I was truly stunned when Donald Trump won the electoral college and the US election a few weeks ago. No one expected it. As an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter in the primary and before that a long-standing fan of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, I’d shifted my allegiance to support instead the lesser of two evils in the general election, though even at her worst I never saw HC as anything resembling evil. Rather, it was what she stood for, who she stood with: Wall Street. Clinton was simply a status quo, big-business friendly, environmentally conservative Democrat who leaned toward the center-edge of the party rather than the progressive side.
Though Trump’s election is disastrous for both domestic and foreign policies, I must confess to harboring a small bit of hope that Trump’s ascension might disturb the status-quo neoliberalism that has so defined American life for the past 40 years. Unfortunately, his cabinet choices have set US policy back 30 years in both social and economic realms, ranging from white nationalist Steve Bannon to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose chief task in the administration is to, in Trump’s words, reduce “burdensome government regulations,” specifically within the coal and fossil fuel industries. Every one of Trump’s administrative picks is opposed LGBTQ equality, and many have unsatisfactory track records when it comes to issues concerning race, sex and ethical behavior.
Most terrifying among this group is likely incoming Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump’s treasury pick is an ex-Goldman Sachs banker best known for evicting thousands of families after the 2008 financial crisis, a man dubbed the “foreclosure king.” He promises the “largest tax change since Reagan” through measures that will do nothing to improve the lives of the poor, yet will exponentially benefit the already-rich. His proposed cuts on corporate and personal taxes de-regulate the actions of Wall Street and function to intensify the income inequality gap that has plagued domestic policy since expansion of neoliberal business rhetorics since the 70’s and 80’s (the so-called “trickle-down” phenomenon that has been fooling voters for years).
Elizabeth Warren has referred to Mnuchin as the “Forrest Gump of the Financial Crisis” due to his somehow managing to “participate in all the worst practices on Wall Street.” Trump’s cabinet appointments have long been what has worried me the most through the election season. The man is completely unqualified to judge character and expertise, having no experience doing so in a government setting, and seems to make his policy choices up on the fly based on the person he most recently shared a room with.
All of this, after attacking Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street for nine months. During the campaign, Trump ran an advertisement portraying Goldman Sachs employees as the “personification of the global elite.” Clearly this was just empty campaign rhetoric; Trump has demonstrated himself to be wholly uncommitted to delivering on any of his previous promises. He’s appointed two former Goldman Sachs employees to his cabinet so far, with a third quite possibly on the way.
So much for “draining the swamp.” So much for shaking up Washington.