Check your privilege at the door

Few things annoy me more than unacknowledged privilege. People who complain about social safety nets while enjoying ample safety nets of their own.

For many, the unacknowledged safety net is the presence of a prosperous family. A childhood filled with stability, opportunity, and advantage. Private schools. Outstanding medical care. Travel.

It's the knowledge that financial ruin will not result in homelessness or destitution. It's the gift of a college tuition or the downpayment on a first home. A sizable inheritance. A job with a parent's company when all else has failed.

This is an enormous safety net that exists only though birth. It is not earned and is often conveniently forgotten as the people who enjoy these safety nets complain about the taxes that fund the social safety net for those who didn't win the lottery at birth.    

I recently listened to a man at a wedding who has lived with his mother for almost a decade complain about those who can't pick themselves up after financial disaster.

I listen to a former classmate who works for his family's business complain about Americans who who can't find a job or the taxes they pay to fund healthcare and Social Security.   

I hear to people wonder why so many folks end up in dead end jobs while displaying a diploma in their office from a prestigious college paid for by their parents. 

I hate this so much. 

Trump, for example, loves to tout his business success. He portrays himself as a self made man. A guy who used hard work and intelligence to amass a fortune. 

Yet when Trump was asked how his father helped him in business, he said, "My father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars.”

Trump's "very small loan (which he has lied about repeatedly) included:

  • $14 million dollars in initial loans
  • A $1 million trust fund
  • Another $7.5 million in loans ten years later

Additionally, as Trump’s casinos ran into trouble in the 1980's, Trump’s father purchased $3.5 million gaming chips, but did not use them, so the casino would have enough cash to make payments on its mortgage — a transaction which casino authorities later said was an illegal loan.

Trump also attended Wharton School of Business on his father's dime, and after graduating joined his father’s thriving real estate business and he relied on his father’s connections as he made his way in the real estate world.

This is not a self-made man. This is a man who enjoyed enormous financial privilege early in life but prefers to ignore that in favor of a personal narrative centered solely on hard work and clever business transactions.

In fact, economists have determined that had Trump simply invested his father's loan in an index fund, he would be far wealthier today

Not only is Trump not a self-made man, but he failed to beat the market over the course of his business life. 

He's less than average. 

Before you start complaining about the social safety net, public schools, government supported healthcare, food stamps, and the like, be sure to take a long, hard look at your own life and what safety nets you have enjoyed and may still enjoy. 

Winning the lottery at birth is a great thing, but not when your blessings prevent you from seeing and understanding the plight and needs of those less fortunate.