Economy & Work

The Cost of a Narcissist in the White House

Run a few calculations and see what the time we spend distracted by Donald Trump is worth.

The Cost of a Narcissist in the White House

President Donald Trump answers questions from the media during a news conference announcing Alexander Acosta as the new labor secretary nominee in the East Room at the White House on Feb. 16, 2017. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After the most recent Super Bowl, I read an article that estimated it cost employers $1 billion in lost productivity on the Monday afterward — a mix of people calling in sick, showing up late and spending time discussing the top commercials (46 percent), the halftime show (12 percent), and the game play and strategy (12 percent).

Ask yourself: How much time during the last week did you spend ‘on’ Trump?

This article got me thinking about how much the Trump presidency will cost the US economy during the next four years due to similar losses in productivity. Trump’s narcissistic behavior — manifested in his unfiltered and uncontrolled Twitter communications and his preoccupation with being the center of attention — has created an unrelenting daily media frenzy. Every day brings a new crisis, new accusations, insults and lies that suck us into spending time “on” Trump. Ask yourself: How much time during the last week did you spend “on” Trump?

My rough calculation of my time spent during my work day: 20 minutes a day reading stories online, 10 minutes discussing Trump on the phone and 10 minutes in person discussing Trump: a total of 40 minutes a day.

With iPhone in hand to do some quick research, I decided to do a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation at a Sunday breakfast. There are 121.5 million people employed in full-time jobs in the US, 240 work days per year, and an average hourly wage of $20.43. The only remaining information needed to do the calculation is the average amount of time spent by the employed “on” Trump.

In a fact-free universe it would be easy to come up with the amount of time spent reading, talking about and reacting to Trump. One benchmark is from Larry, a waiter who saw my calculations over breakfast. I asked him how much time he was spending “on” Trump and, after some hesitation, he said “I’m spending I think 40 percent of my time thinking or talking about Trump, but I’m sure that will go down in the weeks ahead … hmm, well maybe not.”

Thinking there might be a correlation between income and time spent “on” Trump, I assumed that people would spend more of their time the higher their income.

Here’s my resulting back-of-the-envelope calculation (cleaned up a bit):

Jeff Schon chart

$623 billion a year.  What would that pay for?

  • $395 billion spent on private and public college and university education each year — so free higher education!
  • $110 billion for the Affordable Care Act
  • $54 billion to repair all of the country’s dams
  • $42 billion to provide federal funding for K-12 education
  • $21 billion to complete the wall between the United States and Mexico (latest estimate)

Finally, as someone who’s worked in children’s television for years, why not spring for the $500 million that funds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?  Think of all we could accomplish without a narcissist as president.

Jeff Schon

Jeff Schon is an executive in the software, internet, television and educational publishing industries. He is currently CEO of Akili Network Inc., developing the first commercial digital broadcast network distributing free educational entertainment content to 18 million children in Kenya.

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