The Trump Cabinet – Rise of the Oligarchs

We’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. Its understandable that many people aren’t thinking about politics. But politics rolls on.

As the incoming administration and a new Congress prepares to take office, a massive shift in public policy is on the horizon.

That shift puts 8 years of economic gains in danger. It also threatens the very people who voted this administration into office.

The Trump administration’s nominations include Wall Streeters, warfighters and neoconservative ideologues. The incoming Cabinet and a Congress that is more interested in public image than public service, spell big trouble for the people who helped elect the President-Elect.

Refilling the Swamp

Trump Cabinet Appointments - via Yahoo
Mostly White, Totally Wealthy
via Yahoo

With just over 30 days to the inauguration, the incoming administration only has a few top tier appointments to fill.  In fact, this picture is missing the announcement of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to the Office of Management and Budget.

The President-Elect, who famously said he would “Drain the Swamp” is filling his cabinet with insiders, influencers, and ideologues. The cabinet nominations include: 6 CEO’s or multi-millionaires, 10 politicos (politicians and political influencers), 3 generals and 2 folks from other areas.

The President-Elect is in the process of assembling the most wealthy and least credentialed cabinet in decades.

Drain the swamp indeed.

Cabinet Conflict of Interest

Trump’s Cabinet nominees have huge conflicts of interest. This sets up a scenario where the lines between public interest and personal gain are blurred.

Here are a few examples:

• Incoming Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is a former Goldman Sacks employee, who has made millions foreclosing people’s homes. Mnuchin took over a bankrupt lender, and made millions on the back of FDIC guaranteed payments to investors. His bank has a long history of questionable actions. It famously foreclosed on the home of a 90 year old Florida woman over a 27¢ error.

Investors believe Mnuchin will lead the charge to weaken enforcement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

• Trump’s pick to lead the State Department has worked for one company his whole life: Exxon. Rex Tillerson began his career in 1975 as a production engineer for the company. In 2006 Tillerson was elected Chairman and CEO of the world’s 6th largest corporation.

Tillerson’s nomination is complicated by his international business deals. Since 2006 Tillerson has worked with countries who are less than friendly with the US. Tillerson’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, won Exxon a massive contract in 2011. He’s also alleged to be a  part of a US-Russian oil firm based in the Bahamas.

Trump has also nominated a Labor Secretary who doesn’t believe in the minimum wage. An Education Secretary hell bent on gutting public education. A National Security Advisor who pushes fake news. And an EPA administrator who thinks Mercury is fun and climate change is a hoax.

Congress in Cahoots

If you’re one of those people who thinks regulation is the root of all evil, the incoming Congress has a gift for you.

Friday the House Freedom Caucus, released a hit list of regulations targeted in the first 100 days.

In all, 228 regulations are on the chopping block. That list includes all kinds of things from overturning financial regulations to scrapping environmental and labor laws.

Its hard to know how committed the rest of the GOP majority is to the Freedom Caucus’ wish list, but they certainly have the votes to do whatever they want.

The Senate may be more of a problem for the Freedom Caucus wish list.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s on board, but several GOP Senators have been breaking ranks.

Conclusion

Taken in total, the incoming administration, along with a compliant Congress, is more likely to return the nation to the bubblenomics of the past two decades. That economic model, based on a Neoliberalism helped hurdle the nation into a slow decline by making work a commodity…similar to corn or oil…subject to wild market swings and high uncertainty.

Even the neoliberal International Monetary Fund says the economic theory is failing. Over the past 40 years wages have stagnated while productivity has exploded.

The economic gains of the past 8 years are fragile and have left some behind. The feeling of being forgotten is part of what propelled Donald Trump to the Presidency.

Unfortunately, the “cures” put forward by the incoming administration and the Congress will lead to more of the same: slow wage growth, higher inflation, and a growing gulf between the small group of “haves” and the much larger “have-nots”.

The effect here is not just giving those who have plenty, more, but so much more they have disproportionate power over a huge part of the economy. This continues a trend of turning the economic balance that brought us the middle class in the 1940’s and 50’s upside-down.

The further out of balance our economy becomes, the closer to being ruled by oligarchs. Which is exactly who Donald Trump is nominating to his cabinet.

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