The Press

Con­fus­ing wealth with smarts

- U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Infectious Diseases · Unemployment · Health Conditions · Employment · Society · Donald Trump · Republican Party (United States) · Democratic Party (United States) · Washington · White House · Mitch McConnell

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. –

 ??  ?? Don­ald Trump
Don­ald Trump
 ??  ?? Mitch McCon­nell,
Mitch McCon­nell,
 ??  ?? Stephen Mnuchin
Stephen Mnuchin

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