Newsletter: Trump Comes Into Focus; So Do Our Tasks
The Trump presidency is coming into focus. Every appointment shows that his populist campaign rhetoric was disguising a government for the ultra-wealthy and the military. He has already appointed the wealthiest cabinet ever with a net worth of $12 to $35 billion, and he is putting generals in what are usually civilian positions.
A look at his current appointments show us what we can expect the Trump administration to pursue for policies. Much of the work that has been done for social, environmental and economic justice will be threatened. This means that we will need to escalate our efforts and be more assertive. The potential for people working together in solidarity will grow and the long-term impact of the Trump era could be a mass movement that will change the political culture in the United States.
Trump’s fake populism was a con on US voters that is resulting in appointments that will be a gift to corporate elites and the wealthy. For Trump, populism seems to really mean corporatism. His claim of an America First foreign policy is translating into escalation of conflicts with Iran and China. While America First meant non-intervention in US history, it seems to mean the opposite (in most cases) when it comes to Trumpism. Ralph Nader tells those who voted for Trump’s populism and non-interventionist foreign policy that as president-elect he is undergoing a betraying-makeover.
Goldman Sachs Steven Mnuchin Controls Treasury: It seems as if there is a bi-partisan agreement between the two parties that Wall Street must control the Treasury Department. Trump seeks to install the third Goldman Sachs representative in Treasury, Robert Rubin was appointed by Clinton and Henry Paulson by Bush (current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is from CitiGroup). Mnuchin is likely to continue pro-Wall Street policies that will further expand the wealth and income divides, increase trade deficits and create lower paying jobs along with a consistent increase in poverty. The Goldman Sachs approach to the economy will not increase the economic security of struggling workers, the under-employed or unemployed. The security that Trump voters were promised will not be coming from his government. Another Goldman alum is Steve Bannon who will serve as Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor.
Mnuchin, known as the “Foreclosure King” is the model predatory lender who profited from corporate welfare that allowed him to buy a failed bank for 10% of its worth and then use it to foreclose on homes, resulting in protests outside his Los Angeles home. He was able to sell the bank he purchased on bottom dollar prices for a $2 billion profit in just a few years. Not only did Mnuchin profit from crony capitalism, he inherited his wealth from his father who was a partner at Goldman Sachs. He built on that fortune as an evictor and forecloser who pushed reverse mortgages on seniors and engaged in robo-signing of mortgages. Mnuchin engaged in the practices that led to the economic collapse. He also has a history of racism and predatory lending. While Trump railed against Wall Street and hedge funders during the campaign, he is putting them in charge of the government.
Hedge Funder Wilbur Ross Put In Charge of Commerce: The billionaire 78 year old Ross owned a coal company where 21 workers died in 2006. He is known for a cutthroat investment strategy of buying up ailing businesses and then putting in practices that weakened workers’ rights and undermined safety. In August his company agreed to pay a $2.3 million fine to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that it failed to disclose fees it charged investors. He is also known for laying off workers and outsourcing their jobs to markets where labor is cheaper. He is a “bottom feeder” known for buying up coal companies, but only after a bankruptcy judge would strip thousands of miners, some with black lung disease, of their medical coverage and union status. Is this what Trump meant by “Make America Great Again”? People should have asked – great for whom?
Fast Food Chain, Anti-Worker CEO, Andy Puzder as Labor Secretary: Fight for $15 put out a statement saying that “Putting one of the worst fast-food CEOs in charge of national labor policy sends a signal to workers that the Trump years are going to be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and racial discrimination.” They go on to point out that Puzder makes more in one day than workers make in a year and he opposes a raise in the minimum wage. He will be responsible for enforcing workplace safety and wage laws on behalf of U.S. workers. While Puzder acknowledged that low paid workers in his fast food places were paid so low as they would need public assistance, he has said he opposes programs like food stamps because they discourage people from working. Trump is in a position to potentially destroy organized labor, and that is the goal of he and his allies.
Oil Industry Puppet Who Opposes EPA, Scott Pruitt, put in Charge of EPA: Pruitt is a right-wing Republican from Oklahoma who has been in constant conflict with the EPA over oil and gas issues, clean air and clean water. He has sued the EPA over its regulations. He denies the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-induced climate change, as well as on pollution caused by fracking. It would be hard to find an appointee more in the pocket of the oil and gas industry; and opposed to the EPA.
Trump’s White House Counsel, Jon McGhan, Responsible for Corrupt Elections: McGhan was one of six commissioners on the FEC who stopped enforcement of campaign finance laws allowing the escalation of secret funding of campaigns and explosion of big money in politics. He is a supporter of Citizens United, a ruling Trump says he opposes, and will be reviewing judicial nominees for Trump. He will also review potential ethics violations, which are likely to be common given Trump and his cabinets’ business dealings.
Trump Picks ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as Defense Secretary: While Trump claimed to support a non-interventionist foreign policy, Mattis is a former general who has consistently called for conflict with Iran. He served in the leadership of the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump and Mattis have a very different view on Russia and Putin. While Trump has called for working with Russia, Mattis sees Russia as a threat to NATO and the world. Mattis is being put in a position that is normally a civilian job and will need a waiver from Congress to be approved, something that has not happened since 1950.
