Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Trump Cabal is proof positive that money is a terrible substitute for interpersonal and political skills

I see now that there are some who believe that a coup of sorts is in progress in the United States. At least one man, Yonatan Zunger at Medium, believes that the apparent ban on Muslim travel to the United States is a test balloon for a coup. He's made some rather compelling arguments in his article for evidence of a coup. As I read his article, I thought that sounded a lot like a conspiracy theory until I saw that Michael Moore was saying pretty much the same thing on Twitter:
Yes, that does seem alarmist, and there may be reason for concern. But I have no doubt that if there really were some sort of coup underway, they're going to run into some sort of resistance. The Framers of the Constitution were no stranger to unstable governments. I believe that their idea of checks and balances had this sort of thing in mind.

Of course, that only works if the guys in the other branches of government actually check the power of another branch of government. With the "Muslim travel ban", the courts did actually check the power of the executive branch. But judging by this tweet, we might not be able to rely upon Congress to do the same thing:

David Yankovich just happens to be a reporter at Politico, so I'd expect him to know what he's talking about. If there is a coup going on, I'm sure there are more than just a handful of reporters out there working on the story. Is there?

After I wrote an article the other day about holding Trump accountable to his comments about the corrupting influence of money in politics, someone left a comment reminding me that Trump just hired a bunch of billionaires to work as department heads in the cabinet of his administration. There seems to be some confusion at the Trump administration and I'm hoping to clear that up, just a bit.

First, possession of money alone does not confer any wisdom or skills upon the people who have it. It does not confer any magical powers, either. Second, possession of money is not confirmation of interpersonal skills. I have known and read about some people who are, shall we say, "well off", and I can't really say for certain that they have very good interpersonal skills.

For example, Trump's closest adviser appears to be the former head honcho at Breitbart, Steve Bannon. He's in the news a lot these days. There are some who say that Bannon is calling the shots for Trump. Perhaps he is. Bannon is wealthy and has numerous ongoing enterprises, which would seem to be signs of personal success. But he's endured 3 failed marriages, and one of his former wives accused him of abuse. The exchange between him and his lawyer, and his wife, suggests a vindictive attitude on his part.

It's also worth noting that Bannon is closely tied to a reclusive billionaire, Robert Mercer. Newsweek has a really good piece covering the relationship between Bannon and Mercer and it's well worth the read. In it we learn how they have both worked to cover their tracks while promoting the Trump campaign. We also learn just how close they think a campaign can be to a SuperPAC and still get away with it. They seem to think that because they have money, their judgment is infallible.

To see Trump line his cabinet with billionaires suggests that he really thinks that people with a ton of money are better at making decisions than people who do not. Hillary Clinton had a lot of money, yet she didn't make very good decisions during her campaign. Maybe she just needed more money or more of that earned coverage that Trump got. I've seen numerous stories to suggest that she doesn't have very good interpersonal skills, either. By the way, if there is a coup going on, I'm almost certain that Hillary Clinton, with her enormous collection of media allies and connections, would know something about this. She seems really quiet lately and she's certainly not talking coup.

There is something else about money: people who have lots and lots of money seem to think they can do well in politics. They even think that money confers upon them the power to run governments - without input from people who have less money. As we've seen in this past election, money does not confer any new powers upon the receiver of it. Money does not confirm that one is capable of running a government, much less executing a coup.

All that I've ever seen money do in politics and interpersonal relations is confer a false sense of confidence.

Oh, wait. There's more. Money does not confer the power to make decisions for other people. Yes, money is a medium of exchange and we can use it to buy things from other people. But we can't buy people. God knows we've tried, but every time we've tried, humans have made a mess of themselves and other humans. We can't use money to change the way other people think, either. I know it seems like it works, but sooner or later, people begin to realize that they're working against their own interests when they sell their soul for money.

All this brings me again to the same point that I made the other day. Trump has hired billionaires and millionaires to implement his ideas of government. Some of them have made mighty contributions to his campaign. The Independent Journal Review has complied a short list of donors and their appointments:
His highest single contributor, WWE co-founder Linda McMahon, now runs the Small Business Administration; she gave $7.5 million to his campaign.
His choice for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and her family donated $1.8 million towards his run. [Her brother runs Blackwater. I know, fun!]
Todd Ricketts, his Deputy Commerce secretary pick, contributed $1.3 million via his parents.
Previously Trump's national finance chairman, his pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, gave $425,000.
Together with his wife, Labor secretary Andrew Puzder — Trump's most recent appointee — donated $332,000.
And one of Trump's earliest donors, Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, contributed $200,000.
That seems like some rather serious cash for someone who has openly acknowledged the corrupting influence of money. Surely this is a contradiction we can confront Trump with. We can also point this out to our elected representatives in Congress, especially the Senate. The president must seek the advice and consent of the Senate for many of the officers he appoints to his administration. Maybe they'll get a clue if thousands of us call them about it.

We must also remind Congress that we know that the corrupting influence of money doesn't just apply to Congress. This applies to appointees in the executive branch. If Trump truly wants to drain the swamp, he's not acting like it. We must remind our elected representatives that just because those people have money doesn't make them any better at making decisions than people who are not wealthy.

One look at how we've been degrading the environment we live in should serve as a good example. Our oceans are filling up plastic. Our air, water and land is polluted. The polar ice caps are melting. All of this is from business action, not from the government. If government is the problem, we're not seeing it here.

Trump says he wants to make America great again. But what seems to be missing from the discussion is what exactly makes America so great. Here's a clue. In this great experiment, more people have influence on how government functions than at any other time before. What makes America great is not the money or the opportunities that America presents to all who come to her. What makes her great is that in all of history, there has never been a country that has allowed more people to have a say in how the country is run.

Given how Steve Bannon is consolidating power as a member of Trump's team, working hard to resist the other branches of government and forming a tight inner circle of power within the administration, it would seem that Trump and his team have forgotten what makes America so great.

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

– John Adams, second president of these United States

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