It’s always interesting when members of the ruling-class reveal their cluelessness about the lives of ordinary working people. Sometimes it can cost them dearly in the political realm.
The late George H.W. Bush famously expressed amazement as president over the workings of an electric scanner in a grocery check-out line. In doing so, he unwittingly exposed the interesting fact that he never shopped for food and other necessities like regular people. That hurt him in his re-election bid amidst the onset of a recession in 1991.
Mitt Romney got caught telling a gathering of wealthy campaign donors that 47% of the nation was composed of no-account moochers who just want to collect welfare checks and avoid paying taxes. That classist reflection on the nation’s working-class poor and near-poor cost him in the 2012 presidential election (when he received exactly 47% of the popular vote).
And then there’s Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul who posed as the “populist” champion of the heartland working-class (its white component at least) and went on to pass a giant tax cut for the rich in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 percent already owned more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
Trump, one of the richest men in America, claims he can empathize with federal workers who are struggling to pay their bills and meet basic expenses thanks to the idiotic government shutdown he has undertaken on the false pretext that there is a crisis on the U.S. southern border
“I can relate,” Trump said last Sunday. “And I’m sure that the people that are toward the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do. And they’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on.”
“Many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing,” he added.
The ridiculous Trump shutdown is in its third week. Roughly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or told to work without pay. The shutdown has affected a broad range of jobs, including federal park rangers, national archivists, custodians, federal prison guards, cafeteria servers, Coast Guard sailors, air traffic controllers, and meteorologists.
Millions of poor families are facing the loss of Food Stamps and other federal supports, raising the specter of over-burdened soup kitchens and food pantries.
Like their working- and middle-class counterparts around the nation, most federal employees live from paycheck to paycheck with slight savings. They cannot forego pay for an extended period.
The White House has furnished “non-essential” federal workers with a letter “explaining the situation” to landlords, mortgage lenders, and other creditors. But it’s not clear how far that letter will go with financial authorities and you can’t buy gas or groceries with a letter from your boss.
You can see unpaid federal workers in tears over the financial stress the shutdown is causing on cable news.
Trump “can relate”? The president’s net worth is $3.1 billion, Forbes reported last October. He claims he didn’t inherit his wealth, but a detailed a New York Times investigation last fall showed that he got his start and otherwise benefited significantly from his father’s real estate fortune. “By age 3,” the Timesreported, Trump “was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. In his 40s and 50s, he was receiving more than $5 million a year.”
The notion of Trump being able to “relate” to people facing eviction and trips to food pantries and homeless shelters because of lost paychecks is of course completely absurd – as is about 90 percent of everything Trump says or Tweets.
Meanwhile, Trump is insanely claiming that the shutdown could go on “for years.”
Now might be a good time to recall how Trump’s then top political adviser Steve Bannon described his main policy goal when speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February of 2017: “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
My guess is that Trump is still in regular contact with Bannon. He probably as the alt-right “Leninist” on speed dial for late-night consultations. Bannon is no doubt telling him that the shutdown is playing well in the white and rural, red-state “heartland,” where federal workers are far more scarce than they are in those metropolitan zones occupied by the “radical Left” – you know, people like Wall Street’s Charles Schumer and Nancy “We’re Capitalist and That’s Just the Way it Is” Pelosi.
Still, Trump is ultimately a political animal more than an ideological one. He was ready to cut a Christmas season deal with would have let him escape his moronic wall promise. But the media strike by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and other white-nationalist figureheads got Trump to turn on a dime. His low approval numbers mean that he can’t afford to lose any of his backers on the hard nativist and racist right.
Will it cost him politically? On top of numerous other problems tipping his approval numbers back towards his post-Charlottesville low, the shut-down could prove disastrous for Trump as stories of desperate and impoverished federal workers mount – and as more and people die thanks to the absence of vital federal services. It’s part of an overall political situation that could bring Trump’s presidency to an end before the 2020 elections.
In the meantime, it’s important to keep a critical distance from the Inauthentic Opposition corporate and “progressive neoliberal” Democrats, who are enjoying the corner into which the orange monstrosity has painted himself. Yesterday morning, over at MSNBC, the cable news headquarters of Goldman-Clintonian “progressive neoliberalism” (the curious mixture of corporate-financial allegiance and bi-coastal bourgeois and metropolitan identity politics that lay at the heart of the Clinton-Obama-Pelosi Democratic Party’s “leadership” and world view), the political talk-show host Stephane Ruhle and two guests spoke passionately about the human costs of the shutdown. Right before a commercial break, Ms. Ruhle then said that her next segment would turn to “Wall Street, my favorite place.”
That was no joke about the nation’s finance district being her happy place. Ruhle is a wealthy finance capital veteran who made a killing on the Street, specializing quite lucrativly in the toxic financial mechanisms that did so much to distribute wealth upward and crash the U.S. and world economy in 2008. According to Wikipedia:
“Stephanie Leigh Ruhle (born December 24, 1975) is an NBC News correspondent since April 2016 and anchor of MSNBC Live. Previously, Ruhle was managing editor and news anchor for Bloomberg Television and editor-at-large for Bloomberg News. Ruhle co-hosted the Bloomberg Television show Bloomberg GO. Prior to joining Bloomberg…Ruhle spent 14 years working in the finance industry. While in college, she spent a summer interning for Merrill Lynch. In 1997,she joined Credit Suisse where she spent six years working in hedge fund sales. During her time at Credit Suisse First Boston, she served as a vice president and became thehighest producing credit derivatives salesperson in the United States. In 2003, Ruhle joined Deutsche Bank as a credit salesperson covering hedge funds. She ended her eight-year career there as a managing director in Global Markets Senior Relationship Management” (emphasis added).
Ms. Rhule is reported to have a net worth of $5 million to and receive $1 million a year for hosting her highly caffeinated MSDNC show. She feels for the working-class while inhabiting a lavish $7.5 million townhouse on Manhattan’s uber-tony Upper East Side.
Stephanie Ruhle’s “favorite place” has been screwing over working-class people of all kinds (federal workers included) in service to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of capital for as long as it has existed. The sensitive-sounding hosts at MSNBC can cry all they want about the plight of working people and the poor but their network, most of its hosts, and those in in the saddle atop the Democratic Party are every bit as allegiant to that dictatorship as FOX News and the Republicans.
But you already knew that, fellow Counterpunchers.
Help adjunct history instructor Paul Street keep writing here.