The Trump Administration Takes Shape
Since the results of the November election became known, Donald Trump has steadily made public his picks for most of the cabinet members he wishes to include at the start of his Administration. So far, most of the picks have been unconventional compared to other incoming administrations, which was to be expected considering the nature of Trump’s campaign. How these nominees will fare in Senate confirmation hearings and votes remains to be seen, but some predictions for potential policy directions which may be expected in the not-too-distant future may be made at this point in the process.
Some early observations about the backgrounds of some of the nominees. Overall, this cabinet would be the richest in terms of personal wealth in US history. Wall Street is extremely well represented, as well as other corporate executives ( CEOs of Exxon/Mobil and Hardee’s/Carl’s, Jr.). Likewise, there is a group of retired military officers – including a nominee for Secretary of Defense who will require a waiver to serve in that post due to having retired from active duty too recently.
How do nominees’ backgrounds fit with the duties of the positions for which they have been nominated? Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and GOP Presidential candidate, has basically no background whatsoever for the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Early on, he had announced that he had no desire to serve in the Cabinet due to the fact that he felt unqualified to run a government agency. Nevertheless, he has agreed to serve in this capacity. Rick Perry, former Texas Governor and another former GOP Presidential candidate, was named to be Secretary of the Department of Energy – one of three government agencies he had pledged to eliminate, if elected, when he was running for the GOP Presidential nomination back in 2012. Was he named to the post to oversee the demise of the Department?
For a man who ran for President as an outsider to upset the DC status quo and political establishment, President-elect Trump has certainly done his part to make sure Wall Street is well represented at Treasury by Steven Mnuchin. He also picked experienced corporate executives to head the Labor and State Departments. Another political appointment was naming Representative Tom Price of Georgia to head Health and Human Services. Price was famous for authoring the 50+ attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act from the time it was passed until now. Since Trump has expressed his support for such a repeal throughout the campaign, this seems like a logical choice, but one that risks dire consequences for many millions of people who have received health care coverage for the first time due to that law.
The fact that he chose the CEO of a fast-food empire to lead the Department of Labor probably does not bode well for either organized labor or ordinary workers – especially when he openly opposes raising the minimum wage. Such gains as have been made with regard to workers under the Obama Administration, including a proposed rule change that would increase the wage level below which overtime pay rules would apply, may well be doomed under the new Administration. A Labor Department with openly pro-corporate management leanings threatens lower workplace protections for workers and increased wage and salary inequality for the economy overall. In other words, it appears that the aim is to turn the Labor Department into the Anti-Labor, Pro-Corporate Management Department, something that Trump never alluded to when he was courting blue-collar votes with his talk of bringing back jobs to this country which had been exported abroad in search of cheaper labor.
Likewise, the appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is unlikely to garner support from environmental groups. The direction the agency is likely to take under his stewardship is one of relaxing regulations which make it more difficult for corporations to profit while despoiling the environment. Trump has himself expressed a desire to reduce stifling environmental regulations which have been based on international agreements to deal with the issue of climate change – which he has called a hoax on numerous occasions. The climate change denial prevalent in the upper echelons of the establishment GOP has certainly met with his approval. Pruitt’s nomination seems like an attempt to morph the EPA into the Environmental Destruction Agency rather than to fulfill its legislatively intended purpose.
Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education puts another billionaire in a position of power in the Washington elite. Her agenda for improving public education in America seems to hinge on converting as much taxpayer money as possible as quickly as it can from funding public education to funding privately owned and operated for-profit charter schools, which again appears to go in the exact opposite direction of what the Department was created to accomplish. The purpose of health care should be to care for the health of individuals, not to profit from their misery. The purpose of public education should be to provide education to all members of our society, not to pump profits into corporate coffers and increase economic and social inequality among the populace.
The choice of Exxon/Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to become Secretary of State, top US Diplomat, cements this as one of the most top heavy corporate cabinets ever. His dealings with foreign governments as a businessman, along with his stock holdings, raise questions about his loyalties in performing his duties similar to those which Trump himself is trying to distract us from questioning. Combined with Trump’s business experience, his cabinet seems more like a corporate board of directors than the focal point of the executive branch of the Federal Government of the United States of America. The military tint to the national security portion of the government seems to dilute significantly the idea of civilian control over the military. The economic part of the government seems to concentrate at the top of the economic system while pretty much ignoring the plight of those in the mainstream or at the bottom.
As far as foreign policy goes, the conflicts (or at the very least, the strong appearance of conflicts) of interest abound. How much of what the Administration does in the realms of diplomacy, trade and conflict resolution will be carried out to benefit the American people and the people of the world at large? How much will be done to satisfy the interests of the corporations which have succeeded in concentrating an ever-increasing percentage of the world’s wealth into the hands of a small number of oligarchs and plutocrats?
Donald Trump, throughout his campaign for the American Presidency, professed a desire to “Make America Great Again” without ever really explaining to anyone (especially his core supporters) what America would look like when he finished making it great. So far, he seems to be heading down a road that will leave the disillusioned majority of Americans who have been so poorly served by our government and economic system in the past several decades more disillusioned than ever. Once in power, he appears to be inclined to move in a direction to further deregulate corporations in terms of environmental, labor, financial, education, health care and other considerations. The goal seems to be a renewed advocacy of a “survival of the fittest” Social Darwinism used to justify subjugating the vast majority to the service of their betters (namely he, his family and their cronies).
The economy, in terms of GDP and jobs, may seem to improve under this scenario, but I doubt the problems of economic inequality, lack of mobility, outright poverty and sense of powerlessness for the vast majority of people will be decreased in the least. Avenues of protest for empowering movements for much needed change have become more restrictive with new technology and the tightening of social controls to combat terrorism. Individual and group rights are being sacrificed in the name of safety and security to an extent only dreamed of in past generations by dystopian writers such as Wells, Orwell and Huxley. With Trump, it looks like the puppet masters have decided to cut the strings to the politicians and begun to take more direct control over our lives than ever.
Perhaps this election was a fluke, not to be repeated again. We may stem the tide of voter suppression, gerrymandering, corporate/tycoon campaign financing and media manipulation to restore a greater degree of truly representative democracy to our government at some time in the not-too-distant future. This task becomes more difficult every time another state passes a new voter suppression law, ignores court orders negating bad laws, or acts in ways to move decision-making power farther from the grassroots. Look at what has been happening to LGBT rights in states like North Carolina, workers rights in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, women’s reproductive rights in Texas and a myriad of other states. These and more problems will raise their ugly heads if the tyranny of the ruling minority in Washington allows Trump, Ryan, McConnell and various state governors and legislatures to entrench themselves ever more firmly in control of our state and national governments, passing more laws stripping us of our civil liberties and depriving us our human rights.
We the People should rule ourselves, not be ruled by corporations and the privileged oligarchs who control them. Greed is a vice to be abhorred, not a virtue to be glorified.
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