Bob Schwartz

Tag: poverty

Donald Trump Jr. and the Happy Smiling Poor of India

“The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.”
Sullivan’s Travels

Washington Post:

Donald Trump Jr. says he admires India’s poor people because of their spirit and smiles

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is in India this week to promote his family’s real estate empire and more than $1 billion worth of luxury Trump Tower projects in four cities, but he still had time to praise India’s poor for their smiles.

“I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face. It’s a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world … and I think there’s something unique about that. I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”

You can draw your own conclusions about what this says about Don Jr. and others in the Trump family and circle. You can guess who the miserable successful people might be.

As for the happy smiling poor he admires, I quote from the movie Sullivan’s Travels  by Preston Sturges. A successful Hollywood director of nonsensical comedies, John L. Sullivan, wants to confront the grim reality of the Great Depression, and so plans to travel in disguise as a tramp. His butler Burrows sets him straight:

Burrows: I have never been sympathetic to the caricaturing of the poor and needy, sir.

John L. Sullivan: Who’s caricaturing? I’m going out on the road to find out what it’s like to be poor and needy and then I’m going to make a picture about it.

Burrows: If you’ll permit me to say so, sir, the subject is not an interesting one. The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.

John L. Sullivan: But I’m doing it for the poor. Don’t you understand?

Burrows: I doubt if they would appreciate it, sir.

And:

Burrows: You see, sir, rich people and theorists – who are usually rich people – think of poverty in the negative, as the lack of riches – as disease might be called the lack of health. But it isn’t, sir. Poverty is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms.

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Poverty: The Poverty of Ideas

mining_lg
The other poverty is the poverty of ideas.

Let us ask each of our leaders and politicians for just one relatively new and interesting idea to solve a pressing problem. Just one. It doesn’t have to be an idea that has won substantial support or that has achieved broad consensus. In fact it can’t be that. Instead it should be something that is just a little bit out there, the kind that might elicit a “you must be kidding” or “that will never pass” or “that will never work.”

What we mostly have is problem solving that borders on archival monomania, the single idea with ancient lineage that fits a particular purpose or ideology—but has not really demonstrated an ability to solve particular problems.

This morning Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada explained why he is one of the few Republicans supporting an extension of unemployment benefits. In the course of the interview, he said that the biggest problem was jobs. He then ticked off the number one conservative solution—tax reform—but when he got to the second idea, it came out sounding like “something else” without a single detail. That’s because leaders and politicians on both sides of the aisle are stumped, which they admittedly should be by the unique and unprecedented economic moment we are living through.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich was roundly derided for his suggestion that we mine the Moon and colonize Mars. There are plenty of reasons that Newt wasn’t and isn’t a good choice for President, but that isn’t one of them. Sure it’s a bit science fictionish, but then so is practically all of the current tech that is one of the only bright spots in the global economy. Can you imagine a U.S. Senator in the 1950s coming to the floor of the Senate brandishing a copy of that weekend’s Sunday funnies, pointing to Dick Tracy and saying “That wrist radio, gentlemen, is where we should be heading.”? China and India are racing to the Moon, and it is not for the view.

Politics and political leadership are inherently conservative, in the sense that maintaining the institution and its support seems to demand modest, slow, incremental change—if any change at all. That’s where party lines and sticking to scripts come from. An intolerance for innovation and fringe philosophy go with that. We shouldn’t be asking parties or politicians to give up core principles and precepts. But if we actually want to solve problems, and not just hear tired old nostrums that won’t do any good, then we have to make a safe place for innovation, one where thinkers who happen to be in office are not committing political suicide by offering something interesting and maybe even eccentric. Because until we ask our politicians to enrich us with new ideas and not empty platitudes and happy talk, more of us will be unhappy with increasingly empty pockets.