The idea of American meritocracy was imperfect from the founding, but it’s never been as transparently laughable as it is today.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Even in these tortured times, it is worth devoting a small sliver of outrage to the fact that Jared Kushner—whose only qualification to senior-advise the president on policy is that he is married to the president’s daughter—seems to have taken, per the Guardian, $90 million in foreign funding since 2017 from an “opaque offshore vehicle.” This influx comes via a stake he kept in a real estate company after assuming his government post, and given that the cash has come in via the Cayman Islands (via Goldman Sachs), we have no idea who is actually enriching this public official who is meant to be working for us. Wherever that lovely money is coming from, we would also do well to remember that Kushner was initially refused a security clearance by career White House staff vetting him for precisely these reasons. But never mind. We are meant to feel only gratitude to the unqualified family members who step in to serve. He has surely accomplished many, many things from his high perch, things that not one person alive can yet name.
The Trump family took something American elites have done in stealth and discretion for decades and tried to turn it into a sales pitch: “Nobody does nepotism like we do nepotism.”
Somehow nepotism seems to rankle more than grift alone. Steve Mnuchin’s jet-setting trip to view an eclipse from Fort Knox at taxpayer expense was exponentially more annoying because his wife hitched a ride. Elaine Chao would be front-page public corruption news in any moment other than this, for having brazenly directed resources overseen by her office, the Department of Transportation, to the state in which her husband, Mitch McConnell, holds office (perhaps this one isn’t making a bigger splash only because McConnell’s shamelessness knows no bounds). And then there’s the unfortunate news that Yale Law School’s Amy Chua, who insisted that Brett Kavanaugh will be great for feminism because he has been great to her daughter, has now secured for her daughter the selfsame clerkship for which this transaction was crafted. In America, it matters less that a justice campaigned for a spot at the court on the promise of ending legal abortion, and burdening a migrant teen’s legal right to abortion, than that he recognizes the sterling career promise in the children of other elites.
We all believe our children to be extraordinary. Most of us would move mountains to help them excel. But that doesn’t mean the world should dance with joy when rich children are foisted into leadership roles because elites have traded favors. …