Disillusionment with the G20 and Trump
From fleecing and scamming investors to fleecing and scamming common folks
A hostile undercurrent of distrust, anger and discontent from protesters met world leaders at the G20 summit held in Hamburg, Germany. These anti-capitalist protests were aimed at the G20 leaders for their injustice in de-prioritizing the real and pressing concerns of the public and especially the poor — by focusing more on issues such as trade and climate that have no immediate effect in improving the lives of the people these leaders govern.
The G20 event, which incited violent clashes between police and demonstrators and culminated in vandalism and looting in the city, underscored the disjunction between the powerful and those without power whom they impact. Significantly, much of the ire of demonstrators was directed at leaders like Donald Trump, a billionaire whose protectionist policies have disconcerted many Europeans.
Such resentment of Trump is understandable, given that he was lucky to have been born rich and to grow up with all the advantages to succeed — comfortably sheltered under the umbrella of his father’s wealth and far removed from the hardships faced by people born poor. As a business mogul, his chief interest in life has been the accretion of personal wealth; as a politician, it is now the preservation of his political power as president. Trump has shied away from serious charitable philanthropy, and some Americans do not even believe that a rich and self-centred man like Trump is sincerely interested in helping those beneath his tier of wealth and power.
Trump critics perceive him as a dissembler who disguised himself as a champion of economically distressed heartland voters for the purpose of gulling them to vote for him. This perception is justifiably based on Trump’s well-known hypocrisy. For example, when he was a presidential candidate, Trump denounced Wall Street bankers and promised to break their political and economic clout and force them to pay higher taxes. But when he became president, he reversed his promises by appointing many Wall Street billionaires into his administrative circle — a turnabout that elicited press bashing.
Trump supporters argue that a cabinet with a pro-business bias will help grow the U.S. economy and create jobs for the poor. That may be true, Trump critics rebut, but who will benefit more from the economic growth, the rich or the poor? Trump detractors claim that his appointments of Wall Street billionaires to protect and promote the economic interests of the American people, especially the poor, is a big con — akin to entrusting wolves to guard and ensure the safety of sheep.
At a June 2017 rally in Iowa, Trump defended his flip-flopping appointment of wealthy people like Gary Cohn, chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs investment bank, and billionaire Wilbur Ross, asserting: “I just don’t want a poor person” in charge of the U.S. economy. Trump’s statement reveals a bigoted contempt for the intelligence of the poor and advances his hypothesis that if you’re not wealthy, you’re not smart — which is a fallacious generalization easily debunked by Alexander Hamilton, a poor politician who became the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and brilliantly ran the American economy and finances during George Washington’s presidency.
Trump’s boastful materialism also overlooks the fact that wealth does not necessarily confer happiness — the palatial residences of the wealthy are often littered with the shards of broken families, scandals, or suicides. That the attainment of wealth is not the be-all and end-all of human life is also validated by religious teachers — like Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ — who essentially taught that the acquisition of spiritual wisdom (and not material wealth) is life’s greatest goal.
Of course, in keeping with his proneness to play hide and seek with honesty and truth, Trump left out a couple of disquieting facts that should raise concerns about his appointees. One is that Cohn’s decisionmaking led to the 2008 American financial crisis in which Goldman Sachs lost $1.2 billion of its investors’ money — so why would Trump want him as his chief economic adviser? Another omission is that Ross was instrumental in Trump avoiding bankruptcy during the 1990s and in saving Trump’s ownership of the Taj Mahal casino. Obviously, Trump did not disclose this last fact at the Iowa rally because he wanted to cover up his penchant for using political appointments to reward cronies or loyalists who have supported and helped him in the past.
Those who fear that Trump’s intent is to create a government run by an oligarchy of wealthy people with Trump as its kingpin, may be disappointed to learn that it is already a fait accompli. The American people paved the way for it six months ago, when they elected a billionaire without any political experience as their president — because he sold them the falsehood that his wealth qualified him for the job.
Tony Lo Presti is a former educator and former Hamiltonian