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Melania Trump's $51,500 Coat Reminds Us We Live in an Oligarchy

Look upon it and despair.

I don't know about you, but most of the time I can hum along on my daily routine without being crushed by the sheer unfairness and brutality of the world. We all live on a spectrum between children born in a war zone and people who get Instagram famous because of their gross displays of wealth, but thinking about it too much makes existence unbearable, and ultimately leads to a shattering sense of a life unfulfilled.


So my advice is to not let your gaze linger on the jacket Melania Trump was wearing at the G-7 summit in Italy this week. It costs $51,500, and if you want to buy one just like it, you have to make a $25,750 deposit, only it's not available right now and also you can't afford it because who can? Not the workers at Ivanka Trump's Chinese clothing factory, who reportedly get paid around $60 a week. Not Americans making the federal minimum wage, who earn around $15,000 a year if they only have one full-time job (they probably have to have more than one in order to survive). Not you, unless you are fabulously wealthy, in which case congrats.

If you do start thinking about the jacket in a mildly obsessive way, like you calculate how many months of rent that would be, how that could represent the downpayment on a house or college tuition or 20,600 malaria nets—well, in that case I advise you not to get angry at this jacket in particular. Sure, it looks like something an art school kid would wear to a Halloween party, but rich people have been overpaying for clothing since time immemorial. Barack Obama's daughters once wore $20,000 dresses to a state dinner. Marie Antoinette spent millions (in today's money) on clothes every year, before the unhappy lower classes turned her into a symbol of inequality and killed her and her entire family.

No, it is not our place to condemn Melania Trump for wearing a jacket so expensive that it actually seems like she got conned. In America, we do not begrudge the rich for their baubles but instead celebrate them in magazine spreads in which they wear outfits that cost as much as our houses. The most radical among us think that they should be taxed a bit more, at least enough that maybe they can't buy several palatial estates and have to settle for just one or two, and maybe a regular LearJet instead of a private 757. But no one in power believes that sort of lefty drivel; Melania's husband has endorsed policies that would allow people like the Trumps to keep even more of their wealth, in exchange for making it more difficult for the poor to get health insurance.

So actually, that's another reason not to think about the jacket. These days, you probably have more urgent things to worry about.

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.