By Carlton Joseph
While Americans were distracted with impeachment trials, democratic primaries, Trump tweets and other ‘inconsequential matters’, the Trump administration kept dismantling the administrative apparatus of the United States (US) government, and quietly pushing forward its attack on the poorest and most oppressed sectors of the US society. Of course, it is disguising its offensive as efficiency, eliminating waste and saving taxpayers’ money.
The Republican mission of burying government in a “bathtub” is well on its way and its success at privatization has gained traction. The Military, the Courts and Trump’s right wing supporters are poised to triumph in a bloodless revolution. Let’s look at some recent developments.
Last month, the Federation of American Scientists revealed that the US Navy had deployed, for the first time, a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said that “this destabilizing deployment further increases the potential for miscalculation during a crisis” and he criticized the Pentagon for its inability and unwillingness to answer congressional questions about the weapon over the past few months.
What is more disturbing is that while the weapons were in production, the House of Representatives was debating whether or not the weapon should be deployed. And the weapons were in the field before the appropriation bill was signed. Clearly, the Pentagon is only reporting to Trump.
The Supreme Court has been gerrymandered and is now a rubber stamp for the Trump administration. It began when Senator Mitch McConnell, withheld President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court for one year. Trump was then able to appoint Neil Gorsuch and later Brett Kavanaugh, two right wing ideologues, to the court. Confirmations were enabled by a rule change made by the Senate Republican majority, which applied the “nuclear option” to Supreme Court nominees and allowed nominations to be advanced by a simple majority vote rather than the historical norm of a three-fifths of the Senate.
Before he became president, Trump promised to delegate the judicial selection process to the Federalist Society, a powerful group of conservative lawyers that counts at least four Supreme Court justices among its members. He has fulfilled this promise with some of the brightest, and the most ideologically dependable men and women to be found in the conservative movement.
On the Courts of Appeal, where the final word in the overwhelming majority of federal cases is made, he has appointed 50 judges; this represents more than a quarter of the active judges on the appeal court. On the district courts, the lowest level of federal courts, he has appointed 133 judges. Long after Trump leaves office, these judges will shape American law, pushing it further and further to the right.
The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries, thereby endorsing his power to control immigration. Emboldened, the Trump administration expanded its contested travel ban, affecting more than 350 million people. Under the new restrictions, nationals of Nigeria, Eritrea, Burma, Kyrgyzstan will no longer be able to obtain visas to live and work in the US, while nationals of Sudan and Tanzania will no longer be able to participate in the diversity visa lottery.
When Trump was seeking the presidency, he derided Obama’s presidential executive orders as “power grabs and a basic disaster” and said that “that the country wasn’t based on executive orders.” To date, he has issued 130 executive orders to advance his domestic policy and foreign agenda around the world, notably imposing sanctions on Iran, Turkey and Venezuela, and supporting Israel.
While the media focuses on Trump’s many scandals, his administration has limited prosecutions of white collar criminals, defended state laws that kick thousands off the voting rolls, undermined labor unions, and increased fuel oil production, resulting in unprecedented deterioration in air quality. Also, tens of thousands of people have lost health insurance, and millions are in the process of losing their nutritional assistance. He has also undertaken significant changes in supervision of Wall Street that increases the riskiness of the banking system.
As the presidential election approaches, the middle and working classes must realize that Trump’s legislative achievements – tax cuts for the rich, narrowing the scope of the mortgage interest tax deduction; reshaping the tax code so as to make all deductions less valuable; and capping the deductibility of state and local taxes -should be red flags. The 99 per cent must understand that Trump and his team are implementing the agenda of the conservative republican elite and it is going to affect them negatively.
With all these distractions, Americans are not aware that their health security is being compromised. At the World Economic Forum, when asked how he intended to respond to the coronavirus epidemic, Trump responded that, “the situation was under control and a world away from the United States.”
This totally ignorant response would be acceptable if conditions in the US were different. In 2018, the Trump administration got rid of the National Security Council’s special pandemic response unit, cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control, reduced national health spending by 15 billion, cut the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS, and eliminated the government ‘s Complex Crises Fund.
Always thinking about money, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross commenting on the coronavirus, said :“It does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain. It’s another risk factor that people need to take into account. So I think it will help accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.”
But as the number of coronavirus cases increases, Americans are growing more fearful about new problems that the government is leaving unaddressed. A recent survey of the largest drug store chains in New York City and Amazon revealed that all were sold out of medical facemasks and latex gloves.
Most importantly, most Americans don’t realize that 80 per cent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in the production of medicines in America, and the world come from China. So if this virus spreads , the US will soon run out of drugs.
Trump unveiled his 2021 budget request proposing massive cuts to Medicaid and food stamps, increasing spending on the military and his border wall, making steep cuts to global health programs and eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness, cutting $182 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and establishing a Space Force.
So if you want endless wars, dirty air, and you think that the poor and hungry in America are getting too good of a deal, this is a budget for you.
(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)