The United States hates poor people. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, nor should it surprise anyone to hear Trump (perhaps the most accurate and vulgar embodiment of this country) say he doesn’t want a “poor person” in his cabinet.
The US president told a crowd on Wednesday night: “Somebody said why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? No it’s true. And Wilbur’s [commerce secretary Wilbur Ross] a very rich person in charge of commerce. I said: ‘Because that’s the kind of thinking we want.’”
The president explained that Ross and his economic adviser Gary Cohn “had to give up a lot to take these jobs” and that Cohn in particular, a former president of Goldman Sachs, “went from massive pay days to peanuts”.
Unfortunately, a lot of Americans (the ones who voted for him and the ones who didn’t) think just like this but simply don’t say it out loud most of the time. However, it’s evident in their actions, in the way that they buy homes, zone cities, elect politicians who explicitly reject the notion of a “livable wage,” segregate schools, advocate for the defunding of homeless shelters, and oppose the idea of a social safety net.
A lot of Americans don’t want to live near poor people, see poor people, send their kids to school with poor people, or work with poor people. Why? Because, subconsciously, it reminds them of what could happen to them if they fuck up badly enough, if they get desperately or even moderately sick, or if just have a long enough stretch of bad luck. Subconsciously, the sight of poor people reminds the more fortunate that they are benefiting from a fucked up system wherein some people are born without much of a chance at anything beyond poverty, wherein some people are just born unlucky (due to generational poverty, race, etc.). It reminds them why they go to their shitty jobs every day: so that they don’t end up like “those poor folks” over there.
The saddest part of all of this? Most of the Americans who think this way are a mere two paychecks or so away from being just another “poor person, ” and I’d wager only half of them actually realize it. That half feels both morally superior and scared shitless about the fact that, at least for now, they have somehow avoided becoming one of those poor people over there.
None of us should be surprised by Trump’s words about poor people. We hear those words (spoken differently) often and live the consequences of that corrosive ideology throughout this country, from the “inner cities” to the impoverished hills of Appalachia to the poor swamps of the south.
This country hates poor people, especially if they happen to be melanated.