The Government They Deserve

Every  nation gets the government it deserves.

~Joseph de Maistre

King Emoji Emoticon | King emoji, Emoticon, King cartoonThose who are unfamiliar with the above quoted 19th century philosopher might surmise he was warning citizens in democracies to carefully consider their votes.  Quite the contrary.  Actually, he was defending the French monarchy against those who advocated a more representative  form of government.  If de Maistre were alive and well on social media today, his avatar would be a royal emoticon and Donald Trump’s occupancy of the Oval Office would be his “ITUS” moment (“I told you so” in Twitter lingo).

Except for one thing.  Nations do not vote.  People do.  And in 2016, three million more Americans said, “We do not deserve Donald Trump.”  Therefore, while all Americans are now feeling the brunt of this minority-driven, electoral coup d’etat, it is the 62.9 million voters who thought it was a good idea putting a reality show host in the White House who deserve what they got.

Not that they need reminding, but what did they get for their four plus years of blind loyalty?  As of this morning, 16,693 deaths attributed to COVID-19 and more than 16 million first-time unemployment claims over the past three weeks, surpassing the worse days of the Great Depression.  If not for the gravity of the current situation, the ITUS moment belongs to the 69 million voters who said, “Not on our watch.”

What I find more ironic this morning is my new appreciation for Trump’s claim that he understands “forgotten Americans,” those who live paycheck to paycheck.  It certainly is not due to a sense of empathy for those less fortunate than himself.  It is because he is one of them.  How do I know this?  By comparing Trump’s behavior, not as president, but as CEO of his family business and as the head of a household, to my own.

Our household is the epitome of the classic Henny Youngman joke about the man who is hit by a car crossing the street.  The EMT asks, “Are you comfortable?”  To which the man replies, “I make a nice living.”  In the midst of a global pandemic and economic shutdown, my wife and I, if asked the same question, would respond, “We make a nice living.”  We are both what you might call semi-retired senior citizens who are self-employed.  We do not depend on the revenues from our small businesses. We live off two pensions and Social Security.  Our home and two cars are debt free.  None of the promised benefits in the coronavirus relief bills will make a significant change in our financial situation.  The only discussion we have had about our anticipated $2,400 federal check is how best to spend it in our community to help those for whom the payment is not even a drop in the bucket.

At the other end of the continuum are those less fortunate.  In our home state of Florida we see them standing in long-lines at the unemployment office because governors Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis emasculated the unemployment programs in the Department of Economic Opportunity.  We read how local banks are swamped with requests for assistance under the small business loan and grant programs authorized in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.  And what must be the single most outrageous travesty, 20 states have included payday lenders as “essential services” under their shelter-in-place orders.  (NOTE:  The Pew Foundation reports clients of payday lenders lose an average of one-third of their purchasing power as a result of these lenders’ fees and interest.)

So where does Donald Trump fit on this continuum?  Within days of shutdowns in several states where Trump properties are located, the Trump Organization was asking Deutsche Bank to renegotiate loans. As of April 3rd, the Trump Organization has laid off more than 1,500 workers in the United States and Canada.  And while other hotel owners are offering space to first responders and medical staff in COVID-19 hot spots, the Trump Organization has made no such gesture.  And finally, while REAL billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and Jack Ma have reached into their own pockets to pay for testing, medical supplies and research, not a dollar from Donald, Junior, Eric or Ivanka.

Bottom line?  All those who voted for Trump in 2016  thought he was a rich guy who cared about Americans who live hand-to-mouth.  Sorry, that does not seem to be the case.  You got someone more like you than the image he projects.  Remember, net worth is not about assets alone.  You also have to take account of liabilities.

Many pundits refer to Trump as a “day-trader.”  His actions suggest such a description is far too generous.  He thinks and acts more like those who depend on the next check to make it through the month.  Yet, instead of empathy for his kindred spirits, he prefers to spend his time talking to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, many of whom are donors.  Maybe if you sign over your relief check to Trump’s re-election campaign you too will get a call.  But do not hold your breath.  Or what you have left of it after contracting the coronavirus from carriers who have not and never will be tested.

EPILOGUE: Bookends

This postscript to today’s post comes from the Deprogramming101 “Wish I’d Said That” Department.  This week, New Yorker magazine editor David Remnick wrote:

The Trump era began on July 21, 2016 with “I alone can fix it,” and ended on March 13, 2020 with, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

For what it’s worth.