POLITICS & THE ECONOMY

Larry Kudlow Doesn’t Believe in Systemic Racism. That is Why I Know It’s Real.

The height of white privilege is the ability to pretend my reality doesn’t exist

Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

Someone asked me the other day how I decide what to write. In all honesty, my process is remarkably simple.

Sometimes the catalyst is a news report that, in my opinion, doesn’t dig deep enough. At other times, something else spawns a thought. Maybe it’s a book I’m reading, or something one of my kids says. Most of the time, though, the thing that sparks my writing is usually one thing:

Something has pissed me off.

Whenever this happens, I corner the nearest unfortunate family member — usually one of my children — walking them through the who, what, and why of my anger.

My wife developed a perfect solution for these episodes.

Whenever I launch into one of my impromptu lectures, she heads me off at the pass with the following request:

“Why not just write about it?”

So here we are.

The news that various members of the Trump administration don’t think systemic racism exists in America, despite evidence to the contrary, is what prompted my latest household sermon.

Attorney General William Barr does not believe systemic racism is a problem in policing. Neither does the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien. Or Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Never mind that the police kill African-Americans at more than twice the rate of whites. Or that white families, on average, have almost ten times the net worth of Black families.

The reality of systemic racism in the U.S. — if not globally — is widely recognized by academics and policymakers.

Facts and figures aside, here’s why I am 100% certain that systemic racism is a real thing:

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, systemic racism exists, because Larry Kudlow, the White House economic advisor, doesn’t believe it does. Let me rephrase — Larry Kudlow doesn’t believe in systemic racism, in much the same way you or I don’t believe in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Kudlow is so confident in his disbelief in systemic racism that he becomes momentarily unsure of what the word ‘systemic’ even means.

Source: YouTube/CNBC

The reason for my certainty that systemic racism absolutely exists is because Larry Kudlow doesn’t believe in it.

You see, this guy is wrong about damn near everything. He is the literal avatar of inaccuracy.

Kudlow’s economic predictions are always wrong. When Bill Clinton increased taxes, he predicted damage to the economy, which boomed instead. He predicted a rise in housing valuations just before that market collapsed.

Since he has been on the White House team, he has been wrong about everything from the economy to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For years, he has been stupendously wrong, so often, that no one in their right mind would bet a day-old cup of coffee on anything he says.

There is an episode of Seinfeld in which one of the characters realizes all his decisions have been wrong. His solution is to do the opposite of everything. Larry Kudlow could learn a lot from George Costanza.

Source: YouTube

Some people are just lucky I guess.

Fortunately for Larry, being incorrect almost every time he opens his mouth hasn’t stalled his career. For some unfathomable reason, people keep giving him very good jobs.

Armed with an undergraduate degree in history, Kudlow became an analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. After a stint working for Ronald Reagan, he became Bear Stearns’s chief economist. The company later fired him due to his drug use.

That wasn’t an issue for CNBC, where Kudlow soon landed — going on to become a financial news celebrity. From there, Kudlow made his way into the top economics post in the White House.

Did I mention Larry Kudlow is not even an economist?

That’s right, Larry Kudlow has somehow managed to work for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as a chief economist for a major Wall Street investment bank, and as the top economic advisor to the President of the United States — all without actually being an economist.

As far as I’m aware, he has no formal training in economics at all.

TRUE STORY: A few years ago, I worked at a small investment bank on Wall Street. Our trading desk consisted of about forty people. One day, the CEO of the firm walked onto the trading floor with an announcement. He wanted to plan a client event, complete with food, an open bar, and a prominent speaker to discuss the economy. He told us he had several speakers in mind, but he was thinking of booking Larry Kudlow, since he only charged $50,000 to speak at an event of this nature. As soon as he said Kudlow’s name, the entire trading floor burst into laughter. None of us could believe our CEO would consider for one second paying money to hear what Kudlow thought about the economy.

Our CEO left the trading floor shaking his head.

Photo: Seth Wenig/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Do I think Larry Kudlow is a beneficiary of white privilege or that systemic racism got him to the White House?

As you consider the previous question, try this thought experiment:

Imagine an African-American Larry Kudlow, without the proper qualifications, with a history of substance abuse and poor job performance. Can you envision that person as the top economics advisor to the White House?

I don’t think a Black guy with that resume could get hired at Walmart.

Ok, maybe I’m too harsh. Perhaps Larry Kudlow is just an extremely lucky guy.

Systemic racism, or bad luck?

As a Black man of a certain age, born and raised in the Deep South, I cringe when my children watch the Black Lives Matter protests, and they ask me, “Were things this way when you were a kid?”

We have conversations few if any, white people can have with their children. We talk about the day I entered the seventh grade — the first day I went to school with white children, after years of attending segregated schools — in the 70s.

Sometimes we talk about the day I got my tenth-grade yearbook. That was when I discovered my public school had both a tennis and a golf team. Then I realized why there was no point in me knowing about those two teams.

Both practiced and played their matches at a segregated country club, so only the white students could try out for those teams.

I tell them about how my Dad tried to purchase a membership for his four sons at a Boy’s Club in my town. That day I learned the club was for white people only. As they escorted us from the building, I’ll never forget how our white friends from school looked at us — as if we should have known better to come there.

The Black Boy’s Club was for kids like my brothers and me. It was on the other side of town, in a dilapidated building with broken basketball hoops in the parking lot.

Sometimes we talk about the time I shopped for office furniture with one of my brothers. I tell them about the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized the store owner had summoned the police. I wanted to pay in cash, which caused him to think we both were drug dealers.

I have the embarrassment of telling my children I once decided I was better off letting a white real estate agent negotiate a lease on my behalf. I did this out of fear that my blackness might result in the property suddenly becoming unavailable.

Then there are the things I’m unable to explain to my children, let alone to myself.

How could I be qualified to run businesses on Wall Street, yet not deserving of a single interview in my field in North Carolina? Is it my lack of privilege? Could it be systemic racism? Am I just unlucky?

For years, those questions, and others like them, haunted me in the late hours of the night.

But now that I know what Larry Kudlow thinks about systemic racism, the answers are all too clear.

If you enjoy hot takes on politics and the economy, you’ll love The Journeyman, my weekly-ish newsletter! Get email updates here:

Raconteur. Recovering Capitalist. Writing about politics, the economy, race, and inequality. Connect with me everywhere: https://linktr.ee/thejourneyman

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