Donald Trump is an indictment of the system. How many more times are we going to hear that? I wonder what system he is indicting. It is not the election system or our evil of two lesser two party democracy. Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton are sufficiently indicting those.
No. Trump is really the canary in the coalmine…or the crow in the gold mine, perhaps. He is just like Martin Shkreli, the former head of Turing Pharmaceuticals who jacked up the price of a couple of essential drugs up to 5,000%.
Clinton attacked Trump for his comments in 2006 about the possible collapse of the housing market, when he said, “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy.” Hillary Clinton, the one who gave three speeches at Goldman Sacks for $250K a clip, finds that objectionable. Senator Elizabeth Warren has also derided Trump, but at least she has been consistent in indicting the rigged economic system overall.
The little resonance garnered by this criticism should surprise nobody. What was the sin? That Trump aimed and even hoped to profit from a system crash that had the “collateral” effect of leaving families out in the cold and erased black and Latino wealth at inordinate and disproportionate rates?
Indeed, he acknowledges it with pride: Yes, I am a businessman. I buy low and sell high.
Yeah, if it goes down I’m gonna buy … I’m a businessman, that’s what I’m supposed to do. If it goes down, it goes down. I feel badly for everybody. What am I going to do? It’s business!
And to the ridiculous accusation that he wanted to buy when it was low, Trump, for once making sense, gave the obvious answer: “Who the hell doesn’t?”
This discussion rings hollow and hypocritical to no end. Does Goldman Sacks tell investors to wait until the stocks are really, really high and buy then, you know, out of that charitable spirit that has always characterized them?
The question is: Have we ever criticized Trump for doing that – for buying low – before he decided to destroy this country with his run for the presidency? Doesn’t Sanders say this all the time: The business model of Wall Street is fraud?
In fact, wasn’t that what many homeowners whose luck turned for the worse when the housing bubble burst were banking on? And, speaking of banking, wasn’t that what banks and bankers were peddling, particularly to those who could least afford it?
Yes, as the leader of the upper crass, as Larry Wilmore calls him, Trump showed his usual callousness, vulgarity and uncaring, but he did not say or do anything the system does not condone and, actually, encourages.
We can now frame it as “oh, but he was looking to make money while poor people were losing their homes.” Yes, and so were the banks and Wall Street, and many of us. That is why his supporters cannot see the problem is such a statement. That is what we encourage, “Seize the opportunity,” “play the market.” Those opportunities usually mean some people are getting the short end of the stick. We just do not mention that. What corporations do by taking their factories to countries in which regulations are laxer and salaries quasi non-existent? They “buy (people’s work) low”…and bring their products back to the U.S. to “sell high.” (Somehow, that is China’s fault, though.) We have a for-profit prison system, for crying out loud!
Trump is saying what we all know but keep quiet. In fact, Republicans – those now tripping all over themselves to support him – should be the most concerned about what Trump says…nor what he does, not real disagreement there. He just says it a bit too openly and exposes the crassness and cold-heartedness of the system.
Remember Shkreli? Oh, how up in arms Republicans were! Why? Did he do something illegal or did he just stretch the market rules to their logical conclusions? We have a for profit healthcare system, but are horrified when someone wants to make a profit out of it? Nope. We just do not want it to be so obvious, as Kalefa Sanneh discussed:
One of the strangest things about the anti-Shkreli argument is that it asks us to be shocked that a medical executive is motivated by profit. And one of the strangest things about Shkreli himself is that he doesn’t seem to be motivated by profit—at least, not entirely. Last fall, Derek Lowe, a chemist and blogger affiliated with Science, criticized Shkreli’s plan to raise prices as a “terrible idea,” not least because such an ostentatious plan posed “a serious risk of bringing the entire pricing structure of the industry under much heavier scrutiny and regulation.” He called on the pharmaceutical industry to denounce Shkreli as a means of protecting its own business model…
As a society, we believe – amazingly – in the morality of the free market and in its infallible capacity for fairness. However, we act all dazed and confused when someone like Trump has a slip of the tongue and makes apparent what should have remained hidden. He said that ten years ago, where were the outraged condemnations then?
Trump and Shkreli stretch the system to its limits and that is very dangerous indeed, because there is that democratic socialist out there who has been saying for 30 years, with sincere and utter disgust, that the system is really rigged in favor of the rich. Some people are listening now.
Trump is indicting, by his mere being, a system that hypocritically keeps silenced the true cost in people suffering of being a “winner;” indoctrinates with enviable skill the population of – how Marco Rubio put it? – “winners and soon to be winners” about the wonders of the system and traffics on “losers’” pain on continuous basis.
The free market is what happens to individuals, to people who lose everything to the likes of Trump and the rest of the more courteous looking and softer-spoken rich elite.
He is an indictment only insofar as he is unintentionally exposing the essential flaws of a system that allows people like him to flourish.
Along with Trump and Shkreli we should place CBS Chairman Les Moonves, who gaffed, i.e. said what he thought about Trump’s candidacy, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” His concern for his country is touching.
Pardon my cynicism, but see how much we care about people not having a place to live that Trump’s defense against accusations of racism in renting was that he was just avoiding renting to poor people, to those in welfare. Race was just a proxy.
I get we do care a bit more about some of those who lost their houses and, hence, most of their families’ wealth, during the recent housing bubble because that is a more enfranchised and politically involved group than the poor we systematically screw.
As Matthew Desmond says in his book Evicted, we need to consider poverty the result of “a kind of robbery;” the product of a system in which profit is derived from poverty, in which there are winners because there are losers.
Stop feigning outrage…we have known this all along.
DISCLAIMER: These are my personal views and do not represent the opinions of my employer, or any other organization.