Donald Trump seems to be shaking on his campaign promise to drain the swamp…who would’ve guessed that the double-speaking, hot headed corporate businessman wouldn’t hold up his end of the bargain? The “swamp”, as Washington, D.C. is referred to as by Trump, is where corporate interests meets for-sale politicians and the lobbyists who grease their perspective palms. Trump sees our nation’s capital as a bastion of bureaucratic oversight, mixed with big money, and perhaps he has this view given that he was a participant in this problem, having donated over $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, a charitable organization he claimed was a “pay-to-play” scheme. Thus, in his typical egomaniacal fashion, Trump views himself as the only person who can drain this swamp, and likely do it the best, as he knows stuff that other people don’t know about the nature of swamps and their cleanups.
But, while I doubt The Don knows much about the effects of eutrophication on aquatic and amphibious life, or the actual importance of swamp in the ecological health of our environment, the time has come for his presumptive cabinet to be vetted, to testify in front of their respective committee, and to ultimately have their nominations be approved or declined. As I write now, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is testifying in front of the Judiciary Committee for the role of the Attorney General for the United States of America, the highest legal position in all the lands. What’s most concerning about Sessions, aside from being racist, showing a strong record of anti-voting rights legislation, and a foe to a vast array of civil rights and liberties groups, is that he’s just another Senate vet who tossed his hat in Trumps corner early getting a payout. The same type of tit-for-tat cabinet nominations we’ve seen for the last century.
Sessions, however, ranks high for his racism and backwardness, but relatively low on the corporate interest scale, especially in comparison with some of Trumps other cabinet selections. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
Secretary of Labor- Andy Pudzer, hell of a guy and CEO of Carls Jr. and Hardy’s parent company, CKE Resaurants, especially if you like sandwiches restaurants(if you can even call them that) whose best review is “the vagrants stay outside”. Not so much for employees of his restaurants, and all low-income workers across the nation. Estimated at a modest $45 million, he is only the second person from a corporate management background to move into the position(a bad precedent to break), and Pudzer is a vehement opponent of the minimum wage, seeing automation as the future to fast food transactions. Besides the blatant irony of a labor secretary not believing in labor, Pudzer contributed to Mitt Romney’s “Believe in America”, a book (or was it legitimate policy ideas? You be the judge.) which was just more of the same when it comes to conservative literature on economics: taxes are too high and complex, and for some reason – despite close to 40 years of proof that it doesn’t work – still proposes another form of trickle down economics. If Pudzer’s work on Believe in America is any indication of how he may form labor policy, it’s likely to have Corporate America water at the mouth, and hard working American’s suffer more than they already do. Oh, and there’s the added fact that nearly 60% of his restaurants show at least one violation of Federal Labor Standards Act.
Then there’s Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, whose estimated worth is $1.25 billion, sprung from the work of her husband, Richard DeVos, Jr. whose father was Richard DeVos, founder of Amway. Besides being one of Trump’s largest campaign donors, she’s also one of the greatest threats to the American public education system, believing money would be better spent on school vouchers and charter schools… also she’s one of those people who don’t see an issue bringing church into public schools, so much for the Constitution and what not. DeVos is the epitome of the swampthings Trump claimed to be fighting, her family has donated almost $200 million to “The New Right”. But the proverbial buck doesn’t stop there. DeVos and her husband “championed” anti-LGBTQA+ legislation in Michigan, and just to add to the whackjob factor, ol’ Betsy gal is an Elder at the Mars Hill Bible Church out in Grand Rapids. These facts are little without taking time to understand the grasp of what her appointment could mean: school vouchers and charter schools are a broken system, look at their efficacy throughout the country. Furthermore, we should be finding ways to put more money into our public schools, not taking it out. The real kicker in all of this is that Betsy, her husband, and all of her family never attended a public school. Who do you think you are taking more money away from public schools? You ever ate chicken patties for four years straight?
