Promises, Promises. Or Are They Threats?
Nearly four weeks have passed since Donald Trump became our President-Elect. Work has begun in earnest to nominate individuals to fill cabinet and other positions in the new administration. While it is still too early to tell which direction future policy decisions will take and what specific legislation may be proposed and act upon early next year, trends are beginning to demonstrate how the early stages of transition to the Trump Administration may augur depending upon an individual’s perspective.
The coming days of the lame duck Congress should prove relatively calm. With the advent of new GOP Presidential Administration, the only really pressing business before Congress this month will undoubtedly prove to be the business they have proven most reluctant to conclude throughout Obama’s tenure in office – keeping the government functioning by passing funding legislation. Expect typical shenanigans and brinkmanship to prevail once again, as they do their damnedest to pass another short-term budget package just in time to avert another government shutdown before the year-end holiday recess.
So far, Trump’s announced nominees for cabinet and other key staff positions has been a mixed bag leaning heavily towards individuals with huge bank accounts, rightwing political views and a stated desire to eliminate as much of the Obama legacy as can be accomplished as rapidly as possible. As would be expected of a GOP administration, picks in the economic and business arena come primarily from Wall Street. Some, like Trump, made a financial killing in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Other individuals capable of gaming the system for personal profit to the tune of many millions of dollars are also included. His pick for Education is another billionaire pushing for school privatization in the form of spending taxpayer funds supporting for-profit charter schools to further decimate our public education system.
For Health and Human Services, Trump selected the single individual most responsible for the GOP legislative attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act over 50 times since it was passed. These attempts only failed as long as there was a Democrat in the White House and Democratic control of the Senate, neither of which will be true after January 20th. For Justice, Trump named Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a staunch conservative who failed to be confirmed for a judicial appointment years ago due to questionable views regarding race and civil rights to be his Attorney General. A perfect choice to charge with prosecuting (or not) violations of federal civil rights laws and state voting laws resulting in disenfranchising qualified individuals by instituting Voter ID requirements, among others (targeting those who would vote against them, of course).
There will be no vote on a replacement for deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia until Donald Trump nominates one after officially being sworn in as President. We can expect whomever he selects to be far different from President Obama’s nominee, as will future nominees that are almost certain to be required to fill the slots presently occupied by Justices who will either pass away or retire. Presidential nominees to SCOTUS and other federal judicial benches usually affect jurisprudence in this country long after the end of the Presidential Administration under which they took office. In recent years, major decisions involving the Affordable Care Act, Voting Rights Act, LGBT rights and marriage equality, along with many other far-reaching issues, have been decided in the Judicial Branch of our government.
Many in the GOP would like for the courts to start reversing recent decisions that have resulted in gains for members of groups who have been historically treated unequally in our society. Through legislation and judicial review, they hope to roll back progress made in areas such as workers’ rights, civil rights, voting rights, public education, environmental protection and a host of other societal issues too lengthy to mention, many on the right end of the political spectrum want to “Make America Great Again” by taking us back to a time in our history that most of us would find very uninviting and deplorable, if not downright intolerable, but certainly not “great”.
As for foreign policy, Trump has nominated a new UN Ambassador, but the Secretary of State position is still up in the air. He has ruffled some feathers with phone calls to the Presidents of Pakistan and Taiwan, which is something I’m sure we’ll see more of in coming days and weeks. He also touted a great triumph for American workers by arranging for Carrier to forego closing and moving a manufacturing plant from Indiana to Mexico, aided by tried and true tax breaks at the state level (His VP is governor of Indiana) to the tune of $7 million. That’s what he considers punishment for off-shoring jobs from factories here to foreign countries with lower wages and lax worker protections.
Donald Trump “won” the election largely by appealing to white blue collar workers with promises to improve the economy by bringing back good jobs and preventing more from leaving the country. He also promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and build a wall to keep the hordes of illegal Mexican immigrants from coming here to steal their livelihoods, while simultaneously refusing entry to Moslems hell-bent on terrorizing us in our homes, schools, workplaces and places of worship. How they will react if he actually accomplishes what he has promised and it does not result in raising their wages and standard of living, improving their health care and educational opportunities or making their lives demonstrably better overall remains to be seen.
The direction our next President seems to be taking in the way of eroding civil rights for many and civil liberties for most give many of us fears of moving our society in a dangerously authoritarian direction. Repressing the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the many in order to protect the undeserved wealth and privilege of a small minority, further concentrating both wealth and political power in the hands of those who have benefitted the most historically from generations of economic and political inequality, does not serve the vast majority of our people well at all. Making excuses for the vast and increasing degree of inequality and its preservation through inheritance of great wealth from generation to generation makes a mockery of the notion of equal opportunity for all. Making the unequal distribution of wealth also become reflected in the political sphere – through unregulated campaign spending, gerrymandering and other political tricks of the trade that have stifled the voices of increasing numbers of people in recent years – has made this country less of a democracy in recent years than it was at the end of the last century.
The Trump/Ryan/McConnell agenda to solidify GOP control of government for years to come while simultaneously increasing economic and political inequality and improving prospects for personal profit of the few at our expense must be fought. Ryan never gave up his dream to privatize Medicare and Medicaid for the benefit of corporate interests at the expense of the welfare of the people they were designed to serve. The same is true of those who wish to privatize Social Security to maximize private profits on Wall Street at the risk of failing to adequately serve the needs of the elderly who paid into it their whole working lives in hopes of achieving retirement that is not impoverished. Pretending that receiving far less than half of the votes of the people who will be affected by their policies gives them a mandate to do as they wish with their office regardless of the impact their actions will have on millions of people in this country and worldwide is a joke.
There is no mandate for this government to pursue the policies espoused by the “leaders” who will try to force their will on us in coming days. They would be well advised to remember that. Outrageous nominees should be rejected in the Senate. The health care laws should be changed so that more people are adequately served by them, rather than that millions will lose coverage that they only recently gained. Our individual and collective liberties and freedoms must not be unduly curtailed in overreaction to exaggerated threats posed by “others”. Making scapegoats of others merely on the basis of race, religion, country of origin or other characteristics that make them different on inherently insignificant bases from white males is unacceptable in an allegedly open and diverse society. We need to govern ourselves in such a way that the haters do not win. They won too much on November 8th, but they are not unstoppable.
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