Commentary: Draining the swamp: Season two
“We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
In the depths of the Great Depression, there was a very real danger that a popular revolt was brewing and the troubled capitalist culture would be overthrown. Many people were disillusioned, unemployed and desperate, while Republican leadership had no viable plans to help the country recover. Franklin Roosevelt helped the common man and won the ire of the rich by taking unorthodox steps to correct systemic problems. FDR provided the most substantive improvements seen in the last century.
Republican dogma holds that any deviation from a strict laissez-faire economy threatens a slippery slope to socialism or communism, but they conveniently forget that revered Republican Theodore Roosevelt felt that corporate power posed a threat to democracy itself. His interventionist policies provided relief from the robber barons of the day.
According to the Washington Post, the 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the poorest 80 million households, and the top 5 percent has captured 74 percent of the wealth created since 1982. Thanks to the Republican Party, political donations are essentially unlimited. Access and influence with lawmakers, power and persuasion, and the simple fact that donors expect something for their contributions provide enough background to understand how the economy’s rules are written. Most of Trump’s cabinet and many advisers are within that 5 percent. In addition, we have the Koch Brothers with their millions invested in influencing and dissemination of an opaque culture that is aggressively pro-business and anti-government. They prefer the power accrue to them and their fellow billionaires, rather than elected officials representing the public.
Republican administrations have a poor track record when it comes to obeying the law. Who knows the ultimate total when the Trump administration enters the history books, but they are on an aggressive run to challenge the staggering amounts the Reagan era created. It is hard to bet against the Trump team with their track record of combining greed, malfeasance and ignorance. This makes them a good bet to at least attain a runner-up position to the Reagan crew’s totals of 138 convictions. They are a sure bet to trump the Nixon gang with 69 indictments.
Trump assured us he would drain the swamp, and motivated enough voters willing to gamble on that fantasy to win. So far, you would be hard-pressed to see what has been drained away, except for regulations designed to protect consumers and the environment and to ensure lawful, ethical behavior; mostly they have siphoned off cash and credibility for personal gain and glory. Trump, himself, has done well with supplicants flocking to his hotels, although that is ethically questionable. It is fair to wonder who is benefitting when the president attacks companies like Amazon.
Cabinet officials hire their friends at inflated salaries, or take advantage of cheap rent from industry lobbyists, or inflate their importance with exaggerated security details, or travel first class while downgrading our environmental protections. Some purchase expensive furniture and blame their wives. The vacationing that Trump assured us he would be too busy to do has eclipsed in two short years the vacation budget for the previous presidents. The people pledged to be our public servants have made that service a mockery by their extravagance and incompetence. We must question who Trump and his “best people” are working for, themselves or the public.
Republican voters are not concerned when the 1 percent dictate everyone’s tax rates or support corporate windfalls or tax giveaways for business or sports venues. Their concern regards the amounts received by those needing assistance from public welfare or free health care. Allotting relief to the powerless is seen as a waste.
At the behest of their donors, Trump’s party passed a tax package that gives most of the benefits to the well-off while blowing a trillion-dollar hole in future budgets. Republicans take as an article of faith that tax cuts pay for themselves. No matter how many times they attempt and fail, the data never affects their certainty. Meanwhile, we deal with shrinking resources for education and job training. Infrastructure crumbles for lack of maintenance. The nation’s environmental and financial and educational futures are in the hands of people dedicated to short-term profits and greed. Poor governance and avarice are a Republican pathology. Is anyone else tired of winning yet?
Steve Foreman is a long-time Warren County resident and is active in the Warren County Democratic Committee.