Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A banner during one of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. More true now than ever. (Photo: David Shankbone/cc/flickr)

A banner during one of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. More true now than ever. (Photo: David Shankbone/cc/flickr)

'Welcome to the General Billionaires Administration': Pattern Emerges in Trump Cabinet

If the Trump administration is a pair of bifocals, one lens is the military, the other appears to be one of corporate power

Lauren McCauley

Another day, another cabinet appointment for the incoming Donald Trump administration. On Thursday, he nominated fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to secretary of Labor while Wednesday it was former Marine General John Kelly to head Homeland Security. And, as observers are pointing out, a pattern is emerging as the future commander-in-chief appears to be building a "government of generals and billionaires."

"The new presidential administration is shaping up as the complete alliance of Washington insiders, parasitic finance capital (aka Wall street, etc.) and the massive military-security complex," columnist Eric Sommer wrote at CounterPunch on Wednesday.

"These ministerial level cabinet selections," he continued, "are a warning that far greater attacks on the social and economic rights of American workers, and greater militarism and military aggression abroad are being prepared."

Indeed, the selection of Kelly marked the third general hired by Trump to a key cabinet post, following the selections of Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis for secretary of Defense and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for White House national security adviser.

As Sommer notes, the U.S. constitution "was in important respects intended to ensure civilian oversight and control of the U.S. military," as it "provides that only the civilian law-making congress can declare war, and that the President—a civilian—is the top commander of all military forces."

"I'm concerned," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told the Washington Post. "[W]hat we've learned over the past 15 years is that when we view problems in the world through a military lens, we make big mistakes."

If the Trump administration is a pair of bifocals, the other prescription appears to be one of corporate power.

"It's the G&G cabinet," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) quipped to the Post. "It does seem to be fairly limited to Goldman Sachs and generals."

An analysis by NBC's Ben Popkin published Wednesday found that the wealth of the combined Trump appointments "tops $14 billion—more than 30 times greater than that of even President George W. Bush's White House. And Trump isn't halfway done with his picks."

In addition to Pudzer—who was paid $4.4 million in 2012 alone according to the SEIU—some of Trump's recent appointments include:

  • Linda McMahon, chosen to head the Small Business Administration, is worth an estimated $1.16 billion with husband Vince McMahon. The couple jointly founded the pro-wrestling company World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
  • Former neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who is worth an estimated $26 million thanks to "revenue from best-selling books, paid speeches and board positions," according to Popkin, has been asked to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), tapped to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is estimated to be worth $13.6 million. Popkin notes that he is "an orthopedic surgeon with medical industry companies in his stock portfolio."

Others whose vast wealth was previously noted by Common Dreams include: Todd Ricketts, nominee for deputy secretary of Commerce; Amway heiress and secretary of Education pick Betsy DeVos; secretary of the Treasury nominee and Goldman Sachs alum Steven Mnuchin; billionaire Wilbur Ross, who was tapped to lead the Commerce Department; and international shipping heiress, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and nominee for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

But progressives are vowing a fight. A coalition of liberal groups this week launched a campaign to block many of Trump's appointments, saying that all his "cabinet appointees have in common is a track record of working in their own self-interest, not public service, and amassing personal fortunes, not fighting for working families."

Meanwhile, during a press briefing on Thursday, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) denounced the incoming cabinet as a "collection of stooges and cronies and misfits" whose "only qualifications for the jobs they are being appointed for is that they have attempted to dismantle and undermine and destroy the very agencies they are now hoping to run," as Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) put it, according to The Hill.

"Rather than draining the swamp, he is now filling it up with hungry crocodiles," added Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).  

Other observers took to social media to voice their concern, or just laugh at the insanity:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientist Says Some Coral Reefs Can Be Saved 'If We Take Immediate Action'

"People need to be aware this is coming up fast, and the time to explore mitigation techniques is now," warns another researcher behind a recently published study.

Jessica Corbett ·

Ro Khanna Lays Out New Vision for American Manufacturing and Economic Progress

"Embracing a New Economic Patriotism plan isn't just about jobs. It's about unifying Americans—from the coasts to the heartland—with a shared purpose."

Brett Wilkins ·

Peace Groups Push US to Use 'All Points of Leverage' to End Saudi Blockade of Yemen

"The Biden administration must take urgent action to compel Saudi Arabia to completely lift this blockade as a humanitarian act, for the sake of millions of Yemenis in desperate need."

Jessica Corbett ·

Freelance Photographer Says He Was Fired by NYT Over Support for Palestinian Resistance

"What is taking place is a systematic effort to distort the image of Palestinian journalists as being incapable of trustworthiness and integrity, simply because we cover the human rights violations that the Palestinian people undergo on a daily basis at hands of the Israeli army."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Cruel Disregard for Life': Rights Groups Condemn Iran's Deadly Attacks on Protesters

Human Rights Watch documented lethal repression by government forces against protesters "in largely peaceful and often crowded settings, altogether killing and injuring hundreds."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo