Consumer culture has taken over virtually every part of American life, particularly politics, to the detriment of us all.
Donald Trump sold himself to the American people as a consumer product. He told us he could fix all our problems because he was a super-salesperson and businessman, at no cost to ourselves.
He would get us good jobs again. He modeled himself as a vessel who would deliver us boatloads of cash.
One of the reasons it worked was the consumerization of politics, a politics that does not ask its citizens to do anything hard, but to merely ask for things to be done on our behalf.
Indeed, Trump has said, “I play to people’s fantasies.” It’s no wonder Trump was in the casino business, which promised untold riches to the suckers lining up at the door.
As flawed as he was, John F. Kennedy had the vision to move the nation into space and to the Moon. Lyndon Johnson fought for civil rights, despite the tremendous odds against him. Bill Clinton balanced the federal budget. George W. Bush increased worldwide funding to prevent and treat AIDS, saving millions of lives in poor countries. Barack Obama extended health care coverage to millions of Americans who couldn’t afford it.
It remains to be seen whether Donald Trump will ask us to do hard things. Salespeople don’t do that. Consumers don’t do hard things — all they do is buy.
A hard thing Trump could ask us to do is address and fight climate change. Trump says he doesn’t believe in climate change. One of the problems with climate change in the mind of the Republican Party is that it asks us to do something hard.
Trump is preparing the way for large tax cut legislation. A tax cut does not ask us to do hard things. All it asks us is to put our hand out and don’t ask too many questions.
Trump’s tax cut package will be sold as a benefit to everybody. But if you are reading this newspaper, please note that you will not be the big beneficiary of these tax cuts. That pleasure will go to the super-rich who live somewhere in America, but certainly not in your neighborhood.
The federal government deficit will balloon out once again with tax cut candy handouts. The middle class will have to finance the tax cuts in the form of debt financing, while the rich get more money to buy bigger yachts and vacation homes.
So when Trump says he wants to give you a tax cut, don’t think like a consumer — think like a citizen. Will this tax cut be good for the nation’s finances? Or just a few dozen already-wealthy billionaires?
It is far past time that we stopped acting like consumers when it comes to our government, and start acting like citizens we are supposed to be. We have a moral obligation to make our country stronger.
The author, who lives and works in the Bronx, adapted this from his book “Consumer Culture is Consuming Us,” now available on Amazon.com.