Next on the block is Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and close friend to Vladdy P(utin). Compared to DeVos, Tillerson is worth just a measly $300 million, but that’s without the $235 million he’s set to gain between his retirement package and selling his stock shares, provided he is selected as Secretary of State. Forget, for a moment, that this man has made a fortune of destroying the environment and is a vocal climate change denier, can we just laugh at how the man who may control our foreign relations got The Order of Friendship award from the Kremlin last year? But, again, pause for a moment. Tillerson didn’t win this because he’s dapping up Vladdy P. at the Kendrick concert, he won it because of his part in Exxon’s $650 million drilling campaign in the northern Arctic, where after making a find the company agreed to check out Siberia for some Black Gold. While the conflict of interests are abound, I find it most interesting that Trump’s cabinet is full of the exact people he railed against all throughout his campaign. Crooked Hillary jokes and ill-timed tweets aside, let’s look at the historical relevance of Trump’s cabinet picks.
While these choices to most might seem unprecedented, throughout America’s history there have been out of the box choices. John Ashcroft, for instance, under George W. Bush, was the Attorney General during the early years of post-9/11 America. Well known for his pro-life views and fear of forced busing to promote desegregation, Ashcroft was voted in by a 58-42 margin, with almost all democrats voting against him because of his social views. There was also Raymond Donovan, Reagan’s Labor secretary who came into office with no political experience and an investigation by the FBI for payoffs to organized crime syndicates to help get Unions on board for the projects his construction company handled. Ultimately, the charges couldn’t be corroborated and Donovan was voted in 80-17, and with the added bonus of likely being the only appointment to have “murderous slime” tossed during their hearing. He worked from 1981-1985, doing little work that substantively helped the common man, and resigning before his tenure was up because he was under investigation for robbery and larceny.
But of all the presidents Trump’s cabinet choices may mirror, Ike Eisenhower is perhaps the most fitting. Like Trump, Eisenhower was considered a political outsider: a hard nosed general who had commanded America’s fighting forces through some of their bloodiest and most contentious battles it has ever seen. Also like Trump, Ike’s choices were based not off political clout or experience, but of those whom he held in high regard, or considered successful.His cabinet was described as “8 millionaires and a plumber”, as his secretary of labor was the head of the plumbers union. His cabinet was made of bankers, corporate lawyers, and farmers. And, interestingly enough, his secretary of defense was Charles E. Wilson, the CEO of GM at the time.
Ike picked these men (and a woman) because he felt their knowledge and success in their fields would bring the same to the positions they had been appointed to. They did, for the most part. Most notably Ezra Taft, who expanded New Deal subsidies across the board, which worked well with Ike’s American-centric view of his economic policies. And, Charles E. Wilson is, arguably, the man to be credited for putting American in such a dominant position in military terms.
Trump picked these men and women because they provided substantial donations to his campaign, and most, if not all, will personally gain from their positions. An examination of who is where leads to the why. Pudzer at labor puts the common worker on the chopping block, and it’s likely we’ll see an expansion of corporate rights over protections that should be guaranteed to some of our most at risk communities who take up the jobs the department of labor was created to serve. Tillerson at state shows an interest in big money desires, internationally. Having a businessman who has profited (exponentially) off of the global usurpation of natural resources, who has defied scientific evidence about the damage he is causing, and can levy his potential connections on behalf of his 1% friends is not only a blatant conflict of interest, but blindly irrational in the context of modern geopolitical relations. Building on that, DeVos could cause unparalleled damage to an already bleeding American education system, through charter schools and school vouchers, whose students rank at the lower ends of global tests.
Admittedly, not all of Trump’s choices are worth scorn in my eyes. Former General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, while not being outside of the required seven year cool off period is a solid choice for Secretary of Defense. Yes, I understand all reservations about a military that is not under civilian control, but Mattis is a brilliant tactician and works with a “take no sh*t” attitude that I can appreciate and he keeps cool under pressure, something he might be able to teach Donny about.
It’s hard to say how the odds will turn out when the respective committees decide the fate of his nominees. Most of Trump’s choices are against everything their departments stand for (Price for Health and Human Services, Perry for Energy), but with a Congress controlled by a Republican majority, it’s likely these nominees will just slide into place.
Those rallying cries to “Drain the Swamp” were booming as Trump declared victory, and it’s likely something of a similar manner will happen at his inauguration. But when you look at his cabinet choices, you have to ask yourself: is a siphon the most effective way to drain this swamp?