The Trump Putsch
The American voters— white middle class and white working class— who elected Donald Trump to the presidency will get what they deserve. The rest of us, the majority who didn’t vote for him will get fucked, too. The next four years will witness blatant attempts to plunder the US Treasury through schemes of fraud and usury previously unimagined as the creative drive of capitalism moves endlessly towards new forms of theft. Tea Party leaves have announced our fate; after four years of Trump presidency we will all be a whole lot poorer, and the US could be significantly less democratic.
Donald Trump is proposing a class shakedown of middle and working class wealth. Trump’s agenda set forward in the GOP platform will make all of us who are not wealthy, even less wealthy, and it will make the poor impoverished. Here are two dozen Republican Party pros and cons, some are directly stated in their party platform, some are historical GOP issues, some are rhetorically implied:
anti-campaign finance reform
anti-Black Lives Matter
This is a sobering list. But there are other enormous critical problems which don’t fit binary categories where Trump and the GOP leadership remain clueless, such as, how to prepare for global climate change, how to get the planet off the carbon economy, and how to end America’s two endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The pros and cons of the party platform above are their vision for America going forward under Trump. Many of the social issues Trump could care less about, but he has taken up these platform positions to win votes with the Christian Evangelical right. The public uproar which is bound to accompany Evangelical government excess will serve Trump as cover for his bait and switch. What Trump is most interested in, is increasing his personal wealth and prestige, and he has a scheme to make this happen. Trump proposes to downsize the federal government. Certainly he would like to shut down federal regulatory agencies, but he also would like to sell off government agencies with marketable potential. The US Postal Service is financially on the ropes because private mail carriers have siphoned off the high-end business. But the good old PO has urban real estate, physical infrastructure, a vast home mail delivery service, many lucrative delivery contracts, an educated and skilled workforce, and the monopoly use of stamps which is a form of money. How much is the PO worth?
Perhaps some government functions could be better provided by private vendors. But many would not. Privatization of government service is the next commons under assault by capitol markets. Under a great rush to privatize government services, the public well-being will suffer, and that cost of disrupted government services will be born disproportionately downward. Privatization advocates want to get the federal government out of public education. Private schools could better fulfill student’s needs and interests they claim. The meta-narrative of privatization theory maintains that private vendors can perform most government functions better, more efficiently, more technologically tailored to each individual, and cheaper. Corporate capitalism can run human civilization better than states with governments. Politicians and generals are ruthless war-mongers; merchants present themselves as reasonable traders. The corporate state is peaceful, catering to the somatic comforts.
Electoral democracy is obsolete for capitalism to thrive. Besides, free-will consumers vote instantly with money. Isn’t that democratic? Money is the lifeblood that flows throughout the entire market system. The feedback loop of goods, markets, and money flow, drive the social and moral development of capitalist civilization. Imagine in one Kafkaesque scenario, you are a defendant at trial, responsible for renting your own jury? Your largess could determine the verdict. Privatization theory is the latest incarnation of Ayn Rand’s harsh dichotomy, the mythic struggle of the individual as history maker, forever excelling against the collective entropy of the herd. Here, the exceptional individuals— the bankers, lawyers, CEO’s, politicians, Christians, and wheeler dealers— rise to the top. Government privatization and downsizing is a tax on the poor with predictable consequences.
So who would buy the US Post Office? Amazon, perhaps would snap it up at fire sale price. But really, where would the investors come from for a US government public sector sell off? Trump’s answer: the buyers would be all those very wealthy Americans who have gazillions of dollars stashed in offshore Caribbean tax havens. These offshore holdings are frozen capital, profits which cannot be repatriate into the US without tax consequences. Trump will create monetary liquidity by dropping the tax rate to 15%, allowing these hoarded funds back into the US. The American wealthy class will become the bargain shoppers at the government auction. This process will drive greater stratification of rich and poor.
How does Donald Trump pull off his biggest “art of deal” ever? Does anybody doubt that Trump will take a cut as Master of Ceremonies, and not go to prison? The plot is laid out below, the play by play has yet to happen. By examining the cast of characters in this drama, their backgrounds, their skill sets, their specific tasks in moving plot development, we see the larger agenda unfold. All the player profiles come from the public record. There are cliques and sub-cliques within the new Trump administration with parallel and conflicting agendas. The Republican Evangelical right has ironically raised its own anti-Christ in Donald Trump for he will destroy their Tea Party movement. Trump is not America’s anti-Christ, instead, he is a anomaly worth studying under the microscope. Through resistance to Trumpism and Tea Partyism, which are hardly compatible belief systems, progressive change will continue. It is possible to anticipate the next four years. The struggle has already begun.
The Economic Slap-Down
Trump’s gang of thieves is fronted by former Goldman Sachs wunderkind, Stephen Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin’s father was a Goldman Sachs partner, and under the old man’s tutelage Mnuchin rose rapidly through the corporate ranks to become executive vice president. In 2002 at the age of 39, Mnuchin parachuted from GS with wheelbarrows of cash. He spent most of the next seven years at Dune Capital underwriting hedge fund bets. In 2009 following the housing market crash, Mnuchin recruited financier George Soros, computer capitalist Robert Dell and other deep pocketed partners, to purchase IndyMac Bank, a leading sub-prime housing lender in southern California in a distress sale from the FDIC. The bank’s name was changed to OneWest Bank, which then launched a highly aggressive home loan liquidation program with evictions. At least 35,000 distressed homeowners in California and many thousands in other states were dispossessed and evicted, while bank profits on resales and FDIC payouts soared into the billions of dollars.
