Andy Puzder was somehow the only Trump appointee to not make it through his confirmation.
Donald Trump’s pick to be Secretary of Labor, Andy Puzder, has withdrawn his name from consideration for the position. Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of fast food chains Hardees and Carl’s Jr, was unlikely to get enough votes from Senate Republicans to be confirmed to the position. According to a source close to Puzder, he was, “Tired of the abuse”.
It’s felt like an eternity since January 20th, but Puzder was always slated as, unbelievably, one of the least controversial Trump appointees. For years Puzder’s companies used women in bikinis to sell burgers more fit for a circus than for human consumption. Puzder not only oversaw these marketing decisions, but defended them many times, citing his own personal preference to buy burgers from attractive women and not ugly ones. Allegations of spousal abuse against Puzder have long been public knowledge, but that doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from this cabinet (or Washington in general). So what really was Puzder’s downfall? This video of his wife appearing on Oprah to express her fear that the man who beat her would do worse if she spoke out publicly couldn’t have helped, but politicians have survived worse.
The official line will be that he withdrew for some totally fabricated reason. It’s pretty clear however that he never would have stepped down, nor would the GOP have blocked him, if it weren’t for mounting public pressure. Both domestic violence and overt disrespect for women should’ve been enough on their own, let alone together, but let’s focus on the third piece of the puzzle: What we know of Puzder’s policies based on his time as CEO.
“We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.”
Puzder took over as CEO of CKE in September of 2000, and has since embarked on a mission to dismantle the labor he was nominated to protect and strengthen. He has been an outspoken critic of, among other things, paid sick leave for employees, minimum wage increases, and the Affordable Care Act. In this sense, he is the perfect Trump nomination: A white man who has been misleading poor people about the value of their products while also doing immense harm to the people who work for him. He has publicly called for robots to replace workers, however unlike his Silicon Valley counterparts, he has offered nothing to those he wants to displace. In Puzder’s ideal world, people would have just enough income to buy whatever his companies sell, while his staff of machines deposit cash directly into his pockets.
He sells food that makes poor people sick, but dodges any responsibility in taking care of them after he’s poisoned them.
There’s a joke in the classic film BASEketball where billionaire team-owner Baxter Caine asks star player Doug Remer, “Do you think Shaq got rich playing in Orlando? Hardly. He made his fortune moving to L.A. You know how much he makes now?” Remer responds, “As much as he made playing in college?”
In the way that they so often do, Trey Parker and Matt Stone perfectly captured a truth about the American public. It doesn’t matter how people make their money, what’s most important is that they made a lot of it. That’s how we wound up with a president who turned an inherited fortune into mountains of debt before leveraging his own fabricated-celebrity, his family’s team of high-priced lawyers, and a series of tax loopholes to return his wealth. He’s notoriously stiffed workers and drug out lawsuits to tear down his detractors. He’s waged publicity battles with anyone he dislikes. He’s continued to express his opinion that five black and Latino teenagers should be in jail for the rest of their lives for a crime that they did not commit. A case in which he had absolutely no stake, except to tear down minorities and build his own brand. The American people will forgive your rap sheet of biblical proportions as long as you’ve managed to acquire wealth, justifying just about anything with the “Well he must have done something right” theory, even if “He’s also done 1,000 things wrong.”
Between Trump and Puzder, they’ve managed to make their millions at the expense of: Laborers, low-skilled workers, disadvantaged people of all creeds, the American public, immigrants who came here for the same opportunities that fuel America’s rags-to-riches narratives, their spouses, women in general, and countless others. Their unwavering focus on wealth creation for themselves has created externalities that have touched just about everyone in the U.S. in one way or another. The American public has funded their “come-up” and many refuse to acknowledge it. Skilled laborers and the rest of the working class who elected Trump did so thinking that he would pave the way for them to experience the same (if only on a smaller scale) come-up, yet they overlook that they were already part of a come-up: Trump’s.
Puzder hasn’t been in the public eye for as long as Trump has, but his treatment of the often-disadvantaged people who work for him hasn’t been any better. Workers at his restaurants have complained of poor working conditions, under-staffing, and diminishing sick leave. Spare everyone your, “Fast food isn’t meant to be a career” musings that ignore the simplest (and yet most overlooked) idea there is - These are human beings too. They have families they’re doing their best to take care of. They are our neighbors, our classmates, people who in many cases have actually been left behind by the system that so many Trumpers claim is unfair to them.
Puzder will likely return to running his restaurants, facing diminishing public scrutiny over the coming months. He will not come away from this thinking, “I am so disliked, that the people who accepted Jeff Sessions wouldn’t accept me.” He will instead continue raking in millions of dollars each year at the expense of those under him.
The Rich Guy Phenomenon isn’t going to end with Trump. It will likely never end, barring something catastrophic. There are a prized-few ideals that are at the core of the idea of America, and sadly, a wealthy few are corrupting some of them for their own gain. Americans should never stop dreaming that they will one day be the success story that people read about in Forbes, or that the long hours they put in will eventually pay off. But what should stop is the false dichotomy that in order to succeed, you have to sacrifice the well-being of those around you. There are countless examples out there, surely not without their own faults, but who do not make it a point to be despicable to their peers. Let’s focus on uplifting these stories, and not rewarding the Puzders and Trumps of the world. Everyone will be better off.