In the course of an interview he gave for an upcoming Russian documentary about the country’s recent past, Vladimir Putin made a startling revelation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he said in interview excerpts released Sunday, “Sometimes I had to earn extra money. I mean, earn extra money by car, as a private driver.” Specifically, according to Agence France-Presse, “he worked occasionally as a taxi driver to boost his income.”
Putin said this in the course of making it abundantly clear that he did not believe that the demise of the Soviet Union was a positive historical development. The fall of the Communist behemoth, he said, was a “tragedy” for “most citizens.” Putin asked: “After all, what is the collapse of the Soviet Union? This is the collapse of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union.” He added that the fall of the oppressive superpower was “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.”
The national disaster was paralleled in Putin’s personal life; he doesn’t remember his time as a driver with any fondness: “It’s unpleasant to talk about to be honest but, unfortunately, that was the case.”
It may be unpleasant for Putin to look back on those days. It must have been a mighty fall to go from being among the cosseted Soviet apparatchiks to ferrying around the very same ordinary people among whom he once inspired horror and dread as a KGB agent. But was it really that unfortunate? It would have been interesting if the interviewer had asked Putin more about his cab-driving experience, which is unparalleled among the political elites of the various great powers. Putin might have given enlightening answers to questions about whether his time as a driver gave him any greater sensitivity to the concerns and anxieties of the people he has spent most of his life ruling. Certainly, no other world leader can boast of having spent any time living as an ordinary citizen after entering into the inner circle of the governing elites.
In fact, we would be better off if Putin’s unpleasant memory became required of all political leaders. I wouldn’t want to get in a cab that Old Joe Biden was driving now, but imagine if Lunchbucket Joe didn’t just posture cynically about being just ordinary folks but really had lived as a decidedly unwealthy private citizen after his overlong tenure in the Senate. Biden became a Senator in 1973 at the age of 30; he stayed in the Senate until he was 66 when he became vice president. He left the vice presidency at age 74 and became president at age 78.
What this means is that since he was 30 years old at least, Joe Biden hasn’t had any of the worries that ordinary Americans have. He has never had to have the least concern about making ends meet. CBS News reported that when he became vice president in 2009, he had a net worth of less than $30,000, but that was likely more a matter of cash flow than actual penury. In any case, by ten years later, according to Forbes, Old Joe was worth $9 million. As vice president for eight years, he made about a million. The other $8 million is part of the perks that come from having power and influence. Biden has also never had to worry that either he or his son Hunter would be prosecuted for their obvious corrupt dealings because he is a member of the party that is exempt from such prosecutions.
Joe Biden for over fifty years has been pretending to be just a regular guy when all through that period he has been part of America’s new elite class that has no responsibilities, no worries, no risks, and no trouble. If he had driven a cab like Putin, not as a stunt but out of a genuine need to earn a living, he might have come to be a trifle more responsible and less cavalier about the galloping inflation his policies have brought to ordinary Americans. If he had learned what life is really like for Americans who aren’t rich and powerful, he might have even been a halfway decent president of the United States.
Putin had the right idea, albeit unwittingly. Every American politician should be barred from making any money above and beyond the salary stipulated for his or her office, and anyone who wants to seek elected office should be made to drive a cab for four or five years first. That’s the kind of law we need: let these comfortable elites who have so much power over our lives find out what it’s really like to live with the policies they created before they inflict any more of them on us. We would almost certainly come out with a higher quality crop of politicians.
This article by Robert Spencer originally appeared on JihadWatch.org and is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.