Trump has also named Gary Cohn, president and COO of Goldman Sachs, to serve as National Economic Director. Cohn began his banking career as an options trader in the New York mercantile exchange. His highly aggressive trading style brought him to the attention of GS recruiters in 1990, and over the next 26 years he clawed his way up the corporate ladder to the number two position. During his tenure, Goldman Sachs chartered new usury instruments flogging bundled high-risk home mortgages to European investors, a practice which ultimately crashed the housing market in 2007 precipitating the Great Recession.
Both Cohn and Mnuchin are big time philanthropists following the charitable tradition of the super rich. By donating minuscule portions of their personal hoard to showcase projects in education and performing arts, Cohn and Mnuchin have been feted by high society. Their “generosity” has purchased absolution and social legitimacy to shield their financial piracy and moral corruption. Mainstream political commentators say that both bankers are ideologically neutral, but that is an absurd claim to make about any capitalist money broker. What they mean is that these are nice Jewish bankers driven by “good old fashion greed”, not by white nationalist, hate mongering like their former Goldman Sachs colleague, Stephen Bannon.
Bannon, Trump’s chosen in-house political guru, is the face of alt-right ideology. Glenn Beck, a rabid neo-fascist ideologue in his own right, has labeled Bannon, the propagandist, as the resurrection of Joseph Goebbels playing to Trump’s Adolph Hitler. Other faces in Trump’s economic line up include billionaire vulture capitalist, corporate turnaround jockey, and art collector, Wilbur Ross, as Commerce Secretary, Todd Ricketts, co-owner of World Series champ Chicago Cubs, as deputy Commerce Secretary, and Hardee’s restaurant king, Andrew Pudzer, who does not support a living minimum wage in the fast food industry as Labor Secretary. To round out his economic team, Trump nominated Linda McMahon as administrator of the Small Business Administration. McMahon and her husband Vince built the mega-successful World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment. Their star entertainer, Hulk Hogan, appears to be Trump’s public speaking role model. McMahon ran twice unsuccessfully as Republican candidate in 2010 and 2012 for vacant US Senate seats in Connecticut.
The common thread among Trump’s private sector appointments has been the personal ability of each appointee to make tons of money. This group shares that elusive skill of using the capitalist system to great personal advantage. These overachievers are highly driven, bare-knuckle entrepreneurs to be applauded if you value that skill set. Some have had more privileged starts than others, but each is a salesman of great personal ambition, cleverness, and successful accomplishment. Their personal stories exemplify the “individualist” role models of the fantastical “make America great again” capitalist world order Trump is promoting.
In spite of the stellar resumes, this roster has major skill deficiencies. Enormous personal fortunes have been made in investment banking, media, entertainment, sports, corporate downsizing and restructuring, and fast food, but who among this group has any business experience in heavy industry or manufacturing? Who has produced durable goods? Who has created long-term, “good paying American jobs”? Which of these moguls has produced the “wealth of nations” as Adam Smith described it? Who among these newly minted civil servants has ever expressed any vision for the future of labor in America? Trump’s economic line-up is a gang of usurers and panderers.
Trump has promised to jump start the economy with a trillion dollar infrastructure rebuilding plan. While American cities are crumbling and there is urgent need in every quarter, that money does not exist in the US Treasury. Mnuchin will have to print it, borrow it, or sell off the national infrastructure to private investors. High traffic routes of the interstate highway system across the entire nation are ripe for privatization, as is the Post Office, the National Parks Service, and the EPA. The privatization of prisons which began three decades ago will serve as the model.
If Trump succeeds in cutting corporate income tax to 15% and slashing income tax on the wealthy class, cash flow at the treasury will shrivel. The catastrophic consequences of low cash flow will legitimize the claim that the government is incompetent to manage basic infrastructure and that selective privatization of the public sector is the answer. How much of this transaction will siphon privately to the brokers? Trump also claims that cutting corporate taxes will encourage rich Americans to repatriate off shore profits stashed in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. He proposes that corporations will have the incentive to invest their sheltered billions of dollars back in America. What Trump really means is that stashed off shore profits of billionaires will be liberated by low taxes to buy up two centuries of government infrastructure and investment at fire sale prices.
This anticipated liquidation of public wealth has the investments wolves licking their greasy chops. During the 1980’s great rip off of working class wealth under President Reagan, junk bond king Michael Milken raised cash on Wall St. to purchase aging family-owned factory businesses. He then closed the factories, laid off the workforce, and looted the pension fund which was worth far more than the purchase price of the factory. Corporate raider Carl Icahn, who has been named another Trump financial advisor, similarly purchased aging companies in order to liquidate assets. Using this blueprint, Reaganomics became the great assault on organized labor. Union factories were purchased and shuttered, pension savings were stolen, and “good paying” manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas to new third-world factories set up in Mexico and China. America’s union workforce was robbed and abandoned, the long-term cost of its retirement maintenance was shifted onto the public ledger. Reaganomics amounted to a trillion dollar reversal in class wealth of American workers. It ended the trend of growing working class wealth accumulation begun under Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s. The pending Trump rip-off, if it is successful, will dwarf Reaganomics.
