Robber Barons, Captains of Industry and Intrigue:
The Industrialist Cabinet
By. Raimondo Graziano
~ Written after the 45th President’s Inauguration
There was a time in our nation’s long, muddy, history where progressives once fought the policies and clout of a dangerously congested Washington, when the working class lived solely to make ends meet and put food on the table, when wages could barely provide the most basic of needs for a large portion of the populace. When children, men and woman, boy and girl would work long hours not protected by unions, or by legislation, rather they were in a chokehold by industry who owned monopolies and trusts, and who greatly diminished the freedom of choice we are afforded today. The excess of the late 19th and early 20th century, was rectified in large part due to the progressive liberal policies of the Roosevelt administration, ensuring social security, fairer wages, and equality in our labor force as a staple of the American democracy and experiment.
On the evening of November 8th of 2016, and the early morning hours thereafter, the tenuous nature of those policies, of those truly American concepts, became more fragile, more threatened than any past moment in our nation’s history. The incoming administration is poised to be the wealthiest cabinet in United States history, comprised of the wealthiest and highest echelons of American society, advocating for policies which promote the dollar’s bottom line, rather than the will of the people. The incoming cabinet is expected to have a total wealth greater than that of two-thirds of the country. Goldman Sachs Executive Gary D. Cohn has been tapped to head the country’s Economic Council and Steve Mnuchin has been selected to head the Department of the Treasury. Goldman Sachs is a bank steeped notoriously in scandal, and mired in controversy in regards to the full extent of their influence globally. For State department, the office of the chief diplomat abroad, the President Elected has chosen the chief Executive of ExxonMobil, Mr. Rex Tillerson, a man whose economic ties can be traced to the Russian presidency.
The Departments responsible for the nations climate and energy policies will all be headed by drilling, fracking and industry friendly men. For Secretary of the Interior, Congressman Ryan Zinke a man who has denied the scientific soundness of the universally acknowledged and understood indisputable facts, around Climate Change. A man who has spent the majority of his adult life in the military, and who ran on a platform concerning national security issues. This will be the beginning of pattern in the Trumpian Cabinet, an affixation for military figures, totaling to six in official and unofficial capacities in the incoming White House. For the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a man with deep ties to the fossil-fuel industry. Pruitt has been in conflict with the Energy Department, closely watching their interests in his home state. According to the New York Times article Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General by Eric Lipton,
“Attorney general’s in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.”
Thirdly, current Governor of the state of Texas, Rick Perry, to lead the Energy Department tasked with relegating climate policy and the maintenance of our nuclear arsenal, another topic of heated discussion in regards to the incoming President and his ‘temperament’. Ironically, the Department of Energy is the one of three departments Governor Perry promised to gut, though he famously forgot to remember its name in an incident that likely halted his presidential ambitions.
Our nation’s Defense apparatus is intended to be run by civilians. The American people have been cautioned from members of the military and past presidents of the military-industrial complex being given such deep pull within the annals of the Executive branch, however the incoming administration is testing this very concept. For Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. His defense industry ties, specifically to General Dynamics are quite impressive. It is estimated thanks to financial disclosure forms that the retired general, who must seek a waiver from congress to serve as Secretary of Defense because he has not been seven years a civilian, has in his accounts between three and a half to ten million in bonds and assets. The head of the Department of Homeland Security is poised to be headed by retired Marine General John Kelly, the first non-civilian to fill the position since the Departments founding in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The nation’s National Security Advisor will be overseen by retired Army Lieutenant Michael Flynn, a peddler of conspiracy theories which have caused some to act on their supposed ‘merit’, as well as a fierce proponent for the movement against adherents of the Islamic faith; going so far as to say that fear of Muslims is ‘rational’. The head of our nation’s chief intelligence agency, the Central Intelligence Agency will be helmed by former Army officer and current Kansas Congressman, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, an opponent of the flawed, yet stabilizing Iran Deal, and a proponent of the surveillance of citizens, and the continued use of Guantanamo Bay and the practices and culture of torture that percolated during the Bush administration. The Director of National Intelligence will be overseen by Dan Coats, a senator who has introduced two bills in the last year; one recognizing the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500-mile race, and the second, commemorating the bicentennial of the state of Indiana. To myself, this comes as awfully suspicious. A senator whose only qualification for the role is his service on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, is not merely enough for the tremendous task of overseeing the vast United States intelligence apparatus whose reach is global. To add insult to injury, it is understood that the incoming administration plans to drastically downsize and restructure the intelligence community, claiming it has become too ‘politicized’.
