Is Donald Trump Jr. the Gordon Gekko of politics?
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“Greed,” Gordon Gekko of Wall Street told us, “is good. Greed is right, greed works.”

In the 30 years since “Wall Street” premiered, we seem to have taken that mantra to new heights, with many Americans believing that “he who dies with the most toys wins,” although sometimes in different forms, such as “he who dies with the most Twitter followers wins” or “he who dies with the most Facebook friends wins.”

And, of course, there’s just good old-fashioned money, and whatever you do to get it is OK, so long as you don’t get caught and you finish up on top.

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The idea of winning at all costs has somehow become acceptable. Reality television stars boast that they’re “not here to make friends,” because only winning matters. Rich people who pay next to nothing in taxes are praised for being “smart.”

 

When Stephen A. Cohen’s SAC Capital cheats and makes billions on inside information, Cohen is envied rather than scorned. When Goldman Sachs lied to customers and helped bring about the financial crisis, it was rewarded with more applicants who want to work for them because, well, it made a lot of money.

And when Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily immigration detention centers could be at capacity within days: report Trump likely to meet with Putin in July: report DOJ requests military lawyers to help prosecute immigration crimes: report MORE Jr. hears that Russia is willing to help his father become president, he doesn’t care about how it would do it; he just says, “I love it.”

In fact, Trump Jr.’s behavior is the epitome of greed. He not only tries to emulate Gordon Gekko, he even seems to look like him. Let’s not forget he once compared Syrian refugees to Skittles.  

It’s not a surprise, though, that Trump Jr. turned out to be so extraordinarily greedy. After all, he grew up in an atmosphere of greed. Winning was the only thing that ever mattered.

“I’ve been winning all of my life,” his father once told The Washington Post. “My whole life is about winning. I always win. I win at golf. I’m a club champion many times at different clubs. I win at golf. I can sink the three-footer on the 18th hole when others can’t. My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose.”

Trump the elder has always been about “winning” at all costs, never considering other people and never allowing his greed to be checked by any sort of moral compass. Only winning matters.

The sad thing, of course, is that so many Americans seem to be OK with this viewpoint. It doesn’t matter to them what Trump says about Muslims or women or Mexicans, so long as the Dow Jones goes up.

They’re fine with slashing immigration in half and violating the very essence of what being an American has come to mean; they’ll reject the “huddled masses” and spurn charitable spending for good causes because those things don’t make us “winners” in their book. “America first,” they tell us.

And if that means allowing holocausts to happen and children to be murdered, so be it. If that means costing millions their healthcare so that some can save a little on taxes, oh well!

It’s a mentality that argues that only the self matters, and that compassion is essentially worthless. “Why should I do for others when it doesn’t benefit me to do so?”

Worse still, we often seem to argue along these lines. Some examples: Instead of being shocked that we’re allowing so many to die in Syria and Afghanistan, we argue about whether or not they’d represent any danger to us if we brought them here, as if one American life is somehow worth more than thousands of Syrian lives.

Instead of arguing about whether it’s morally acceptable to cut immigration in half, we argue along economic lines, as if people’s values can only be measured in dollars.

Capitalism runs on greed, it’s true. And capitalism has done many good things, created a great deal of prosperity the world round. But that doesn’t mean that greed is good.

Gordon Gekko was supposed to be a warning, not an icon. Greed is not only not good, it is dirty, disgusting and contemptible. Just like that new American symbol of greed, Donald Trump.

Ross Rosenfeld is a political pundit who has written for Newsday, the New York Daily News, Charles Scribner's, MacMillan, Newsweek.com and Primedia.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.