The New York Times recently ran a lengthy article that took a long look at the finances of President Trump and came to a conclusion that should surprise no one who's been following the man's unlikely path to The White House: that he has been lying about the source of his wealth.
Of all the literally thousands of falsehoods that Trump has been saying for years, this one may be the the one that he has repeated the most. He has often held himself up as the embodiment of the American dream, the hard working, successful businessman who built a multi billion dollar empire out of a "small" loan of a million dollars from his father. While always absurd on the face of it (since when is a million dollars a small loan, especially when it was given fifty years ago?), we now know that it's another example of Trump's con artist nature and massive ego creating a mythical world in which he has almost god like powers of success. In fact, according to the article, Trump was already a millionaire at age eight! And time and time again, his father was there to bail him out as he stumbled from one failed business venture to another, surviving six bankruptcies and terrible ideas (Trump steaks? Trump water? Trump university?). He even tried to have his father's will rewritten shortly before his death to gain more power and money to bail him out yet again. There is nothing self made about this man.
In fact he is, put simply, the living embodiment of everything wrong with American capitalism: the rich get richer and poor get poorer. The American ideal is that with hard work and determination, anyone can be a success. But what about the children of those who have had success? While it's reasonable to want your children to be well provided for, is it right for them to raised in a way where their every desire can be met and every problem can be bought away? Where prep schools train them for entrance into ivy league colleges that they very well may not even deserve to go to? Where a family business can lead to a cushy job that others would have to put in years of experience to get? Has our reverence for the American dream led us to have our own form of royalty, a tiny elite of super rich brats who rule over the rest of us because of the station of their birth and little else?
We've gone down this road before: when I hear about Trump's life of enormous wealth and privilege, I can't help but think about our last Republican President, George W Bush. Not only were both born wealthy, but they also lived lives of entitlement and privilege: they both found ways to avoid serving in Viet Nam (Bush served in the Champagne Unit of the National guard, so named because of the number of rich kids in it, Trump had a mysterious bone spur in his foot), attended Ivy League schools without earning the right to (Bush was a wealthy Yale legacy, Trump transferred to Wharton Business School after a family member intervened on his behalf) have been able to shrug off years of behavior that would have disqualified many presidential candidates (Bush's drinking led to a DUI and a Drunken Disorderly arrest, Trump's womanizing saw him accused of sexually assaulting nineteen different women). They both won Republican presidential nominations through dubious means (when Bush was running against John Mc Cain in 2000, somebody spread a vicious rumor about his adopted daughter, while Trump openly accused Ted Cruz's father of somehow being involved in the Kennedy assassination!), lost the popular vote and yet swaggered into office basking in the new power that their privileged birth right had won them. They then both began cutting taxes for wealthy families like theirs, doing nothing to aid the nation's poor and middle class. They even both have attacked affirmative action, ignoring the role that their race, money and power had in their own lives. And their complete and utter lack of any empathy for people not having the pampered childhoods that they had was (and is) often apparent. It should be remembered that even in the era of crazed Trump press conferences, George W Bush's statement on Hurricane Katrina, in which he reminisced about his drinking days in New Orleans and expressed regret over his rich friend Senator Trent Lott losing his summer home (!) in the disaster, while thousands were left dead or left with nothing, ranks as one of the most tone deaf and thoughtless presidential addresses ever. Almost as bad, Trump as president has gone to disaster sites and bragged about the turnout or told people to "have fun". Like all psychopaths, the man is incapable of caring for anyone else but himself.
So what can we do about these smug elites buying their way through life? Well, back in the 1950's, the top tax rate on the wealthiest people in this country was a whopping 89%. Flush with cash, the government spent that money on three things: education, infrastructure and scientific research. The result was the largest growth in the size of the middle class in this nations history. Sadly, that shared prosperity ended in the 1980's, with Ronald Reagan's deep tax cut for the rich, combined with his assault on unions, beginning a steep decline in the well being of the middle class and a growth in the rich and super rich. Although right now progressive taxation seems crazy given Trump's latest trillion and half dollar tax cut/hand out to the rich, there will come a day when common sense will finally assert itself in this country, and the wealthy elites like Trump and Bush that buy their way into power will find themselves slightly less well off. And I hope that all they will be able to do is throw a tantrum about it, like the spoiled brats they are.