A weak Director of National Intelligence, and a plan to reshape the intelligence community throughout the country in the vision of the President, one which we do not know, because of his general silence regarding the issue of openly discussing security and defense issues. All that can be seen from his choices and appointments is a man who respects the say of the military and who may have personal military goals and ambitions, and who is attempting to maximize his capability to carry them out. The countries Homeland Security advisor will be, Thomas P. Brossart, former national security aide to President George Bush, responsible for the failed invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an unprecedented move at consolidating military and defense influence in the Oval Office, the role of Homeland Security Advisor will be equal to that of Retired Lieutenant Flynn’s, which per the transition team is meant to be reflection of the President’s “unwavering commitment to the safety and security of the nation, its people and territory”. This of course comes on the heels of the President’s continued refusal to publicly acknowledge Russia’s role in the interference of our election, sowing mistrust and a loss of assurance in our intelligence community. Outright denying claims, and refuting fact has led to, inadvertently or not, the chipping away of faith in the integrity and soundness of many of our once untouchable American institutions. Current questions regarding the tenure of the current head of the National Security Administration, raise the possibility that the President may be on the cusp of being able to fundamentally alter the course United States intelligence, the most drastically in over fifty years.
For the Department of Labor, chief executive of Hardee’s, and Carl Jr’s, as well as a vocal advocate against minimum wage increases, paid and sick leave, overtime pay and many other countless worker protections enacted under the current President, a one, Andrew F. Pudzer. For the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, a fierce advocate for ‘school-choice’ and the privatization of public education and the defunding of the department she is about to helm. Similar to that of Governor Perry’s disposition to the department he shall be heading. For Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, a man who previously turned down a role as head of Health and Human Services because of his “lack of government experience.” His leaves out the mention that he is also against the Fair-Housing Act, which makes illegal the refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. It is also curious indeed, that the only African American in the President’s cabinet is heading the department tasked with overseeing the development of ‘inner-cities’.
The Small Business Administration will be head by longtime ally of the President and chief executive of the nation’s premier wrestling company, WWE, Linda McMahon, a woman who has donated nearly six million to the President’s campaign for President. Her qualifications for the office? Little, except for her unfaltering loyalty to the incoming President. The Department of Justice, once administered by the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, will now be operated by Senator Jeff Sessions, pending a confirmation hearing which unlike the rest of the picks for cabinet, seems to be facing the most opposition, even more so than the choice for Secretary of State. Senator Sessions has been a lifelong advocate of strict immigration enforcement measures, reduced spending and tough-on-crime measures in his home state of Alabama. His nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986 was rejected because of racially motivated comments and actions deemed inflammatory by the committee. For much of his political life, allegations of racism have persisted, as well as his opposition towards the Voting Rights Act. At a time when civil rights, and the militarization of the police force is on the national stage, a pick like Senator Sessions draws much controversy from advocates of equality and immigration. The Department of Transportation will be headed by Elaine L. Chao, wife to the Senate Majority Leader, a possible conflict arising there, the dolling of political favors in the form of cabinet level positions in an incoming administration. Though she has worked as the labor secretary under President Bush, and numerous government positions, her closeness to the Senate Majority Leader, and her vast wealth poses numerous possible conflicts down the road. The Secretary of the Department of Commerce is slated for Wilbur Ross, an advocate for the restructuring of trade agreements and heavy tariffs on Chinese goods, which may threaten a trade war between the world largest economies. The Secretary of Health will be headed by Tom Price, a champion for pharmaceutical companies and a would-be detriment to patient’s rights, and woman’s rights across the country. Per an article by The New York Times;
“Price has introduced legislation that would make it easier for doctors to defend themselves against medical malpractice lawsuits and to enter into private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries. Under such contracts, doctors can, in effect, opt out of Medicare and charge more than the amounts normally allowed by the program’s rules.”
