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Steve Bannon's Phony Poor Man Blues

Bannon's been a rich guy for a long time. Spare us the "populism."
Steve Bannon's Phony Poor Man Blues

I spotted this in the new Time cover story on Steve Bannon:

To understand Steve Bannon, you have to understand what happened to his father. "I come from a blue collar, Irish-Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats," he once told Bloomberg Businessweek. Martin Bannon began his career as an assistant splicer for a telephone company and toiled as a lineman. Rising into management, the elder Bannon carved out a comfortable middle-class life for his wife and five kids on his working man's salary. Friends say Steve pays frequent visits to his father, now 95 and widowed, at the old family home in Richmond's Ginter Park neighborhood.

The last financial crisis put a huge dent in Martin's life savings, according to two people close to the family. Steve watched with fury as his former Wall Street colleagues emerged virtually unscathed and scot-free--while America's once great middle class, the people like his father, absorbed the weight of the damage.

"The sharp change came, I think, in 2008," says Patrick McSweeney, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and longtime family friend. Bannon saw it as a matter of "fundamental unfairness": the hardworking folks like his father got stiffed. And the bankers got bailed out.

Until then, Bannon had been, as he later put it, "as hard-nosed a capitalist as you get."

It's curious that Martin Bannon is suffering as a result of the crash -- after all, his son worked at Goldman Sachs and then acquired a share of the hugely successful sitcom Seinfeld, which was a financial windfall for him. The younger Bannon's net worth has been estimated at $20 million. Really, Steve? Can't advance your dad a few bucks until the Social Security check arrives?

It would be nice to think that Bannon's rage against the plutocrats is sincere, and not just a way of staking out a populist market niche in the conservative sphere. I remain a skeptic. I'll believe Bannon really resents the fat cats when his puppet Donald Trump fires off half a dozen pre-dawn tweets railing against Paul Ryan-style tax cuts for the wealthy. But that's never going to happen. Any account of Bannon's class resentment is fake news.


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Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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