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:
Commerce: 2 billionaires
— Paul Blumenthal (@PaulBlu) December 7, 2016
— Stefanie Iris Weiss (@EcoSexuality) December 8, 2016
The Cabinet is actually worse than one could imagine. A faux general & maybe billionaire in charge of a bunch of generals & billionaires.
— Jon Bowzer Bauman (@JonBowzerBauman) December 8, 2016
There was a military coup in the U. S. And not one shot was fired!! Welcome to the General Billionaires Administration. That represents us?
— Douglas A. Thornley (@Thornleylas) December 8, 2016
BREAKING: Trump to establish new cabinet position: Billionaire General. Will be a retired general charged with looking out for billionaires.
— EmolumentWatch (@EmolumentWatch) December 7, 2016