income.

Tithing which is defined as giving a one-tenth part of something or a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to a government, is the lifeblood of any religious organization.  However, in the past 20 years megachurch ministers have found other lucrative tax free revenue streams.  Ministers such as Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Paula White, T.D. Jakes and others routinely travel the world in their private jets with large entourages, proselytizing their “prosperity gospel” and collecting large speaker fees, along with selling millions of books, tapes and producing theatrical films.

It’s the latter revenue stream that came to the attention of the U.S. Senate in 2007 and prompted an inquiry into the finances of megachurch leaders such as Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes, Bishop Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer and Paula White Ministries in Florida.

The Senate panel requested financial documents from each leader in an effort to determine if their lavish lifestyles violated the churches’ tax-exempt status.   According to related news articles, many of the ministers responded to the inquiry but were unwilling to provide complete financial disclosure, especially Creflo Dollar.

The rise of megachurches and their leader’s ancillary tax free revenue streams have come under constant scrutiny.  Should a minister who generates millions of dollars in book sales, speaker fees and box office revenue pay taxes on that income?  Of course they should!  Unless they can demonstrate that that the bulk of the tax free revenue is materially benefiting their donors and the communities that they serve, otherwise it should be considered taxable revenue.

Ministers like Dollar, defended their lavish lifestyles and income by proclaiming that they have routinely purchased cars and houses for church members.  While this seems admirable and altruistic, I doubt that this is a common occurrence.    In 2012, an employee of Dollar’s church was unfortunately murdered while working in a church office by an intruder.  In reaction, Dollar encouraged church members to donate to a fund to pay off the widow’s mortgage and outstanding debt.  With millions already donated to his church, Dollar who’s probably a multimillionaire, brazenly asked his congregation to take on the burden of paying off a church member’s debts.

To be clear, I’m not a hater of ministers who create massive amounts of wealth.  I think preachers should be rewarded for building a large and loyal following, and should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  The issue that I have is, how much wealth is enough?  How many planes, cars and houses does a minister really need?  Apparently, to Dollar and others, they should be able to flaunt their tax free wealth without question.

According to an article published by Urban Intellectuals, African-Americans have donated almost 420 billion dollars to black churches in the past 30 years.  If the bulk of those tithes and donations were invested back into the black communities in the form of charter schools, job training, tuition assistance and drug counseling, it’s likely that the unemployment rate and crime levels would be dramatically reduced in the neighborhoods that they serve.  But it’s clear that these megachurches are not reinvesting the majority of their donations back to the community, instead they’re being used to generate more money for the church leaders, without sharing the wealth with their most loyal congregants.

A true spiritual leader with millions in donations, should be dedicated to building institutions and programs that actually help their followers, instead of hoarding those tithes and enriching themselves.  Spiritual leaders like Gandhi and Mother Teresa could have easily taken advantage of their followers and enriched themselves beyond measure, but they elevated the true purpose of their calling over the pursuit of riches.

It would be refreshing to see these uber-wealthy ministers adopt the same mind set, but it’s unlikely since the source of their wealth is predicated on people who hope to achieve financial prosperity through the gospel.