According to pollsters, the US military has favorable ratings. 60% of the public likes its soldiers, and looks upon them as more trustworthy than politicians. Trump’s nominee for Defense Secretary is Gen. James N. “mad dog” Mattis who took over US central command of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010 following Gen. Petraeus’ indiscretions. In regards to Muslim enemies, Mattis publicly said, “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them” and “I like brawling”. Mattis was fired by President Obama in 2013 for advocating nuclear confrontation with Iran and retired from the army to private life. Mattis is a lifelong bachelor and scholar who has also been called “the warrior monk”.
Marine Corps. Gen. John F. Kelly is nominated for secretary of homeland security. Kelly is an action figure, a war hero of the second Gulf War where he commanded a marine division in assaults on Bagdad and Tikrit. He received a rare battlefield promotion to brigadier general in 2003. He had a second field command in Iraq in 2007. Kelly has also ridden many desk jobs up the military command. His last assignment has been two years as commander of US Southern Command which oversees Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean— the hemispheric jurisdiction of the Monroe Doctrine.
Mike Flynn, 3-star general ret., has been chosen by Trump as his National Security Advisor. Flynn has been a military intelligence operative most of his career. His last command was Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012-2014. Flynn was criticized in the Obama White House for the accuracy of his “Flynn facts.” Colin Powell was also critical of Flynn’s chaotic management style and his disregard of stated policy goals. Flynn retired from the military in 2014 to set up privately as Flynn Intelligence Group. His company represents the Erdogan government of Turkey. In July 2016, Flynn was a paid speaker at the annual RT banquet in Moscow (Russian English-language media service). He was seated at the guest of honor table next to Vladimir Putin. Flynn advocates rapprochement with Russia; he is Trump’s long-time go-between to Putin. Flynn was a VP finalist, but his ties to ex-Nazis in the Freedom Party of Austria were thought too unpalatable to voters. Flynn’s 2016 book, “Field of Fight” regurgitates fear-mongering Cold War rhetoric replacing evil communist with evil Islamic terrorist. He claims Muslim terrorists are being smuggled into the US from Mexico. He has stated publicly that it is America’s best interest to militarily support 3rd world dictators, and that the US should dominate the world by force. Flynn was a major public critic of Clinton’s over her computer security breaches, yet he, himself, has been reprimanded by superiors for personally disclosing classified military intelligence to British, Australian, and Pakistani military in Afghanistan. Flynn is a duplicitous, paranoid, psychopathic spook, truly in the mold of Allen Dulles. The job of reining in Flynn has been turned over to retired Lt. General Keith Kellogg who has been appointed Chief of Staff of the oversight National Security Council.
Mattis, Kelly, and Kellogg are experienced military administrators and predictable foreign policy jingoists. Flynn is a political liability with his connections to Putin, 3rd world despots, and ex-Nazis. If he were not Trump’s long time compinche he could be the first reality contestant of the inner circle to be publicly scapegoated and fired. We should not presume that the reality game show format which has been superimposed so successfully by Trump on the Republican primaries, the general election, and on through the cabinet search, will not continue into Trump’s presidency. In order to maintain drama and media ratings, story lines will be constructed, blame will be heaped, and heads will selectively roll. Perhaps the new administration appointees already understand this imbedded story plot— by accepting appointment, each nominee has been transformed into an apprentice under Trump’s reality presidency— if not, they’ll figure it out soon enough. They also have become civil servants with commensurate salaries.
The problem of bringing too many soldiers to the party is that they will favor military solutions to inevitable international power struggles. The US has followed a failed militarized foreign policy since WW II which has not brought global peace nor homeland security nor universal prosperity. Soldiers lack finesses in government; their council inevitably favors belligerence. The second downside is soldiers enjoy wielding power, and as world history amply demonstrates, it is very difficult to get soldiers to return to the barracks once they’ve tasted power.
The Political Ideologues:
Trump has added to his economic team congressman Mick Mulvaney, a 3-term republican from South Carolina who will become Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney, co-founded the house Freedom Caucus which ousted speaker John Boehner last year. He has railed against government borrowing and the $20 trillion US debt, campaigned relentlessly to slash government spending, and led the congressional charge to shut down the federal government in 2013. Mulvaney will co-spearhead Trump’s campaign promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has pledged to reverse Obama’s executive orders on climate change, toss out post-recession Wall St. banking regulation, and scrap the Dream Act protections for immigrant children. He will be the administration’s fiscal hatchet man. Mulvaney escaped indictment in 2010 for his involvement in the defunct Edenmoor real estate development scheme which solicited $30 million in public funds from Lancaster County, SC.
