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January 28, 2017

Donald Trump’s Demolition Derby

In just a few days, Donald Trump seems to have set out to wreck government and turn
over the remains to his plutocrat friends.

By Bill Moyers

Source:  Moyers & Company

We’re a week into the Trump administration and it’s pretty obvious what he’s up to.
First, Donald Trump is running a demolition derby: He wants to demolish everything
he doesn’t like, and he doesn’t like a lot, especially when it comes to government.

Like one of those demolition drivers on a speedway, he keeps ramming his vehicle
against all the others, especially government policies and programs and agencies that
protect people who don’t have his wealth, power or privilege. Affordable health care
for working people? Smash it. Consumer protection against predatory banks and
lenders? Run over it. Rules and regulations that rein in rapacious actors in the
market? Knock ‘em down. Fair pay for working people? Crush it. And on and on.

Trump came to Washington to tear the government down for parts, and as far as we
can tell, he doesn’t seem to have anything at all in mind to replace it except turning
back the clock to when business took what it wanted and left behind desperate
workers, dirty water and polluted air.

In this demolition derby, Trump seems to have the wholehearted support of the
Republican Party, which loathes government as much as it worships the market as
god. Remember Thomas Frank’s book, The Wrecking Crew? Published in 2008, it
remains one of the best political books of the past quarter-century. Frank took the
measure of an unholy alliance: the century-old business crusade against government,
the conservative ideology that looks on government as evil (except when it’s enriching
its allies), and the Republican Party of George W. Bush and Karl Rove — the one that
had just produced eight years of crony capitalism and private plunder.

The Wrecking Crew — and what an apt title it was — showed how federal agencies
were doomed to failure by the incompetence and hostility of the Bush gang appointed
to run them, the same model Trump is using now. Frank tracked how wholesale
deregulation — on a scale Trump already is trying to reproduce — led to devastating
results for everyday people, including the mortgage meltdown and the financial crash.
Reading the book is like reading today’s news, as kleptomaniacs spread across
Washington to funnel billions of dollars into the pockets of lobbyists and corporations.

That may include the pockets of Donald Trump’s own family. As Jonathan Chait wrote
after the election in New York magazine, “[Trump’s] children have taken roles on the
transition team. Ivanka attended official discussions with heads of state of Japan and
Argentina. [As president-elect, Trump himself] met with Indian business partners to
discuss business and lobbied a British politician to oppose offshore wind farms
because one will block the view at one of his Scottish golf courses.” Only a couple of
days ago it was reported that the Trump organization would more than triple the
number of Trump hotels in America. And why not? Its chief marketer works out of the
Oval Office.

Jonathan Chait went on to say: “Trump’s brazen use of his office for personal
enrichment signals something even more worrisome than four or more years of
kleptocratic government. It reveals how willing the new administration is to obliterate
governing norms and how little stands in his way.”

And oh yes, something else: David Sirota at International Business Times has just
published a new report showing that the Trump administration appears to be quietly
killing the federal government’s major ethics rule designed to prevent White House
officials from enriching their former clients. Experts say a review of government
documents shows that regulators appear to have abruptly stopped enforcing the rule,
even though it remains the law of the land.

We were warned. Donald Trump himself told The New York Times, “The law is totally
on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” Shades of
Richard Nixon, who said, “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
And who also announced, “I am not a crook.”

Which leads us to the second design now apparent in Trump’s strategy of deliberate
chaos. He may have run a populist campaign, but now it appears he aims to substitute
plutocracy for democracy.

I know plutocracy is not a commonly used word in America. But it’s a word that
increasingly fits what’s happening here. Plutocracy means government by the wealthy,
a ruling class of the rich and their retainers. If you don’t see plutocracy spreading
across America, you haven’t been paying attention. Both parties have nurtured,
tolerated and bowed to it. Now we’re reaching the pinnacle, as Trump’s own Cabinet is
rich (no pun intended) in millionaires and billionaires. He is stacking the agencies and
boards of government with the wealthy and friends of wealth so that the whole of the
federal enterprise can be directed to rewarding those with deep pockets, the ones
who provide the bags and bags of money that are dumped into our political process

Yes, both Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of groveling to the wealthy
who fund them; it’s a staggering bipartisan scandal that threatens the country and
was no small part of Trump’s success last November, even as ordinary people
opened their windows and shouted, “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take
it anymore.” So now we have in power a man who represents the very worst of the
plutocrats — one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. I
shudder to think where this nightmare will end. Even if you voted for Donald Trump for
a reason that truly is from your heart, I cannot believe you voted for this.

Tell me if I’m wrong. Tell me whose side are you really on? The people of America or
the cynics and predators at the very top who would climb atop the ruins of the republic
for a better view of the sunset?

Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and