© Josh Sager – February 2017
There is really no nice way to say this: Trump’s 1st month as president has been the political equivalent to watching a flaming dumpster filled with hair and rubber tires roll down a steep hill towards a crowded intersection—it smells horrible and promises significant destruction, yet you can’t look away and can only wonder what perverse set of circumstances have produced such a disaster.
During the last month, President Trump has conducted himself in the most corrupt, juvenile, incompetent manner of any modern president—this includes George W. Bush. He has implemented incredibly ill-thought out policies, made numerous attempts to delegitimize the media, and has proven himself to be fundamentally disconnected from objective reality. If the following forty-seven months resemble this one (and there is no reason to doubt this), the damage that will be done to our nation, its standing on the world stage, and the health of its people is hard to calculate.
Trump has used executive orders to pander to the most reactionary and xenophobic impulses of the right wing base. While these orders are temporary—in that they can be overturned by a simple order from a future president—they will harm numerous people for the next 4 years and have already become an international embarrassment:
- Trump passed a rule that guides executive agencies to follow a 2:1 deregulation to regulation impact ratio. In short, if an agency wants to implement a new regulation that will protect the American people but cost corporations money, they must remove existing regulations which increase corporate profits by double the cost of the new regulation.
- Trump implemented a massively-protested travel ban, which prevents people from seven nations from entering the US (see map below). All of these nations are majority-Muslim and none of them have previously acted as an entry-point for terrorists (unlike Saudi Arabia, which wasn’t included). This ban is particularly bad because it affects legal non-citizen residents of the USA (e.g. green card and student visa holders) who would be locked out of their own nation if they traveled to visit family abroad. At best, this ban is needlessly vindictive and inflammatory; at worst, it is a trial of a much more expansive ban that the Trump administration may be planning on pursuing. The 9th Circuit of Appeals blocked the ban earlier this month, but the Trump Administration is appealing this injunction and plans to roll out a modified version of the ban next week.
- Trump discontinued a regulation that blocks coal companies from dumping mining waste into public waterways. This will allow coal companies to pollute public land in order to save money, putting millions of Americans at risk.
- Trump signed an executive order that directs executive agencies (primarily HHS) to grant exemptions and deferments where there are issues with the full implementation of Obamacare. While this order is extremely vague, it could give Trump’s executive appointments a great deal of latitude to subvert provisions of the ACA, particularly the implementation of regulations.
While the executive actions taken by Trump have been disruptive and embarrassing, the actual harm they inflict likely pales in comparison to the rest of his executive agenda. Trump has appointed people to run key agencies who are fundamentally unqualified and/or corrupt, or who have proposed eliminating the agency that they are now expected to run. Here are the most egregious examples of these appointments:
- Jeff Sessions, one of the most racist and xenophobic Senators since the Civil Rights struggle, has been appointed the Attorney General. Sessions previously supported the KKK, and opposes the Voting Rights Act, anti-corruption laws, LGBT rights, pot decriminalization, and the sections of the Civil Rights Act that prevent private businesses from discriminating. Additionally, he is an extreme hard-liner on immigration and has opposed a Dream Act.
- Rex Tillerson, the ex-CEO of Exxon Mobile, has been appointed the Secretary of State, despite his complete lack of diplomatic experience. Additionally, Exxon gave him a $180 million exit package, creating an intractable conflict of interest.
- Betsy Devos, a major donor to the Republican Party, has been appointed the Secretary of Education. She is a fundamentalist Christian who rejects basic scientific facts and champions school privatization, as well as using public funds to promote religious schools that indoctrinate kids into her religion.
- Scott Pruitt has been appointed the head of the EPA, despite the fact that he is a climate change denier who has repeatedly sued the EPA to allow polluters to evade federal regulations. Pruitt supports shutting down the enforcement arm of the EPA (the OECA), which would render the entire agency powerless, and will have the authority to do just this in his new position.
- Michael Flynn is a US general who was appointed to be the National Security Advisor, yet he didn’t even last the first month because it was exposed that he was secretly discussing removing sanctions on Russia with the Russian Ambassador to the USA, before Trump even took office. While this technically is a felony under the Logan Act, he isn’t likely to be prosecuted and was simply forced to resign in disgrace.
In addition to appointing these extremists to run key agencies, Trump has surrounded himself with a group of equally extreme staffers. Arguably his most powerful advisor is Steve Bannon, the ex-CEO of Breitbart, who is intensely racist (e.g. he famously created a “Black Crime” section on Breitbart), anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic. Unfortunately Bannon clearly has the ear of the president, has been appointed a seat on the National Security Council, and many believe him to be the true author of Trump’s executive orders. Bannon’s influence over Trump is deeply worrying, as he could potentially use it to push his white nationalist agenda in both foreign and domestic policy arenas.
In totality, Trump’s 1st month demonstrates that he is EXACTLY as extreme as he portrayed himself in the primary—he will follow through on his campaign promises to repress, if not ban, Muslims, purge undocumented immigrants from the USA, and implement the most extreme right wing economic agenda since the Hoover administration. He will deregulate industry, deny the science of climate change, and assault the rights of minorities, women, and any other group that he fails to identify with.