Montana Republican congressman Ryan Zinke has been nominated to be Interior Secretary. Zinke is a former college football standout and navy seal commander who served in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. In a previous House vote, Zinke sided against the Republican majority to streamline the transfer of federal public lands to state and local jurisdictions. However on 1/4/17, Zinke switched positions on public land transfers to vote with the Republican majority, a pragmatic move to lubricate his confirmation hearings. Also in the past, Zinke has argued in favor of developing clean and renewable energy, warning in geo-political military terms that global climate change “is a threat multiplier for instability in the most volatile regions of the world”. Zinke has simultaneously argued the contrary position in favor of less regulation, more oil and gas drilling, and more mineral exploitation of federal lands. It appears the Zinke holds contradictory world views, and will flap with the wind.
Betsy DeVos is nominated for Education Secretary. She is the billionaire heiress of a Michigan auto parts supplier, a devout Christian capitalist, education “reformer”, art patron, and Republican Party Chairperson who delivered Michigan for Donald Trump. DeVos pushed forward the Detroit charter school overhaul which critics say resulted in lowered student test scores and little school oversight or accountability. DeVos favors school vouchers for private schools paid from the public purse. She is a proponent for the privatization of childhood education. She maintains that the market can provide better educational opportunities for children than our current civic institution of public education. This is a radical departure from a century of American education theory, and it strangely ignores the nationalistic role of public education to mold us all into Americans through our common childhood experience. DeVos’ never attended public school or taught school, yet she has been an outspoken adversary of public education in Michigan, In her role as Education Secretary she will do her best to dismantle the institution. DeVos’ brother is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, the military security contractor.
Elaine Chao is returning to the presidential cabinet as Transportation Secretary. Chao grew up in an immigrant family from Taiwan. Her father landed in the US as a merchant seaman and subsequently built his career into a billionaire Liberian flag shipping magnate. Previously, Chao served as Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, and as Asst. Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush. She has also served as Director of the Peace Corps, and she is the only Trump appointee with cabinet experience. Chao brings stability and continuity to the job, and is not openly hostile toward the Transportation Department. Tactically for Trump, Chao is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, and the two are a Washington DC power couple. The pay-back for this appointment will be how quickly McConnell can bum rush all Trump’s appointments through Senate confirmation hearings. McConnell must also reel in the congressional inquiry into the Russian hacking of Democratic Party emails. Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham are old-school Republican patriots with long memories of Watergate hearings. They have been personally offended by Trump, and can drag the inquiry along. However, they can’t put Putin on the stand like CIA operative cum Watergate plumber, Howard Hunt, who was caught on the premise, so ultimately the inquiry will go nowhere beyond smoke and sanctimony. The big winner besides Trump will be Julian Assange with his get-out-of-jail pass from the Ecuadorian embassy.
CIA Director designate, Mike Pompeo, has been one of the most ferocious right-wing ideologues in Congress. Pompeo is a Republican carpetbagger congressman from Kansas. He has denied global warming, opposes Obamacare, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, opposes the labeling of genetically modified food, opposes wind and solar power tax credits, supports increased gas and oil drilling and pipeline construction, wants to disband the Environmental Protection Agency, supported the federal government shutdown of 2013, is a flag-waving member of the NRA, has been a major beneficiary of the Koch brothers’ political largess, supports National Security Administration blanket surveillance of Americans, called Edward Snowden a traitor, served on the House select committee on Benghazi, opposes the Iran nuclear deal, wants to ban Muslim immigrants, wants to build the border wall against Mexico, and believes the Guantanamo Bay prison should be kept operational. Pompeo has a long military service history and a JD from Harvard Law School. He will now be in charge of America’s spook shop and international protection racket with little or no oversight from Trump. Trump’s hotel chain will expand to Havana and Beijing.
Ben Carson will become Director of Housing and Urban Development. Carson ran unsuccessfully for president, and later supported Trump. He is the only Black man in Trump’s inner circle and one of two medical doctors. It is ironic that he will co-lead the dismantlement of Obamacare. This task is easier said than done without crashing the health insurance market which has become heavily invested into affordable care. Under Carson, urban block grants and federal housing funding for state and local governments will be cut. Qualifying for remaining dwindling federal funds will become highly competitive and politicized. Rick Perry, fourteen-year Texas governor and two-time presidential candidate will be Secretary of Energy. Perry and Carson are the two “survivors” from the Republican presidential debate stage to make the cabinet round. Perry is a fiscal conservative, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-Obamacare, oil and gas lobby shill. Now he will be put in charge of the nation’s nuclear energy and nuclear arms supply. The big rejects so far in true Trumpian fashion are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christy, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani. These guys were all former executives— “big egos with baggage”— who would compete with Trump forging cliques in his cabinet. They will be offered distant ambassadorships.
Another significant appointment is Scott Pruitt to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is an outspoken enemy of the EPA claiming the agency was engaged in “dubious science” and should be dismantled. In his job as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt litigated relentlessly against the Obama administration regulatory agenda regarding Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform, the Affordable Care Act, and EPA regulations on consumer protection, clean air and water, and environmental pollution. Pruitt at the EPA, like DeVos in Education, are pit bulls with a wrecking ball. Their agenda is to downsize and dismantle these federal agencies. Pruitt is a protégé of VP Mike Pence and a political payback to the Christian right. He will also be responsible for enforcing the Paris Climate Accords.
