• Nathan Max

Living in a Kleptocracy


Photo credit: Alex Brandon/AP. Businesses affiliated with Jared Kushner collected up to $4 million in PPP loans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to terminate the $600 unemployment boost that has propped up out-of-work Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, because he thinks it stifles their desire to return to work.


At the same time, his wife collected at least $350,000, and possibly up to $1 million, in government assistance meant for small businesses.


Welcome to the American Kleptocracy.


Donald Trump’s lawless administration desperately tried to cover up the recipients of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and now we know why. Billionaires and millionaires, many with ties to Trump, his employees and other wealthy elites reaped a fortune.


Furthermore, organizations that have staked their reputations on fighting government handouts to poor people had no qualms shamelessly collecting six-to-seven figures in assistance. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens received a pittance in federal assistance by comparison, if they got anything at all.


Three businesses affiliated with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who along with wife Ivanka Trump earned at least $82 million in 2017, received in the range of $1.7 million to $4 million in assistance. A single adult with no kids received a check for $1,200 from the federal CARES program.


Kushner is not the only member of Trump’s inner circle to benefit. The parents of Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, whose skills at prevarication and mendacity rival the president, received a loan of between $1 million and $2 million for their roofing company that employs 141 people.


In an April interview with Fox News, McEnany said the loans were designed to help businesses with 10 employees or fewer.


The list of individuals who appear to have used this opportunity to enrich themselves includes many with ties to Trump. According to an Associated Press analysis of the data released this week, the government awarded up to $273 million to more than 100 companies owned or operated by major Trump donors. These businesses mostly got their money right away, while others across the nation struggled to obtain loans, the AP reported.


Are we even surprised at this point? The moment Treasury Secretary and loyal Trump sycophant Steve Mnuchin tried to block the release of the program’s recipients, everyone knew something was amiss.


Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, which fights government spending with ruthless ferocity, happily accepted a loan for between $150,000 to $350,000. Apparently, handouts are only acceptable when his people need them.


The Ayn Rand Institute, named after the 20th-century author who virulently opposed government aid, took in up to $1 million to support its 35 employees.


The list goes on and on.


This behavior has become a staple of Republicanism. When poor and down-on-their-luck people are in need, they throw every roadblock imaginable at them. When they are in need, they grab as much as they can, as fast as they can. It’s as predictable as the sunrise every morning.


Now, Congress has three weeks remaining before expanded unemployment benefits expire. If they do, a low-wage, out-of-work independent contractor in California will collect $167 per week starting in August, for example. Nobody can live off that for long.


It’s time for millionaires like McConnell to help the rest of us like we’re family too.

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