Views My Own

Famous Heiress Says Americans 'Want to Work for What They Get'

Poor Ivanka Trump never got a chance to actually earn the American dream.
February 26, 2019, 9:24pm
Ivanka Trump
Photo of Ivanka Trump by RYAN MCBRIDE/AFP/Getty

Ivanka Trump, the millionaire who worked for her dad's real estate company before joining his administration, and who was seen on television late last year excusing her use of private email to conduct government business, is ready to talk about what real Americans want. In a clip released in advanced of an interview set to air Sunday, Trump told Fox News that these Americans definitely do not want the Green New Deal, the ambitious framework embraced by left-wing Democrats that would guarantee every American a job in the service of addressing climate change.

“I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around this country over the last four years. People want to work for what they get," she said in response to a question about the proposal. "This idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to be able to secure a job. They want the ability to live in a country where’s there’s the potential for upward mobility.”

Let's glide gracefully past the part where Trump presents herself as a spokesperson for Americans, who have voiced strong support for the Green New Deal in polls, and focus on the sadness she must personally be struggling with. Working can indeed bring a sense of pride and achievement. There's a reason restaurant owners stick the first dollar they earn on the wall, a reason food tastes better when you cook it yourself, a reason building a house is a greater accomplishment than just paying to have one built. Being self-made is one of the proudest descriptors Americans bestow on each other, and many of us like to imagine ourselves as constructing our lives from scratch, our families and bank accounts monuments to deeds no one else could have done. When Barack Obama said in 2012 that everyone owes their success to others and that "if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that," it became one of his most famous (and infamous) remarks because there's no greater insult to a proud individualist than the idea that their lives are more the product of circumstance than sweat.

Ivanka Trump, by contrast, achieved her position in life thanks chiefly to a family fortune built on tax evasion, mafia-tied business dealings, and alleged discrimination against black people. She married a fellow real estate scion whose only credible claim to overcoming adversity was that his own millionaire father was sent to prison for a host of crimes that included trying to blackmail his brother-in-law. "Privilege" can be a tricky word to throw around these days, but in Trump's case it's not particularly controversial to say she's benefited from having been granted nearly every advantage possible in life.

So it must burn her up inside to know that unlike all those Americans who have to work hard for what they get, she can float from seemingly corrupt gig to seemingly corrupt gig, allegedly fraudulent scheme to allegedly fraudulent scheme, without ever any of it being of consequence. She can earn money, but she hardly needs to given her family's wealth, which the tax law signed by her father will further protect from taxation. She can appear on TV or publish books or even give cooking advice, but surely this leaves a bitter taste in her mouth since she knows that if her name were Ivanka Smith no one would care what she had to say.

For this, those ordinary Americans she has talked with so much must pity her. Like Chelsea Clinton, who was given a cushy journalism job for no particular reason or that Koch adult son who makes terrible shirts, Ivanka Trump is forever trapped in the bubble she was born into. Not only was she surrounded by vast wealth, her family didn't even have the sort of public spirit that supposedly animated the great WASP families of America's yesteryear. Whereas some billionaires have given away large chunks of their fortunes, the Trump family's charity shut down last year amid a lawsuit from the state of New York and allegations Donald Trump and his cronies illegally used it as a personal piggy bank. Ivanka wrote in her book that “my father’s advice to my younger self has proven true: When you’re passionate and you work hard you can achieve great things." It must be terribly confusing to get that advice on the one hand and on the other look around and realize your posh existence is the product of not your own virtue but the labor and probable criminality of your relatives.

Fortunately there is a solution to the ennui afflicting the nation's failsons and faildaughters, who have never gotten a chance to eat bread earned from the sweat of their brows. There are multiple proposals from Democrats to aggressively tax the fortunes of families who can't help but grow lazy bathing themselves in piles of wealth. Taking some of the Trumps' money might go to furnish programs like the Green New Deal, but an extreme version of such a tax would also free prisoners of privilege like Ivanka, allowing her to at least momentarily glimpse something resembling the American dream.

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