Two-term South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will be the next UN Envoy. Haley’s parents are Sikhs and legal immigrants from Punjab, India. She was raised in the Sikh religion, but converted to evangelical Christianity. As governor, Haley has pushed fiscal conservatism with an anti-abortion agenda, and she has railed against illegal immigration bringing the “Arizona model” to South Carolina. To her credit, Haley ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capital in 2015 following the Charleston church shooting. She will need to be a quick learner as Trump attempts to finagle the US out of the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuke deal. Haley was chosen to be the non-white face of US imperialism on the international diplomatic scene. She is in over her head but she is a GOP loyalist who will administer Trump’s foreign policy agenda as instructed. Congressman Tom Price of Georgia will become Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price is the second medical doctor in Trump’s cabinet. He has been a Republican hardliner in Congress since 2005 and has co-sponsored bills creating the sex-offender registry, voted to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to permit employers to require English proficiency in hiring. He has attacked Obamacare as “socialized Medicine”, voted to define marriage as only the relationship between one man and one woman, and opposes abortion regardless of rape, incest or danger to mother’s health. Price favors health tax vouchers over a national health care plan. He joins Pruitt and DeVos as a radical and unimaginative government dismantler with Christian missionary zeal. He will negotiate the new “Trumpcare” with health insurers and new drug price schedules for Medicaid.
Trump’s appointments for cabinet chiefs and agency administrators recruited from the Republican party elite are a corps of career over-achieves and right-wing zealots. On the surface there does not appear to be any dissenting or even moderating voices in this group. The Republican Party coalition appears to be in lockstep march with a cadre of determined administrators to push through their agenda. It would be very foolish for the Left to underestimate the competency of this corps of zealots, or the economic and political radicalism of their “reform agenda”. Nearly a century of American public policy beginning in the Great Depression of raising working class and middle class wealth will be undone with regressive new “tax reform.” Under Trump’s reign, we will all experience accelerated class warfare. Direct democracy with voter rights will come under increased attack.
In spite of this dire forewarning, Republican Party big money interests are not so unified. A lot of old GOP money was pushed out by Donald Trump, or chose to sit out the election contest from personal aversion towards him. Trump quickly realigned the GOP pecking order by cutting a business deal with the Christians. Many Tea Party moralizers were grossed out by Trump’s pimp style, but somehow managed to overcome personal qualms with the cushions Trump offered for chairs at the real power trough. The Tea Party has long chafed its second tier membership in the exclusive Republican clubhouse. That party pecking order has now been turned on its ear with Tea Party apparatchiks filling up the front row. But old-money Republican investors will want back in. And Trump will let them in on his terms with a deal they can’t refuse. As stated, Trump will give big money the tax breaks to repatriate stashed Cayman Island fortunes to buy into the great US Government liquidation auction. Trump views this hoarded offshore wealth of the rich in macro-economic terms as a liquidity crisis. This stored lucre of undisclosed billions of dollars is underutilized capital. It occupies a structurally similar position in monetary theory to the company-owned union pension accounts that Milken looted in the 1980’s. It is money “just sitting around doing no good.” Trump and his bankers intend to liberate this class savings of the rich to grow US capital reinvestment in America by selling off government services and assets.
That may or may not be a moral or patriotic agenda according to your viewpoint. It may not sit well with the Christian voters who elected Trump once they experience the effects of privatization of the public sector. The Christian inner circle may be getting well greased, but what advantage is it to the rank and file Evangelical churchgoers to have two centuries of public investment in civil society liquidated at auction? How will these services be provided going forward, and how much will it actually cost? Additionally, many Trump voters are about to lose their health insurance which they could not afford before Obamacare mandates and subsidies. Many Christian voters will come to the sobering experience that the dismantling of subsidized Obamacare will not be in their self-interest.
Lastly, how long can the Evangelical Christians continue to deny the terrifying consequences of global warming without losing all credibility? It is one thing to be a global warming denier as a campaign shtick when your party is the opposition. Once you prevail and become the ruling party, you have to govern responsibly. Access to accurate information about weather and climate becomes critical. The US government operates on an interlocking network of very powerful feedback loops, not unlike global climate. Christian politicians will feel the heat as the planet warms. For Tea Party politicians to deny the science of global warming going forward is to subject themselves and the GOP to open ridicule. There are plenty of Christian ecologists out there to lead a rethinking of this absurd posture.
