How Is That ‘Draining The Swamp’ Thing Going?
Long-time readers know I think a functional government requires skilled personnel along with a healthy dose of institutional memory. The idea that we just start throwing out those who have held their long-time jobs in order to make a political point has never found favor with me. I also do not hold to the idea that just because a person has a career that includes the banking or financial services and/or is a wealthy person that it makes for a deal breaker when wanting to work in the federal government. The Kennedy family, as an example, proved that wealth and social awareness are not incompatible.
So I write this post mostly to make clear a political point. The Trump voters who cast ballots due to some verbal rhetoric being promised from Donald Trump have already seen that it was simply just hot wind. (Recall I was one of those who predicted as much, and so can now stand on rational ground and say ” I told you so.)
Lets start with Steven Mnuchin who was the national finance chairman for Trump’s campaign. Score another cabinet choice based on loyalty. But let us be honest and say this is one very wealthy loyalist to be placed in a very pivotal economic post. Mnuchin began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he became a partner, before creating his own hedge fund, moving to the West Coast and entering the first rank of movie financiers by bankrolling hits like the ‘X-Men’ franchise and ‘Avatar.’ For all those Trump supporters let me add some salt to the ‘swamp’ with the fact he will be the third Goldman Sachs alumni to serve as Treasury secretary.
Trump now has two Goldman Sachs alumni at the top of his White House. They are senior adviser Steve Bannon and Mnuchin, who have degrees from Harvard and Yale, respectively. (Lord have mercy!! Educated ones, too!) Mnuchin’s dad worked at Goldman, too, and get this (you angry white male Trump voters) Bannon drove a Porsche in college. (That imagery is just perfect!)
Meanwhile Elaine Chao , wife to Senator McConnell and a former cabinet member, will he Trump’s transportation secretary nominee. She is giving up a lucrative life if she becomes transportation secretary. She made at least $1,074,826 from serving on boards of directors in 2015, according to public records. She serves on the boards of four publicly traded companies: News Corp, Wells Fargo, Ingersoll Rand and Vulcan Materials Co. Wells Fargo paid her $291,027 in 2015 ($111,000 in cash, $180,027 in stock). Ingersoll Rand paid her $224,362 ($81,820 in cash, $142,542 in stock). News Corp paid her $295,250 ($114,000 in cash, $181,250 in stock). And Vulcan paid her $264,187 ($110,000 in cash, $153,671 in stock and the rest in other compensation). She is also on the boards of Centerra Group LLC and Protective Life Insurance Co., both of which are not public.
Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary nominee, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, has been in Congress since 2005, so I guess that term-limit thing is more a throw away line for the Trump voters who bought everything wholesale. Then there is Wilbur Ross, his Commerce secretary, who is a billionaire Wall Street turnaround artist. (Gotta love that swamp cleaning act of Trump’s on the campaign trail!)
When it comes to swamp-draining the ethical canyon that is the Trump business empire mixed, blended, and stirred with government is going to make for a never-ending series of stories and scandals that will plague the next administration. The Republican Party knows this is about to befall them. Simply put there is no amount of distance that Trump can put between himself and his Oval Office duties–without an outright sale of his entire operation–that will not allow for an all consuming and difficult four years.
Think about it from the perspective of a GOP member of congress.
If Trump doesn’t divest or separate himself from his business dealings in a very real way, that is going to put a ton of pressure on Hill Republicans to remain independent of the administration. No one is going to put their necks on the line–mid-terms are two years away–knowing full well that in six months or a year, when some serious conflict of interest blows up and the news channels go 24/7 with the story there will be serious pressure to curb the ethical scandal. GOP members start to cover their rear-ends from the start.
I also note that it will be then that the angry white Trump voters who got taken for a ride in 2016 will discover those successful men and women–the billionaires in the cabinet–are all of a sudden a problem. There will be a free ride for the most part during the congressional hearings in January. The fan kicks in when the first scandal rips into the next administration. And with Trump that timing will be sooner rather than later.
As are the majority of voters this year, I am not pleased with the election outcome. But I can tell you that I am laughing my backside off each and every day as I watch this circus act play out. If an actor can not make for a serious theater performance at least let it be funny. On that count Trump is ready for an Emmy. (Since he was not able to score before.)