By William K. Black
January 14, 2019 Bloomington, MN
Queen Marie-Antoinette of France was libeled by the claim that when she was told that her starving peasants could no longer find bread to eat, she responded “then let them eat cake.” (If you want to get precise she supposedly said let them eat ‘brioche.”) There is no evidence she said any such thing.
Trump, however, really said the modern equivalent. His remarks, despite being made in response to a question about his empathy for government workers losing their pay due to the government shutdown, revealed how bereft of human understanding our autocrat-in-chief is.
“Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?” a reporter asked.
“I can relate,” Trump said. “And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they’ll make adjustments.”
Yes, when you suddenly lose your sole source of meaningful income you “always” “make adjustments.” That was the point her libelers portrayed the Queen as making – the peasants will adjust to their inability to buy bread by buying cake (or brioche). The goal of the libel was to picture the rich and powerful as being so blind to the life of the poor that they cannot imagine a real economic problem. Even when the media asked Trump about empathy and responded that he did empathize, his next sentence demonstrated his lack of understanding and empathy. Trump’s life is one without painful adjustments. He thinks the same is true of federal workers. Forty percent of Americans, however, cannot suffer a $400 shock (an unexpected expense or loss of income) without facing a crisis in which they have to sell assets or borrow money to avoid default. The “adjustments” that normal federal workers have to make when they suffer a lost income shock that is already about three times more severe than $400 – are dramatically more painful to federal worker families. There is no end in sight to Trump’s shutdown of the federal government, so the ‘adjustments’ will soon include selling cars, losing the home, and missing the ability to cover the application fees to get your kid into college.
Our next big chance to “make adjustments” comes in a little less than two years.
I grew up in a middle class family and got a good education. Subsequently there was a period of underemployment in which used to dread the end of the month when rent was due. In fact, on one particular day I noticed my container of shampoo was nearly empty and felt a sinking feeling at the thought that I would soon have to replace it. Then I was stunned to realize that I was having such a reaction This was not poverty. I had many options and I knew I was “just visiting” deprivation. Even so it was stressful. It got me to thinking how “trivial” expenses for some can be quite burdensome to others, especially when the chances to ever substantially lift such burdens seem slim. I don’t doubt that I only caught a superficial glimpse of what true socio-economic deprivation is really about, even with only a fragment of Trump’s lifelong economic security and opportunities. In Trump’s case as in my case we both got big head starts from being born into economically comfortable households.
On the contrary, this shutdown is giving the American people their first glimpse into the pay scale of government workers and what they see evokes little sympathy for their suffering. While many suspected these workers were on the government gravy train, little did they realize that so many of them were knocking down six-figure salaries. Stories are rife with the notion that most are without savings. Apparently, living paycheck to paycheck is much easier when you know you can’t be fired and your benefits guarantee a full retirement and complete medical coverage. None of this applies to the average civilian worker struggling to make ends meet.
Government workers were already eating cake and they never figured their cake eating days would ever end.
Dear Reno Dino:
Your assertion that “Government workers were already eating cake and they never figured their cake eating days would ever end” brings to mind a comment by the great management consultant W. Edwards Deming:
“In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
Mr. Black, your characterization of Trump and his condescending remarks mirror my own reaction. He gets away with it because he has convinced his base that the federal workforce is different from them. They are lazy, job-secure, over-paid, mostly libtard Democrats who support the boogyman Deep State working tirelessly to undermine Trump’s initiatives to make America great, again(?).
Because Trump is technically right about the political leaning of most feds, he gets away with let-them-eat-cake remarks. It is common sense that people who believe that government improves the lives of its citizens are going to be attracted to civil service. On the other hand, people who characterize (wrongly in the vast majority of cases) government as being THE PROBLEM, tend to be conservatives who find regulations and laws annoying barriers to their happiness. While the CEO of a coal conglomerate welcomes eliminating pollution regs that poison his/her workers, the workers relate to eliminating gun registration, or some other personal annoyance. Thus, they wrongly ally with forces whose aims are not at all in sync with their’s — at least until they too have to eat cake.
Funny, isn’t it, Tomonthebeach, how so many of the citizens of a country founded upon the greatest and noblest idea of government ever conceived and articulated (in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence) have come to believe that government is the problem, that very instrument of the people they called into being, at the risk of their lives and fortunes, to ensure equality by securing sacred rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Words fail to describe such a devolution.