The Trump cabinet: On a fast track to fascism

By Carlton Joseph

Trump’s people

Donald Trump has named some of his cabinet members and people are in shock.   They somehow believed that they could elect a billionaire businessman to be President of the United States and expect that he would choose “regular politicians” to make up his cabinet.  He is a businessman and associates with businessmen from the same financial class.  We should expect that this is where he will find his talent.

Republicans and President-elect Trump do not believe that government serves any purpose. In fact, Republicans have claimed that they want to drown government in a bathtub.  We are getting the government we deserve: One that does not believe in government. This is particularly revealing in Trump’s nominations– government appointees who don’t seem to care very much for government.  America is now on a fast track to fascism– a government by Industry for Industry.  This is shaping up as the most conservative cabinet ever and also the richest, with at least $14 billion in personal wealth.

It appears that President Elect Trump and the Republicans’ first goal is to erase anything that would remind Americans that they had a black President.   His nominations so far indicate that he is going to try to eradicate most or all of the “legacies” of Obama.  If Trump and the Republican Congress succeed in implementing their strategy, the only legacy Obama will have is that he became President in one of the deepest economic depressions of the country with unemployment at ten per cent, and he has been able to dig the country out of the economic doldrums and when he leaves the unemployment rate would be 4.6 per cent, a fact the new Republican administration cannot erase.

Trump has offered the National Security Adviser position to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is well known for his anti-Muslim worldview, having called Islam a “cancer” and saying “fear of Muslims is rational.”

Kansas Congressman, Mike Pompeo, who opposed closing Guantánamo Bay prison, has been named as CIA director. He is very critical of the Iran Nuclear deal. He also supports domestic surveillance operations, including against American citizens. He has a very strong anti-civil liberties background.

Mr. Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has been one of the EPA’s fiercest critics and has led a legal effort to overturn parts of President Obama’s climate change policies, including his Clean Power Plan. Pruitt claimed the science of climate change is “far from settled.” He is also seen as a close ally of the fossil fuel industry. In 2014, The New York Times revealed that Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general had formed what the paper described as an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with the nation’s top energy producers to fight Obama’s climate efforts.

Donald Trump has picked fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder to become the next Secretary of Labor.  Puzder is head of the company that franchises the fast-food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. He’s a longtime Republican donor who’s been a vocal critic of raising the minimum wage, expansion of overtime pay, paid sick leave and the Affordable Care Act.  Puzder has praised automation that displaces restaurant workers and has been an active opponent to efforts that would make the parent companies of franchisees open to lawsuits.

His choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia and a physician, is a believer in making Medicare a voucher system, transforming it from an insurance program that offers a defined set of hospital, physician and prescription benefits into a “premium support” program under which the elderly are given a subsidy to buy private insurance. As for Medicaid, the government health program for lower-income Americans, he favors turning it over to the states.  He and the Republican Congress will definitely try to repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of Medicare, as we know it, a program they have disliked since its introduction by Franklin Roosevelt.

The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education marks a turning point—she would be the first education secretary who has never attended public school. Nor have her children.  DeVos is a fierce advocate for offering vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private schools.  She will pursue the elimination of Public Schools and seek to promote Elite Private schools.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Trump’s pick to be Attorney General, can be expected to carry over all of the most controversial policies of the Bush-Obama years when it comes to surveillance and civil liberties. He was the Senate’s leading advocate of restricting immigration, legal and illegal.  Concerns over Sessions’s commitment to civil rights as U.S. attorney in Alabama led to his being denied a federal judgeship by the Senate in 1986.

His choice for Secretary of HUD is Dr. Ben Carson whose views on fighting poverty, expressed in his speeches and writings, lean heavily on old-fashioned self-help values. Poverty, he once told a television interviewer, “is really more of a choice than anything else.”

Trump’s inner leadership circle is dominated with former military personnel; his nominee for Secretary of Defense will have to get a special exemption from Congress in order to get the job.  His cabinet is loaded with billionaires and corporate executives whose history is about self -interest and whose opposition to increasing the minimum wage, opposition to clean environment, opposition to unions and opposition to almost everything that would improve workers’ prosperity begs the question.  Can these people deliver on the promises that Mr. Trump made to the working class folks who have been left out of the economic prosperity for the past 20 years?   Will these working class people who believed that the extremely rich one per cent would now help to make them rich, have to resort to revolution to get the opportunity to achieve the prosperity they were promised?   These and many more questions will have to be addressed in the coming months.

I conclude with a quote from Harry Belafonte in response to a question by Amy Goodman, during “Democracy Now 20th anniversary.”   On his thoughts today in the age of Donald trump; he responded,  “I had never quite understood that we had another severe, unattended enemy in our midst. And that was our species’ commitment or weakness in the face of absolute greed. And I think we have failed to come to certain solid conclusions, because we have been so contaminated with possessions and power that we have forgotten that we have destroyed our children, or set the tone for that.”

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph is a close observer of political developments in the  United States.)