The Brain Trust:
Every administration needs its brain trust. Trump has chosen Attorney Donald F. McGahn as White House Chief Counselor. Previously, as Chief Counselor of the Natl. Republican Congressional Committee, McGahn in 2003 defended Tom Delay successfully against the Federal Elections Audit over the controversial Texas redistricting plan. McGahn also defended DeLay over political contributions from Russian oil tycoons, but he failed to keep De Lay out of prison in the 2005 indictment for illegally funneling campaign cash to Texas state legislators. In 2008 McGahn was appointed by George W. Bush to the Federal Election Commission, an insider body comprised of three appointed Republicans and three appointed Democrats, a rudder of Washington DC political status quo, and the graveyard of campaign finance reform. McGahn’s law firm represents the Koch Brothers’ “Freedom Partners” fund. McGahn served as Trump’s 2016 campaign counselor. He is adept at legal arm twisting, and successfully fended off maneuvers by rival candidates during an ugly pugilistic, but fascinating, primary season, and thence across the general election finish line. McGahn’s job is to create legal roadblocks to protect Trump’s back.
The second lawyer in the Trump brain trust is four-term Jr. Senator of Alabama, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who will serve as Attorney General. Sessions is habitually ranked the most conservative member of the US Senate. There is not a social cause on which his voice is not the most vehemently narrow-minded in the room. Sessions political career includes a stint as US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, and another stint as Attorney General of Alabama. As top prosecutor of Alabama, Sessions was loudly accused by civil rights activists of “selectively enforcing” the 1964 Voting Rights Act. He was denied a federal judgeship appointment as a result of this clamor. Sessions is the kind of bigot who does not understand he is a bigot; he denies the institutional nature of prejudice. During his long tenure in the Senate, Sessions has railed for all the most incendiary right-wing social agendas of the Tea Party. He has the lean and hungry look of Christian temperance. Sessions will be the first insider to stab the whore-mongering Trump in the back when the ides are ripe, but until then he will come to be even more loathed in office than John Ashcroft or Dick Cheney.
Trump’s third mouthpiece is Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, another lawyer. Priebus is the three-term Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Prior to his leadership at the RNC, Priebus served as Chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party where he successfully promoted the careers of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker to national prominence. As a Republican political operative, Priebus has shown exceptional talent for fundraising. He has also demonstrated great skill at schmoozing harmony between old-money “moderate Republicans” and Tea Party radicals. However, his greatest political skill has been juggling Trump, that is, putting an acceptable, but rarely plausible, Republican platform spin onto Trump’s pronouncements and late-night twitter ranting. Priebus, the spin master, has been the official Trump explainer to an incredulous media and divided body politic. Priebus has effectively directed RNC “dirty tasks” of disinformation, fear mongering, and voter suppression in the hollowed tradition of Lee Atwater. He will oversee White House staff and direct Trump’s calendar.
Trump’s whisperers include Stephen Bannon, CEO of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Bannon has been named Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the president. Bannon was raised Irish Catholic, pro-union and pro-Kennedy, but has moved far right from his roots. He has published neo-Nazi, white supremacist, hate mongering during his tenure as CEO of Breitbart News. Bannon also has a long movie and documentary film production career using film to promote his alt-right political ideology. Bannon financed his career jump to media and propaganda with his severance buyout from Goldman Sachs. Bannon holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Jared Kushner who is married to Ivanka Trump, has Trump’s other right ear. He will become White House Senior Advisor without salary and without portfolio to fend off nepotism concerns. Kushner has been Trump’s “quiet protector”, a trusted family gate keeper. Kushner is the youngest insider of Trump’s political entourage, but he successfully axed an over-confident Rudy Giuliani and the other pretenders. Kushner provides Trump with his meds. Meanwhile, Trump and Giuliani still share long history, and the mayor has been redirected to lead the new office of Cyber Security Advisor where he can bury the Russian hacking episode. Other whisperers include Trump’s five children, business partners Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric, from his first marriage, Tiffany who is a college student from his second marriage, and Barron, who is a minor, from his marriage with Melania Trump. The three older Trump children are each executive vice-presidents of the Trump Organization, and are positioned to run the corporate empire when the old man assumes office. They actively participated as Trump surrogates during the campaign, and served on his transition team. Melania Trump is our new First Lady. She is a legal immigrant from the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, in former Yugoslavia. She will need to demonstrate that she is not Trump’s trophy “Her” with the chip implant, gift of Vladi. Mike Flynn, the NSA Director, rounds out the whisperer contingent.
Rex Tillerson will be Secretary of State. Tillerson is a Texas oil man who moved up the company ladder to become CEO of Exxon Mobile Corporation. Tillerson is a global dealmaker. It appears that Trump’s foreign policy agenda will be handled as business transactions. Tillerson is Trump’s “other conduit” to Vladimir Putin and the Russian oil oligarchy. With hydraulic fracturing technology, US oil production has dramatically increased, enough for the US to become energy independent. No more oil imports from Venezuela, Iran, or Iraq. And further, the US is poised to become the global producer and supplier of petroleum products with our refinery and pipeline capacity. Russia also has vast oil reserves and currently supplies much of the world’s oil. Tillerson and Putin would like to form an American-Russian oil consortium which would also include Canada with its vast shale oil reserves. This would create a northern hemispheric, Caucasian, geopolitical alliance based on monopoly oil and a melting Arctic polar ice cap opening new shipping lanes. This new oil cartel will put the pinch to China, India, Brazil, Cuba and the ethnic global south. But it also threatens NATO and the EU ties that bind. It cuts off Obama’s economic redirection of the US economy towards Asia. How this Putin/big oil drama plays out will be highly entertaining.
