Life During Trumptime
This ain’t no fooling around.
It seems so long ago I dismissed Trump as a would-be strongman, but now he has been sworn into office. Explanations for his surprise election have ranged from white supremacy and misogny to economic anxiety of the formerly privileged to failure of the party in power to respect or serve their working class base. All of these are true to a point, but I think the latter two made the largest impact.
Many of my friends are concerned for their health, safety or legitimacy under the new administration. Today some of them are out marching against him. In a recent piece, John Michael Greer dismisses them:
I don’t think reasonable differences of opinion on the one hand, and the ordinary hypocrisy of partisan politics on the other, explain the extraordinarily stridency, the venom, and the hatred being flung at the incoming administration by its enemies. There may be many factors involved, to be sure, but I’d like to suggest that one factor in particular plays a massive role here.
To be precise, I think a lot of what we’re seeing is the product of class bigotry.
I part company with JMG here. I think there is real anxiety on the part of the class under attack. And they should be anxious, even for their livelihoods, because everything that relies on federal funding or grants could be on the block.
Charles Hugh Smith, who I quoted previously on the Deep State, proposes that Trump has the support of a Progressive subset of the Deep State which is in opposition to the Neoliberal Deep State. On his blog, Smith explains away why a populist like Trump has nominated so many establishment insiders:
To get anything done in a culture of entrenched interests, one must either have an overwhelming political mandate to dismantle the entire machine–Trump does not–or you need Insiders who know the pressure points of the system and its key players–in effect, Insiders who know how to slip a political stiletto into the kidneys of key players and twist the blade to get done what would otherwise be impossible.
But what I see is that Trump has appointed both insiders and outsiders. Insiders like banker Wilbur Ross and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis will head the Departments of Commerce and Defense – each of which Trump values. Outsiders like Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry and Ben Carson have been tapped to head the Departments of Education, Energy and Housing and Urban Development – which Trump intends to cripple. Rex Tillerson is an oil insider, which indicates that Trump is more interested in foreign oil than foreign borders.
In, Trump’s Declaration of War, Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, also sees Trump as a bulwark against neoliberalism:
Trump made it abundantly clear that Americans’ enemies are right here at home: globalists, neoliberal economists, neoconservatives and other unilateralists accustomed to imposing the US on the world and involving us in endless and expensive wars, politicians who serve the Ruling Establishment rather than the American people, indeed, the entire canopy of private interests that have run America into the ground while getting rich in the process.
But other than possibly avoiding another war, I wonder if dismantling the neoliberal regime will be of any particular benefit to the average citizen. In an article on The Intercept, Anything at All Can Happen in the Age of Trump, Jon Schwarz writes:
… while nothing is certain, some alarming things are more likely than others. The path the new administration hopes to take may be discernible in a 2016 report (PDF) by the conservative Heritage Foundation. According to The Hill on Thursday, Trump transition staffers – including a vice president at Heritage’s grassroots arm Action for America – are using the Heritage document as the basis for Trump’s first proposed budget.
The Heritage Foundation’s plan for balancing the budget savages Medicaid, Non-Defense Discretionary spending, Medicare and Social Security, in that order, to the tune of some 10.4 trillion dollars.
Just a small sample of what is on the Heritage chopping block includes the National School Lunch Program, Violence Against Women Act grants, all Non-Combat Defense Research, about a dozen DOE programs, about a dozen EPA programs, Public Broadcasting (to be privatized), Job Corps, Planned Parenthood, subsidies for Amtrak and DC Metro, and all Greenhouse Gas regulations.
Trump may posture as a populist, but this is not a populist list of cuts.