The Totally Unaware Idle Rich

The women had big hair. Their slinky metallic dresses had big shoulder pads and obviously cost a fortune – for one wearing. The men ran oil companies. They wore two thousand dollar Italian suits with their two thousand dollar custom cowboy boots. And both the men and women were pretty – and nasty – and completely unaware of most everything. They didn’t do introspection. They took what they wanted. Doesn’t everyone? And no one ever mentioned religion much less what was right and what was wrong in general – or what and what not was moral or ethical or even the decent thing to do in a tough situation. That didn’t matter much. They were amoral, and they were absolutely rich. And they had no taste. It was all glitz. This was Dallas – the wildly popular prime time soap opera that ran from 1978 to 1991 – week after week of ruthless nasty rich people having at each other. But damn, they did lead the good life. It would be so cool to live that life. That was the appeal. Money fixes everything. Flaunt it. Sneer at those who don’t have it and of course Donald Trump got stuck in the show. He’s still living that eighties fantasy. And Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous ran from 1984 to 1995 – feeding the nation’s need for “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” – showing the quite real shallow and totally unaware idle rich, surrounded by gold-plated everything. Such people actually existed, and the nation decided they were way cool. Donald Trump noticed this. He turned himself into the outrageous absurdly rich man of the eighties in America. He’s still there now.

He figured it out. The totally unaware idle rich are charming and everyone wants to be just like them. He sees that. He’s crude and amoral and unaware of so many things, but he’s so cool. That’s why the nation elected J. R. Ewing president the last time around. This is all an episode of Dallas now.

But the eighties were thirty years ago. Fewer and fewer people are fascinated by the idle rich. They’ve got their own problems – the rent and food and the medicine and whatnot. Times have changed. The idle rich are no longer fascinating. And they are unaware. That’s not charming. That’s infuriating:

Ivanka Trump criticized parts of the Green New Deal being championed by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., saying in a Fox News interview that she didn’t think most Americans “want to be given something.”

The first daughter, who is a senior White House aide, told Fox News host Steve Hilton that job guarantees and an elevated minimum wage – both pledges of the progressive proposal – wouldn’t be popular, according to an excerpt of an interview that will air Sunday.

“I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something,” Trump said in the interview clip released Monday. “I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around this country over the last four years. People want to work for what they get.”

But there are two views if this:

“So, I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want,” she added. “They want the ability to be able to secure a job. They want the ability to live in a country where there’s the potential for upward mobility.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded Tuesday evening on Twitter, saying, “As a person who actually worked for tips & hourly wages in my life, instead of having to learn about it 2nd-hand, I can tell you that most people want to be paid enough to live.”

But there was this:

Trump sought to clarify her remarks in a pair of tweets, saying she doesn’t “believe in a minimum guarantee for people ‘unwilling to work,’ which was the question that was asked of me.”

Those who refuse to work don’t get paid the minimum wage in their paycheck which they aren’t receiving anyway? That doesn’t clarify matters, but Helaine Olen does that:

Ivanka Trump, whose father, President Trump, claims to be a billionaire, is seemingly unaware or has forgotten that she is a lifelong beneficiary of what I like to call do-it-yourself basic income, a.k.a. family wealth and inheritance. Her now-defunct self-named fashion line? She once told the New York Times, “I made a specific choice not to call my collection Ivanka. There’s so much value in the Trump name.”

The Trump name, let the record show, was “given” to Ivanka Trump. If that didn’t guarantee her job, I don’t know why else she’s deemed qualified to do such things as advise the president of the United States and members of Congress on matters ranging from real estate development incentives to child-care initiatives. Perhaps she’s ambivalent about that, and her statement to Fox News was a cry for help. But it’s more likely she’s simply deluded.

That is a possibility:

Jonathan Mijs, an assistant research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, recently published a paper documenting that in societies with high rates of income inequality, people are more likely to believe success is a result of individual hard work and effort than those living in societies with a more equal distribution of financial resources.

That may sound counterintuitive. But as inequality increases, people are less likely to meet and mix with people outside their cohort. “Money becomes more than a figure on a person’s bank account; it defines where people live, work, who their friends are and with whom they form a family,” Mijs tells me. “From their increasingly insular social circles, the world looks more equal and more meritocratic than it really is. When your friends, neighbors and colleagues share the same set of privileges or disadvantages, you no longer notice the structural forces holding you back or pushing you ahead.”

David Von Drehle agrees and adds this:

These are tough times for the American Dream.

The land of opportunity goes looking for a friend these days and winds up with Ivanka Trump, former princess of Manhattan. Waxing philosophical on Fox News recently, she expressed doubts that real folks in this country would ever embrace the left-wing idea of a guaranteed income. “I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something,” she said….

Who knows what Trump, in her heart, was feeling as she delivered these remarks. Either she lacks the self-awareness to understand how unseemly it is for second-generation trust funders to patronize people who are eking out a living, or she figures the rabble is too stupid to notice what she’s doing.

But this is what she has been doing:

Trump’s grandfather, Fred Trump, made a fortune as a residential real estate developer in the outer boroughs of New York after World War II. He funneled that fortune to her father and his siblings from the time they were children; Donald Trump began receiving $200,000 per year from his dad’s business at the tender age of 3.

In the next generation, it was more of the same. Ivanka and her siblings grew up in baronial luxury in a Midtown tower and on a sprawling Hudson River estate. Prepped at the tony Chapin School and Choate Rosemary Hall, she swanned into the Ivy League before being invited to launch her own jewelry line. She married Jared Kushner, a wealthy mediocrity whose admission to Harvard just happened to follow shortly after his parents pledged $2.5 million to the school.

That’s all a bit odd but perhaps it will all work out:

The average Jane and Joe don’t bust their humps because they prefer work to more refined pursuits. They do it because they must, or (a far superior motivation) because they find in work an opportunity to improve themselves, their families and their world as they define it. The opportunity for improvement is what they truly seek, and neither work for work’s sake, nor life on the government dole, can match that sense of purpose and progress.

But where in today’s politics is a robust, credible voice for optimism? Who’s pointing the way to a society of abundant opportunities for improvement? Not the right-veering Republicans, with their catalogue of resentments, and not the left-listing Democrats, with their litany of grievances. With less than a year before the presidential primaries begin, we have two parties of anger and no party of hope.

President Trump feeds on anger. But Democrats still have a chance to pivot toward optimism.

How? No one knows that yet. But we do have to leave the eighties. “Dallas” was a stupid show.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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