What the case of Jeffrey Epstein tells us about America's sickening worship of billionaire gods
The religion of money goes back centuries in America. Our country has always believed that you can do anything with human lives so long as you have enough cash to throw around
At the time of his arrest, Jeffrey Epstein was said to have been worth nearly $2 billion. Epstein, a convicted paedophile who for years was known in elite circles as a funder and philanthropic figure, had ties to many other wealthy white men including former president Clinton, and current president Donald Trump — two men who have been accused of sexual predatory behavior themselves.
Interestingly enough, the source of Epstein’s incredible wealth is a mystery. No one knows exactly where or how he became so rich, and anyone old enough to remember the Bernie Madoff scheme should realize that that’s a problem. Regardless of whether Epstein procured his money through nefarious means or not, what is true is that in America, that’s always fine until you’re caught.
America is built on the illusion of wealth. It’s a credit-heavy system where certain people – especially white men – can get extremely far by bluffing (besides the bankers and the bullshitters, take a look at Silicon Valley for proof of that). This is a country where you can identify as a self-made billionaire, as in the case of Donald Trump, while also filing six bankruptcies in your lifetime and inheriting almost all of your wealth — that, for many, remains the pillar of financial success in America. The ends don’t just justify the means; they obliterate whether anybody cares about them.
Our country is a country with a national debt growing by the trillions, a falling stock market, and a crippling student loan debt crisis; simultaneously, it is home to some of the wealthiest companies on the globe. And wealth is frequently used by powerful white men to abuse and oppress people from marginalized communities.
Epstein is not a root cause, but a symptom of what money in this country has always allowed. Wealth and greed intersect to harm those abused the most. The ability to run a sex trafficking ring when you are that publicly rich isn’t granted because other people don’t know or aren’t involved. It’s because rich people run amok in our society. Their connections, their access, and the lack of moral scrutiny they are subjected to all comes back to money. This is a country, after all, which was built on the back of slaves.
Where the money goes in America, moral repugnancy follows.
Recently, Democratic candidates for the 2020 election have brought up the issues with Wall Street, big banks, and billionaires hoarding of wealth in this country — arguments which have run concurrently with discussions about reparations. Black and brown communities for the most part have understood the danger of wealth-hoarding as we sit at the bottom of most economic tiers in this country. Candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are attempting to shift the American narrative. But Trump is still polling at over 40 per cent and our wealth gap is increasing: that’s the cold, hard truth. Certain people simply don’t care enough.
Billionaires are still viewed as gods. Fears that immigrants will “take the jobs” of white immigrants drive Trump’s re-election campaign. Comments about how you can just “grab women by the pussy” if you’re rich and famous enough simply don’t disgust many in the president’s increasingly radicalized base. Our country has always believed that you can do anything with human lives so long as you have enough cash to throw around.
A sad irony is that even while Trump voters lose their jobs and their insurance, they struggle to let go of their false idol. The religion of money goes back centuries here.
The American dream – a delusion which protects the obscenely wealthy and sells the idea that anyone in America can become a millionaire – keeps capitalism in all its oppressive glory alive, and allows the heinous acts of the Epsteins, Weinsteins and Trumps of this world to go unchecked. The question now is whether we want to address the symptom or start working on that root cause.