A large cohort of Trump voters belong to religious communities which believe that God has preordained that some will prosper materially in this world and some will not. In this “Prosperity Gospel” those who prosper are revealing God’s will and benediction on them. If you believe and are saved and you are prosperous this is evidence that you are favored by God.
Donald Trump is not a religious type, to say the least, but he is prosperous! Trump has held up the riches of his aides as a badge of honor and of God’s blessing. On March 31, press spokesman Sean Spicer said “the President has brought a lot of people into this administration, into this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful by this country and have given up a lot to come into the government setting aside a lot of assets.”
Among the many others in Trump’s White House that Spicer was referencing would be Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, Trumps nominee for secretary of agriculture, and Carl Icahn, special advisor for regulatory reform.
Perdue’s “blessings” includes getting $100,000 in breaks on capital gains tax when his personal lawyer, who happened to be a state legislator, engineered a change in a Georgia law that made new provisions retroactive, giving Perdue the $100,000. Icahn will be blessed when he succeeds in pushing the Trump administration to change an Environmental Protection Agency rule that guides the way ethanol and gasoline are blended . This change would directly benefit an oil refiner, CVR Energy, in which Icahn has a majority stake.
Where is Trump’s “badge of honor” here? Are we supposed to assume that God blesses everyone who gets rich?
You wonder whether in the billionaire bubble there is a ethos that any way you can make money is good and that God is not blessing those in public service where becoming wealthy is not the objective of your job. They don’t understand what public service, nor the function of government, is. In any case judging by the first 3 months of the Trump Administration, they have no talent for, or understanding of, either. In the bubble, you are supposed to feel that you are sacrificing opportunities for the accumulation of wealth to work in government rather than feeling privileged to make a difference in your communities, in the lives of your fellow citizens, and in America’s leadership in the world. Tweaking the system to get money seems to be what they think their job is. They do not really believe their cover story, told so many times, that cutting taxes on the rich (the “givers”) will create jobs for the poor (the “takers”).
The NYT recently carried a sad story of how voters in Kinsman, Ohio, were feeling post election. Almost all interviewed said they voted for Trump and almost all probably did not understand that their ability to survive economically depended on the assistance they were getting from various government programs that Trump has moved to eliminate. When the roof of a home belonging to the Pavlics, a couple earning $9,000 a year, was in danger of collapse they got repair assistance from HOME Investments Partnership Program, one of many programs which get funding from the Housing and Urban Development Department, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, Americorps and the Interagency Council on Homelessness. William Brown, who hasn’t worked since having a heart attack, and lives on a monthly Social Security check of $1,400, says that the proposed cuts are “just wrong”. “Everything he is doing is systematically horrible for this country….for him to consider taking a program away when we spend all of this money for him to go down to Florida every weekend, how many people can use that money.” When his decaying house needed repair Brown was “ashamed” to go to the government for help, but the HOME program “saved me,” and he did not have to go into an assisted living facility.
Amber Barr, who lives with her 4 year old daughter, depends on food stamps and a disability check to survive. When interviewed, she said she was saving the last money she has for the month to put quarters, “from the tooth fairy,” under her daughter’s pillow. Barr says “people that are getting help right now are succeeding. People are not going to succeed. They are going to give up.”
It is time to push back against amoral, self interested, and dishonorable actions by the Trump Administration. We can’t accept them just because the powerful are imposing them and trying to claim the mandate of heaven.
—Elizabeth Spiro Clark