Confusing wealth with smarts
When Donald Trump was first elected president, he boasted about appointing the wealthiest Cabinet ever assembled. ‘‘I want people that made a fortune,’’ he explained.
He especially did not believe
‘‘a poor person’’ should be advising him on the economy. He wanted, he said, a rich person’s ‘‘kind of thinking’’.
Here’s where confusing wealth with smarts got us: we are confronting a renewed surge of the coronavirus pandemic with little in the way of needed financial aid. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress refuse to come to a deal with Democrats for a renewed surplus, leaving everyone and everything from unemployed child-care providers to small restaurant and gym owners out to dry.
Expanded unemployment benefitsmeant to help everyone from gig workers to those who remain jobless because of these once-ina-lifetime circumstances are due to end the day after Christmas. Millions of people say they believe they will face eviction or foreclosure when partial rent and mortgage moratoriums imposed at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis expire at the end of the year. And already, food relief lines stretch for miles in some states.
It is beyond obvious to say that millions of Americans need money, and that they need it fast. But in Washington . . . well, there’s no rush, no urgency.
Trump, now that he is a soon-tobe-former president, has all but put a ‘‘Gone Golfing’’ sign on the White House. The Senate, led by Republican Mitch McConnell (estimated net worth US$34 million), recessed for the Thanksgiving break. Treasury Secretary StevenMnuchin (estimated net worth $400m), yanked back the Fed’s emergency small-business and municipal lending options.
There are different ways of looking at this disconnect. Behavioural science studies show that possessing wealth literally blinds many possessing it to the needs of others. They look at the other people around them less. They are more likely to indulge in unethical behaviour. They don’t need other people to get them though a rough patch and, no surprise, they often act like it.
It’s also true that the Trump era worked out quite well for the wealthy – be they large, wellcapitalised businesses or for high-net-worth individuals. They first benefited from a supposed tax reform that was simply a scheme to put more money in the pockets of the rich, including Trump.
And now? The stock market – you know, the thing Trump always boasted about – is soaring. The Dow crossed the 30,000 mark on Tuesday, setting a new record. Never mind the fact that fears of a double-dip recession are growing by the day. Why worry about the plebs?
But whether the voting public will finally notice this disregard is still to be determined. That the rich are smarter, and more talented – well, that’s been sold to us for decades. We are a country where the phrase ‘‘If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?’’ is asked seriously, not ironically.
It’s possible, in fact, that the feckless Trump administration continued to acclimatise us to the long, ongoing American phenomenon by which, even as amajority of us believe the government should do more, we still accept it won’t be there for us. Why else are we weirdly quiescent about the injustice of it? Why don’t we protest?
Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues with its mean and petty ways to the bitter end. Even as the jobless are begging for funds on GoFundMe, the White House is appealing a federal judge’s order that would permit states to distribute extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme benefits – better known as food stamps – to families in need.
As it turns out, the rich men and women of the Trump administration and their allies in the Senate don’t much care about the needs ofmillions of Americans. We’re all the poorer for it. –