Trump Appoints Anti-Islamist, Michael Flynn, as National Security Head: John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst, kindly says Flynn is not part of the A-Team for intelligence, in fact Flynn has embraced Islamophobia and called Islam a cancer. Gareth Porter reports that he played a “pivotal role in devising a targeting scheme that was the basis for an indiscriminate Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) campaign of killing and incarcerating Afghans…” The approach, which relied on drone surveillance and cell phone data, failed to distinguish between insurgents and civilians and relied on infamous “night raids” to kill people. Porter concludes “he has been rewarded once again for his role in creating a system of indiscriminate murder in Afghanistan.”
CIA Gets a Pro-Torture Director in Michael Pompeo: When Donald Trump said he favored torture and would appoint people to reinstate and expand it, he meant it. By selecting Rep. Pompeo, he has put someone in charge at the CIA that has called torturers “patriots.” He supports the torture program and has called for the death penalty for NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Under Pompeo and Trump, some of the darkest history of US intelligence and militarism may be repeated and expanded.
HHS Gets Opponent of Medicare, Rep. Tom Price, as Head: The appointment of Price as HHS administrator not only shows that Obamacare will be repealed but also that the US will be pushing to destroy Medicare and shrink Medicaid coverage for the poor. This is a time when the country should be debating how to expand and improve Medicare so every person in the United States has access to good quality healthcare. It is going to take organized people pressure to get the country to debate the right issues and move forward with healthcare as a public good not a profit center. Many people will suffer serious health consequences, including death, as well as bankruptcy if Price’s policies are put in place. At the same time, we see new opportunities for healthcare for all to fill this void.
These are not all of Trump’s appointees, e.g. Betsy Devos who is the education secretary and an billionaire activist for privatization and corporatism of education; and the anti-civil rights, pro-monopoly and anti-environment attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions and another general in a traditionally civilian position, John Kelly at Homeland Security; and there are still more to come. It is evident this will be a government dominated by billionaires who got wealth by taking advantage of workers and care little for the environment and by generals who support more militarism, regime change and war.
All Fronts of Struggle Recognize the Need to Escalate
We can already see an organic reaction to Trump’s extremism, racism and bigotry in a growing resistance movement to Trumpism. When Trump calls for making burning the flag illegal and denying people citizenship for doing so, even though this is a settled constitutional free speech right, there is a rapid, organic response as people go to Trump’s hotel and burn the flag.
As the policies of his cabinet take shape we are likely to see major escalation of protest on economic, environmental, climate and other issues as people realize they have been lied to. During the Obama years we saw an awakening of class consciousness beginning with Occupy, under Trump the class struggle will become more evident as more people see the reality of the wealth and income divides and how government fosters them.
There are many triggers that will spark the movement. When people understand that Trump’s tax plan is designed for the rich, there will be anger. When we successfully won net neutrality, there were a record more than four million comments to the FCC in favor of it. How will the people respond when net neutrality is under attack, as now seems inevitable.
If Trump reverses the Corps of Engineers’ decision on the final permit needed for Dakota Access Pipeline, a pipeline he will personally profit from, an already large movement will grow even more. And, when that turns into a policy of taking indigenous lands so there can be more coal, oil and gas exploration, anger will be searing. The climate movement is planning on taking action in various ways to continue progress on climate and clean energy. People of the world are united on confronting climate so pressure will not only come from inside the United States, but outside.
Labor is going to have to face some realities – the old way of inside lobbying, which has already been failing, will no longer work. Labor is going to have to start to think of itself as a movement. No tactics should be off the table against this all-out war against workers. It is time to return to the pre-FDR era when labor made its most progress. Aggressive actions – walk-outs, sit-down strikes and even a general strike all need to be considered. Parts of labor, like the Fight for $15, have already been moving in the movement direction, now workers are facing a threat that could end unions.It is time to escalate.
People seeing the pro-war appointments of Donald Trump are not lulled by his non-interventionist campaign rhetoric and are planning how to build a stronger peace movement. There are calls for immediate action against war escalation and military spending. And, the movement knows that peace and justice are inter-related so racism, bigotry against immigrants, bases being expanded around the word, conflict with China and Iran, the attack on workers, all of these and more require us to create a movement of movements. The immigrant rights movement knows they are in a life and death struggle and are already escalating.
Another spark may be the over-reaction by Trump as we are already seeing discussion by Trump and his son-in-law calling for a major crackdown on dissent. Such a crackdown will turn sparks of protests into a firestorm. There are lessons from the Twentieth Century we can learn to make sure we are effective in our actions.
People also recognize the need for the movement to put forward its own positive vision for the future. We are doing so with the People’s Agenda, a 15-point plan for the future, which we are going to turn into a multi-year campaign. Sign-up here to be involved in this campaign. Others are calling for a new populism that is truly for the people. And, others recognize this will become an opportunity for the system changing response that the US has needed for quite some time.
The silver lining of Trumpism is that people are already organizing. There are increasing calls for protest around the inauguration of Trump – calls to not only march but to disrupt Trump’s inauguration. This is just the beginning. We face many challenges ahead and we are going to have to awaken our courage in order to respond to these crises of democracy.