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Demonstrators protest against President-elect Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower. Americans spilled into the streets for multiple nights of protests throughout the nation after a very divisive presidential election. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

What Does Trump’s Proposed Cabinet Tell Us About The Next Four Years?

Dan Carter

Donald Trump will not be sworn in as President until January 20, 2017 (although you wouldn’t know it from his tweets).   But  his choice of staff and cabinet members gives us insight into the shape of his policies for the next four years. 

It is not a reassuring picture.      

Steve Bannon will be chief adviser. Dismisses global warming.  As the publisher of Breitbart News the internet site became the main sewer for anti-Semites, racists, homophobes, xenophobes and misogynists. He famously advised Trump followers to “turn on the hate.”

Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Adviser.  Dismisses global warming. Fired as head of the National Security Agency for administrative incompetence.  Spread rumors Hillary Clinton was a money launderer and child molester. 

Mike Pompeo to head the CIA.  Dismisses global warming.  Pompeo rejected the findings of five non-partisan congressional investigations on Benghazi  that essentially dismissing charges against Hillary Clinton.  Has said that President Obama sympathized completely with violent Jihadists,

Tom Price—Health and Human Services.  Dismisses global warming.  Congressman Price (R-Ga)  sponsored legislation to abolish the Affordable Care Act, repeal the 2013 expansion of Medicaid and sharply reduce funding for existing Medicaid recipients as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Would replace Social Security and Medicare with reduced  block grants.

Mick Mulvaney—Office of Management and Budget, a critical agency shaping the federal budget. Supports Price’s plans.    Dismisses global warming.

Rex Tillerson—Secretary of State.  Exxon CEO.  Rhetorically accepts global warming but has funded climate deniers. Net Worth: $250 million. Secret director of an Exxon-Russian oil firm based in the Bahamas even while he cautiously criticized the Russian government.  That tepid criticism ended in 2011 when Moscow dangled a $500 billion oil exploration partnership with Exxon.  After Russia’s annexation of Crimea,  US sanctions blocked the deal, but most observers believe that Trump—with Tillerson’s strong support—will end these sanctions.

Jefferson Beauregard (“Jeff”) Sessions—Attorney General.  Denies global warming. Currently junior senator from Alabama.  Denied appointment as federal district judge because of a history of racist comments. Called the ACLU and the NAACP  “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”  As Alabama attorney general he relentlessly (and unsuccessfully) sought to convict civil rights activists for voter fraud.  Dismissed the 1965 Voting Rights act as “intrusive legislation” on the rights of the states.  Has opposed every immigration bill.  Rejects the appointment of any judge with a “secular mindset.”

Steven Mnuchin – Treasury. Net Worth: $40 million plus.  Ex-Goldman Sachs investment banker; then hedge fund manager. Purchased a failing bank in California in 2009 that became profitable by aggressively foreclosing on home owners.  Opposes Dodd-Frank and further regulation of the financial industry.       

Wilbur Ross—Commerce Department.  Net Worth: $2.9 Billion.  The “King of Bankruptcy.  Made his fortune buying distressed companies.  While he has sometimes managed to salvage companies, he has done so by using bankruptcy laws to terminate pension obligations, passing these obligations onto the government-run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.  Often closed down firms, selling assets, leaving workers jobless.            

Andrew Puzder—Labor Department  Net worth: $80 million. CEO of Hardees/Carl’s Jr. Fast Foods.  Known for his attacks on minimum wage increases or protective legislation for workers.  A fan of Ayn Rand. 

Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Devos—Department of Education.  Net worth (with husband): $5.1 billion. Wealth gained from Amway, America’s most profitable pyramid scam. Religiously ultra-conservative. Anti-gay. Her long-range goal?  Replacing public education with Christian or corporate-run schools funded by tax-payer funded vouchers without public oversight. 

Scott Pruitt—Environmental Protection Agency. Oklahoma Attorney General. Denies global warming.  Funded by the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel and polluting industries.  Worked hand in hand with his patrons in lawsuits against EPA that would end regulation of their industries.        

Rick Perry—Energy Department.  Denies global warming. In 2011 GOP debate, Perry called for the department’s abolition, apparently because of its funding of research on alternative and non-polluting energy technologies.  Not only unable to remember the department’s name, he seemed unaware that the great majority of the Energy Department’s budget is for the production, management and disposal of nuclear materials.  

Ryan Zinke—Interior Department.  Denies global warming.  Montana congressman. Voted against environmental protections 97% of the time while advocating more coal, oil and gas development on public lands.  Rejects role of humans in global climate change.

Ben Carson—Housing and Urban Development.  Denies global warming. Outstanding pediatric neurosurgeon. As one observer noted, his only experience in housing comes from having lived in one.

Taken as a whole, Trump’s nominees hardly represent a “draining of the swamp.”  Tillerson, Mneuchen, Puzder and DeVos are all super-rich and closely tied to the nation’s banking and corporate elite. 

His other nominations may be lacking in comparable wealth, but most share an unshakeable assumption that money corrupts the poor but elevates the moral character of the rich.  This means tax cuts for the wealthy and crumbs for the poor,  low and lower middle-class Americans despite the nation’s growing inequality.

Their second shared belief is one that has grown steadily since the Reagan years: government is the enemy.  Public schools, public parks, public health programs and particularly public programs for the most vulnerable members of society are all marked by inefficiency a condition that can only be solved by relying upon the unrestrained market, freed from the  regulatory burdens imposed by government bureaucrats,  labor unions  and assorted liberal busy-bodies. Experience has repeatedly shown the failure of such policies, but the fantasy remains, perhaps because it is convenient and economically rewarding for the believers.

The future is a foreign country and we cannot see it with any certainty.  What we can know is that, taken as a whole, the Trump cabinet is the embodiment of  the 17th century English proverb:  "Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost."


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

Dan Carter

Dan Carter is  Educational Foundation Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina.  A regular on-camera contributor for historical documentaries and political commentary, he  is the author of four prize-winning books including The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics.

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