“And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?”
-President Donald Trump
When he was campaigning Donald Trump made an off-the-cuff promise to the American people that he would “drain the swamp.” He is now in Commander in Chief, and as USA Today reports, “More than 100 former federal lobbyists have found jobs in the Trump administration, despite President Trump’s campaign pledge to restrict the power of special interests in Washington.” Stephen Vaughn, for example, lobbied for U.S. Steel, but is now the general counsel at the U.S. Trade Representative. Robert Eitel, who was a lawyer representing for-profit colleges, is now a special counselor to Education Secretary Betsy Devos.
The current Presidential cabinet may be the wealthiest in U.S. history, with a net profit of over $13 billion, much of it from Goldman Sachs:
Wilbur Ross is worth 2.5 billion.
Linda McMahon is worth 1.14 billion.
Betsy Devos is worth 5.1 billion.
Steve Mnuchnin is worth 665 million (and used to be a Goldman Sachs partner).
Rex Tillerson is worth 365 million (and used to be the chairman of Exxon Mobil).
During his campaign, Trump accused Goldman Sachs of controlling Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, and Ted Cruz, a Republican frontrunner for candidacy. He was practically right. But months later, now that he is President, Trump has reversed his stance against Goldman Sachs controlling politics in order to defend his hiring of the president of Goldman Sachs. “When you get the President of Goldman Sachs,” he said, “this is the President of Goldman Sachs! Smart!”
The other day, in an address to Iowans, President Trump declared that he prefers not to hire poor people to leadership positions tied to economics. (One wonders what his definition of “poor” is). He defended choosing Gary Cohn as his economic advisor, even though Cohn was the president of Goldman Sachs, claiming that he “went from massive pay days to peanuts” in order to play a role in government.
Except he wasn’t “paid in peanuts.“ “Not a single person in U.S. history has ever served on the President’s cabinet on a paycheck that wouldn’t easily feed a family and then some. If you want to know what peanut pay is, work at a job that pays minimum wage.
When Cohn left Goldman Sachs in January, he received a $285 million payout from his own bank to take up his role in the Trump administration. The filthy rich man went from massive pay to somewhat less massive, though still considerably massive pay. It is a profane lie to refer to an amount of money in millions as “peanuts.”
According to financial disclosure forms Cohn’s net worth is at least $600 million.
By the way, in 2014 the U.S. exported only $551.7 million in peanuts. Less than Cohn’s net worth.
When rich men step away from jobs that have paid them billions of dollars to work short term in jobs that pay tens of thousands of dollars, they have reasons. If those positions allow them to change taxation laws and create legislation that favors large businesses, the opportunity is there to temporarily acquire less pay in exchange for granting yourself more money later on. It’s an investment like any other.
And when you’re a billionaire, shifting to making ten grand for a few years with a multi-million dollar exit bonus isn’t a loss at all. Not if you believe you can multiply your billions by controlling the government. You haven’t lost anything until you’re lost your only home, the entire business you’ve built from scratch, the pension you thought would secure our retirement, or the security of knowing you will always have food on the table.
The Bible tells us that the filthy rich are completely out of touch with the needs of the poor. This is no less true today, when lawmakers think that health insurance can be bought for the price of an iPhone, and a billionaire taking a multi-million dollar paycheck to be paid tens of thousands is making a sacrifice to be “paid in peanuts.”
The epistle writer James had brilliant and holy words to say about the relationship between the rich and the poor in the Kingdom of God:
“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?“
James also addressed the rich directly. His words were not words of praise and promotion:
“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.”
One kind of man judges people by their monetary success. Forget virtue. He looks for the gold sacks.
Another kind of man strives to be like the father, who judges righteous judgment.
In the kingdom of Jesus, it is the servants who are greatest. The rich do not have merit simply based on their riches, but rather based on their character, which may or may not have produced their earthly riches.
Jesus didn’t go around choosing rich and powerful men to begin his ministry and his kingdom. He chose mostly fishermen, a (probably middle class) tax collector, a (probably middle class) zealot. This movement began the Church. In fact, the one person in Christ’s “political entourage” the most concerned with spending and saving money is the one person who betrayed him. Being rich and also getting into Heaven, said Jesus, is harder than squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle.
I would rather have a poor person address the economy than a spiritually bankrupt person lead a nation.