During the campaign, whenever Trump’s critics expressed alarm at his lack of experience or ignorance of public policy, his supporters assured us that, once elected, he would surround himself with competent people and not just the diehard loyalists and bomb-throwers who staffed his campaign team. For the most part, this is not what has happened. The loyalists and bomb-throwers remain. Added to their ranks are investment bankers, CEOs, and heiresses. Recently retired military officers have been tapped for positions normally reserved for civilians. People with no more government experience than Trump himself have been picked to head important departments, while advocates of deregulation have been put in charge of regulatory agencies that protect workers, consumers, and the environment.
Other appointments seem downright perverse: a head of the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn’t believe in global warming; a secretary of education who doesn’t like public schools; a secretary of housing and urban development (Ben Carson) who scorns public housing and claimed, not long before his appointment, that he wasn’t qualified to run a federal agency. It will fall to Trump’s national security adviser to curb his notorious impulsiveness in the event of a crisis. To this delicate task Trump has appointed retired general Michael Flynn, a man who used his Twitter account to spread conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and has called Islam a “malignant cancer.”
There’s nothing wildly biased about these characterizations. The Trump Administration is evolving quite quickly into a government of, by and for large corporate interests.
There’s Rex Tillerson, who’ll be swapping his office as chief executive at Exxon Mobil for a more modest desk as the country’s chief diplomat. He’ll be moving into the State Department with $245 million in Exxon stock in his pocket where he’ll be the chief negotiator for the current sanctions against Russia, and by default and by extension, Exxon’s partnership in Arctic oil drilling deals. And yes, international climate agreements, too.
There’s Gary Cohn, who’s amassed $200 million in Goldman Sachs stock, who got the nod as head of the National Economic Council, a chief economic advisor. There’s the Treasury Secretary pick Steven Mnuchin, another Goldman Sachs banker, known as the ‘foreclosure king’ for the money he made buying bad mortgages and forcing thousands from their homes during the financial meltdown a decade ago.
And Rick Perry, who’s been selected to head the Department of Energy, the same department he said four year ago he wanted to abolish.
Are these the people –the combined net worth of only those announced so far tops a staggering $14 billion, more than the combined total of the bottom >third< of US households– that the large minority of US voters who punched ballots for Trump really want running things?
I seriously doubt it.
This has the makings of a SPECTRE gathering in Bond films. Or the boardrooms of villains assembled in Trump Tower-like fortresses in Batman and Superman flicks.
I’ve been trying to distance myself from following all this too closely. The past five weeks have felt like a parallel universe I/we’ve become sucked into and trapped in, scenes from Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark. Every once in a while I need to remind myself –or someone near me does– that I no longer live in the US, and that reactionary politics such as the kind that are now playing out at whirlwind speed, was largely why I moved from the US in the first place. It’s still very difficult to stop paying attention.
The lead photo, the site’s 1,080th straight Pic du Jour, is ‘Imbalance’ by Bogota, Colombia-based street artist DJ Lu. Snapped in August of 2015.