Finally, Mike Pence, former Governor of Indiana is the elected Vice President. He was brought onto the ticket to provide Trump with Christian conservative bona fides which Trump lacks. Pence also has media savvy, having been a conservative radio and TV talk show host from 1994-99 where he positioned himself “as a principal ideologue and supporter of the Tea Party movement.” Pence is another Trump recruit raised in the Irish Catholic Democrat tradition whose politics moved far right following conversion to Christian evangelicalism. Pence’s religious piety has not dissuaded him from using campaign finances for personal expenses, or for dirty election smear jobs. Pence has been instrumental during the campaign in positioning the Tea Party platform center stage, and he has moved his preferred picks into agency and cabinet positions. The Tea Party has been the beneficiary of the Republican Party power realignment swept in by Trump. Trump is hardly persuaded by their moralizing agenda, but he cut a business deal with them to turn out the vote which they did, and now he keeps his end of the bargain. The Tea Party has held electoral power with its white Christian voting block, and obstructive power in Congress, but now at last they claim victory seats on the cabinet where they will exercise real power over administration policy. Pence is also a lawyer, loyally abiding his moment for succession when Trump inevitably crashes and burns.
Then there is Donald Trump, “himself.” Trump’s public persona has dwarfed all else in the 2016 presidential election. His antics, tweets and “unpredictable behavior” thoroughly disrupted the usual ho-hum presidential election script turning it into a prime-time reality pageant. Half the country still remains incredulous that Trump could systematically trample over all his opposition to become President. He has played dirty right from the start, and he has had a lot of help from his intriguers— Bannon, Flynn and Putin. Since Richard Nixon in the modern era, blatant and illegal cheating in presidential elections is standard RNC procedure. Why the Democrats haven’t wised up with a counter strategy by now to neutralize anticipated Republican election cheating is their folly and the country’s loss. As Trump now takes office, the big question is, can he govern? Winning the prize was manic theater, Trump’s particular forte; governing will be a dull and grueling affair. We will find out soon enough if there is substance to Trump, or if he is truly the grand buffoon as he appeared to the majority of American voters. Trump’s mega-maniacal ego will be tested soon and often.
The lack of substance to Donald Trump, in hindsight, was a great advantage to his successful election. Trump campaigned by fear-mongering, enabling white bigotry, showboating, and platform sound bites. Does anybody really know what Trump’s actual thoughts are regarding any of the issues? What does Trump really believe about a woman’s right to abortion, besides Tea Party rhetoric? Is the planet’s climate warming fast or not? The public doesn’t know Trump’s personal convictions because he refuses to share them. In that regard he is a very private man. His public views and persona have been scripted by Bannon, Priebus, the Tea Party, and his long association with the McMahons. The Left is still stunned and horrified by his vulgar, bull-dozer, “anti-intelligence” success. The Christian Right doesn’t understand Trump either beyond his insatiable ambition, but he has carried their water and put their soldiers in high office poised to inherit, so they will grant him a window of tolerance.
The public, however, expects informed, polite discourse from its Presidents. Trump’s vulnerability going forward into governance is that he is not articulate. He is highly intelligent and conniving, but he is not glib. He can MC an audience, but can he do routine presidential tasks like explain legislation to voters, or commiserate national disasters? Trump is bizarrely inarticulate. He is also hyper-sensitive about his lack of verbal fluency, and he grandstands to cover this defect. During the campaign, it did not seem to matter what Trump said as long as it was abrasive, attack dog rhetoric. He was all lights and production, posturing and WWF braggadocio. The late night tweet messages with political content were spun into crypto-Christian conservative jargon by Pence and Priebus. Meanwhile, when Trump made vicious personal attacks especially against his female detractors — the women he groped, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and most recently Meryl Streep, Trump’s vicious, hateful diatribes were dismissed as “Trump just being Trump”. His outrage at being publically criticized by women apparently justified his violent, misogynist counter attacks. This is not unpredictable behavior; these outbursts fit disturbingly into well-documented psychological profiles. Trump, by his demagoguery, has encouraged white racism and legitimized rising neo-Nazi hate speech. He has said nothing to address the present mass murder of Black men in American cities by cops, who are terrified themselves. Donald Trump is a man with a whole lot of complex psychological baggage. He has walked over everybody in his way to claim the Presidential Championship Belt. During this lengthy presidential campaign with its debates, campaign rallies, polls, primaries, and acceptance speeches, does anybody remember Donald Trump uttering one thoughtful, articulate paragraph on any of the important election issues?
The Trump Coalition:
Trump has packed his administration with career soldiers, investment bankers, lawyers, politicians, and Christian conservatives. Can this coalition with its apparent unity of worldview hold together? Trump has set an ambitious and expensive agenda for his administration including building the border wall against Mexico, stopping the legal immigration of Muslims, corporate crowd-funding a multi-year, trillion dollar, nation-wide infrastructure rebuilding initiative, tax code simplification and reform including lowering income taxes for the rich and middle class, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, gut the Dodd-Frank Act regulating Wall St. banking practice, gut federal environmental regulations and the Clean Water Act at the EPA, renegotiate international trade agreements with China, and NAFTA, renegotiate the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, privatize public education, downsize federal government, support fortress Israel, and repatriate the stashed offshore wealth of the rich. How Trump intends to prosecute America’s two endless wars against “Islamic extremism” in Iraq and Afghanistan is anybody’s guess.