The United States Trade Representative will be a one, Robert Lighthizer, yet another vocal critic of China poised to join the cabinet. Likewise, the Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, Peter Navarro is a staunch critic of U.S-China economic policy. These appointments are setting the United States up for a clash early on in the years of the incoming administration with China on matters of economic and military importance. In a turn towards his harshest critics, the President has chosen South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be the United States ambassador to the United Nations, an organization whose funding is being called into question, and whose relationship with its founding nation, the United States is also in question. Some have even raised the prospect of the United States formally leaving the international organization, in part responsible for the relative global peace experienced since World War Two, relative meaning clashes between major powers.
The incoming head of Veteran Affairs will be managed by David Shulkin, a man who may be a sobering voice alongside Department of Defense Head, James Mattis within the Trump Administration. Shulkin has worked to provide care in numerous hospitals across New Jersey and New York and has provided care for veterans as the Under Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In regards to the Department of Agriculture, the former Governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue will head the agency. Governor Perdue is known for holding a vigil at the State House in Georgia to pray for the coming of rain amid a drought; while this is a commendable choice to perhaps undertake in the privacy of home, to do so on the steps of Georgia State Capital amid a drought is in ill taste. Not to mention that Georgia is not among the nation’s largest ten agricultural states, however it is home to 42,000 farms, with a strong role in the cattle industry in the country.
In appointments that require no congressional hearings, the President has opted for close allies, and confidants who will be, perhaps, more important than the cabinet as these individuals will have offices directly in the West Wing. They will have the ear of the President himself, and most importantly the ability to rein in, or let loose the temper, egotism, and bellicose belligerence of Donald Trump. His appointments to Chief of Staff, and Press Secretary have been conciliatory gestures towards the party who he commandeered straight to the White House, Chairmen Reince Priebus and Spokesman Sean Spicer, respectively. The role of counselor and White House Chief Strategist will be filled by two campaign operatives who helped propel the President to the Oval Office, Kellyanne Conway and notorious alleged racist, and anti-Semite, the advocate of the rising populist movement referred to as the ‘Alt-Right, Steve Bannon, respectively. Carl Icahn, business mogul and close friend of Donald J. Trump will be the Special Advisor on Regulatory Reform. Mr. Icahn has been accused of ‘corporate raiding,’ a process which involves buying large stakes in companies and then forcing policy changes to benefit the shareholders of the companies in question. Lastly the office of White House Consul will be captained by a Washington based lawyer, Donald F. McGahn, a man who pushed for the loosening of election laws, and the deregulation of campaign finance reform.
On a parting note, it has been speculated that the President’s choice for Vice President, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, was a form of what can only be described as ‘life insurance’ against attempts on his life. The choice of Governor Pence for the position of Vice President is to ensure that no attempt would be made on the life of the incoming president out of fear of the sorts of policies that may be implemented by Governor Pence, based on his stances on numerous issues and his tenure as governor. If these appointments and the underlying factors behind them do not worry or cause alarm in you, then I am not sure there is much else I can say. The incoming administration is a far step from previous iterations, it is perhaps the most compromised, ethically speaking, in our nation’s history. The rhetoric of ‘draining the swamp’ has been either ignored, or was used as a tactic to sway voters, either way those involved and those appointed have become tacit and complicit in the path the President has set out on, the precedent he is setting for future administrations, and the sheer hunger for power, respect, and compliance, and the finely tuned vengeance and vindictive nature exhibited by the now official, President Donald J. Trump.