There is little doubt that Trump’s cabinet nominees represent the largest group of millionaires and billionaires to have ever come to seats of power and influence in the history of the United States.
While some supporters have termed these nominees as more qualified than ever, Trump’s detractors have punched holes in this argument and have suggested that each of these nominees are less suited for their positions than ever before.
Dr. Ben Carson (potential HUD secretary)—-Some choices are obviously strange and ill-fitting such as Dr. Ben Carson as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If Carson had been presented as the head of the FDA or some other medically related department, then most observers would have thought that he was superbly qualified as a successful neurosurgeon and world renowned expert at separating conjoined twins. However, as Director of HUD, he is a duck out of water.
Carson does not boast any expertise or experience in the housing market and there is no evidence that he knows anything about public housing except for the fact that he lived in government housing as a child before he escaped his impoverished childhood. My hat’s off to him for getting out of the tenements and projects, but there is no reason to suggest that he knows anything about running the nation’s public housing system.
General James “Maddog” Mattis (potential Defense Secretary) —- This selection will please lots of people since Mattis in typically well thought of and brings considerable military background to the job with much personal knowledge of the regimes involved in international affairs related to national defense. He has come under fire for certain remarks that he has made regarding his love of battle. Although these comments do give one pause, they are not, in and of themselves irregular or atypical of military generals who have a job to pump up the morale of the troops who may be marching and riding into life-threatening situations.
Here are some controversial quotations from Gen. Mattis that have concerned many civilian readers:
“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”
“There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim. It’s really a hell of a lot of fun. You’re gonna have a blast out here!”
“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
Gov. Rick Perry (potential head of Department of Energy) —- Former governor of Texas who is famous for suggesting that the Federal government abolish the Federal Department of Energy, may in fact be the guy that runs the department. Perry also consequently sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, which is the parent company of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Can you say conflict of interest?
His nomination presents some serious problems, but Trump does not seem to worry about Dakota since he also has investment interests in the pipeline proceeding. Also, trump has had a very contentious relationship with several Native American tribes and has been involved in several legal battles with various tribes over issues related to the casino gaming industry. In classic trump fashion, he called the tribes “criminals and cocaine addicts.” Trump was quoted as saying, “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations.”
Steven Mnuchin (potential Treasury Secretary) is a Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager. Billed by some as a political outsider, came to wealth as an investor, Wall Street hedge fund manager, movie producer, and entrepreneur. However, he had never run any major organization or business and has not distinguished himself as an economist, he does seem to be a competent businessman by most accounts.
Sources report that Mnuchin acquired his job with Goldman Sachs when he graduated Yale in 1985 from his father Robert Mnuchin, who was General Partner at GS at that time. After working at GS for 17 years, he and several friends bought the mortgage giant IndyMac, the finance giant for bargain-basement prices from the FDIC after its collapse during the housing bust. The most shocking part of the deal was the “shared loss” agreement with the FDIC that reimbursed Mnuchin and his associates for losses incurred when they foreclosed on all of the properties held by IndyMac.
What essentially happened is they bought multi-billions of dollars worth of assets for 1.5 billion, then they foreclosed on the home mortgages of nearly all of the mortgage policies owned by IndyMac. The homes were then resold, refinanced, or otherwise liquidated as quickly as possible (in about a 1-2 year period of time), and then any loss that they took on the quick resale was recovered from the FDIC under this agreement. So, in actuality the American people and American taxpayer reimbursed Mnuchin and his associates billions of dollars as well as millions of homes were foreclosed on prematurely when most banks would have typically extended working families additional time, concessions, or hardship reductions so that they could continue to pay out the mortgage loan. Robber barons?
Betsy DeVos (potential Education Secretary) — Probably one of the most controversial of all of Trump’s nominees, she is a billionaire and a conservative activist in both her home state of Michigan and nationwide. She is a fervent supporter of school privatization, charter schools, and school voucher programs. She hope to expand her influence regarding school vouchers to the nation as a whole. She seems to align well with Donald Trump’s education agenda since he has called public education a “public-run monopoly.”
Public school advocates such as the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have denounced DeVos as a dangerous person who seeks to transfer public school funds to private religious schools. They counter that such a move may not be constitutional, budgetarily wise, and may place students in private school are of poor quality.
Teacher organizations envision the rise of lots of start-up micro-schools that take students’ vouchers, but do not deliver even the quality of education that troubled inner-city schools may provide. They could be schools carrying agendas such as pushing a certain religious or political points of view while operating loosely under the guise of religious protection that would preclude very much government oversight as to the quality of academics. For example, a Louisiana study showed that school voucher programs actually lowered student achievement.
DeVos has been quoted saying the she believes that school reform is a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” Critics find this statement very troubling, not because they are necessarily against Christian ideals, but because no one knows what those ideals are, and many people interpret them differently. As well, teacher organizations suggest that advancing certain religious ideologies over others is not beneficial in a multi-cultural society where children come from families with a variety of religious backgrounds, or no religion at all.
DeVos has been criticized because she seeks to reform public education, but never attended a K-12 public school or public college. As well, none of her children have ever attended a public K-12 institution. Education advocates have presented this fact as a definite hypocritical aspect of her nomination. They would feel better if she had some sort of educational expertise in the field such as a former educator or really anyone who had exposure to what happens on the ground in public education.
While many of Trump’s nominees are problematic, but these five individuals will prove to represent some challenges for congressional approval for his administration. Even though, some of them are better than others, it seems that Trump is putting together a dream team of political elites, billionaire activists, and pundits. His promises to “drain the swamp” may have been left behind because it looks like the robber barons are going to put in charge of the public purse. I can bet that we will soon see that they have found a way to funnel the taxpayer’s money back to themselves and to other oligarchs like them.