Successive US presidencies from Truman to Obama have worked diligently to keep the US the undisputed global hegemonic superpower since America’s great military victory over fascism in W.W.II, and over socialism with the collapse of the USSR. The role of enforcer of American capitalism abroad has been given to the US military. America’s militarized foreign policy in support of global corporate capitalism has created a litany of foreign wars and international refugee crises for seven decades with no end in sight. The current US led Christian crusade against Islam in Afghanistan and Iraq has now dragged on for sixteen years. Many military families have experienced four and five deployments. That burden has taken a toll on professional military morale and created many social problems including drug addiction, mental illness, and tragic suicide deaths of veterans. The compensation paid soldiers does not address the full risks of combat deployment to soldier’s families, or the costs of reintegrating veterans into civilian life. The generals would do well to forego expensive hardware at this time to take better care of our professional soldiers. Many come from Christian military families. It may also be that the military has become bored fighting Islamic terrorists in the dry Middle East and Central Asian Steppes. All but the smallest targets in this terrain have been atomized. The shifting fortunes of fossil fuel and the global carbon economy have greatly reduced the strategic importance of these regions. The generals may decide it is time for the military to stand down until the next manufactured villain appears with an attractive new menu of targets to destroy.
Downsizing the federal government may prove much harder than reformers think. The rarely acknowledged US civil service is the actual fourth branch of American government, and its jurisdiction interpenetrates every federal agency and outpost within the other three branches. It is full of democrats, republicans and independents. The US civil service will resist downsizing and it will be loud and politically divisive which would not be good for business. Death by inertia also regularly occurs in public affairs when rules of law and regulatory legislation are addressed. Defunding government as the GOP’s nuclear strategy will likely lead to massive public demonstrations, urban street violence, and police shootings. In the end, Tea Party department chairs will be fighting for their budgets just like everyone else.
The old GOP ownership cartel got outmaneuvered by Trump. He beat them up good, took over the party, and put his Christian knights in charge of the castles. Now he magnanimously wants to become buddies. Trump’s privatization plan will make the rich tons more money. Trump is a cheerleader of privatization. He proposes that private enterprises can provide “certain” public services to customers cheaper, more efficiently and better quality than existing government agencies can provide those same services to citizens. For example, privatization of our national Air Traffic Control network would shift the cost of this complex system of airport towers, radar, GPS, and weather satellites from the general tax rolls onto the millions of daily customers as a fee to fly. That sounds fair on the surface as a form of pay to play, and after all, passengers already pay airport use fees. However, the new ATC fee would need to include corporate profit not previously factored, which would substantially increase ticket prices for families and the poor. ATC fees will have a negligible impact on the rich, but the net effect would be to shift the total cost downward. Not all public sector services will have commercial potential. Once the marketable routes are siphoned off, are the rest more expensive to operate? Downsizing government and selling off government assets to wealthy tax cheats does not sound like a good deal for American taxpayers. The 800 lb. climate change gorilla will yank Trump’s cabinet chain. Once again, nobody, including all of Trump’s apprentices, has any clarity as to Trump’s private views about global warming since he only mouths abrasive sound bites, and has never stopped to give a thoughtful discourse on the subject. However, as we look across the resumes of Trump’s cabinet we see lots of university degrees—JDs, MDs, and MBAs. This is a cadre of highly educated and sophisticated individuals, each with years of Western pragmatism and science drilled into his or her brain. It is ridiculous to believe that any of these ambitious souls does not privately know the scientific consensus on global climate warming is true. That these politicians posture on such a critical issue is evidence of their moral turpitude.
Climate change denial is a hypocritical Republican political argument which panders to fearful Christian millennialism. No educated Republican politician, not even a devout Christian Evangelical, believes the denial shtick. The lawyers can argue pro or con with equal aplomb, while the generals drone ad tedium on the “threat multiplier” of climate change and the strategic benefits of green energy. The capitalists seek absolution for sold souls through philanthropy. The energy brokers have admitted their 30-yr misinformation campaign. The Christians have manipulated their flock to further their political ambitions. The misanthropes— that fringe among the lawyers, spooks, whispers, propagandist, and manipulators— don’t give a damn and crave only personal power. The Republican mantra that more data is needed is no longer believable. If Trump wants a victory to boost his soon to plummet ratings, orchestrating an about face on climate change in his cabinet and setting ambitious new carbon emission reduction goals would help. The rest of his profiteering agenda is going to be a long, difficult slog.
Thomas Powell is a sculptor who lives in Northern California and writes on issues of aesthetics and politics. Photos of 2016 El Kookooee (el cucuy, the traditional bogeyman of Mexico and the Spanish-speaking world) effigy burned October 30, 2016, as Trump and campaign entourage was landing at the Albuquerque airport by Thomas Powell.