The New Heads of the “White” House
With wavering positions on a variety of topics, Trump's cabinet nominees may be the clearest picture we get of what a Trump presidency may look like. Largely rich, white, and male with no Latino in sight, the white house will certainly uphold the title.
On January 20th, President-elect Donald Trump will assume his position in the White House. With him will come his cabinet nominations, many of whom are some of the richest men in the United States. The top positions will be the ones to watch as they will head the government agencies and departments that will determine many sectors of American life.
With a cabinet that is fairly homogenous in terms of race and gender (in fact, only three out of thirteen are women and three are non-white, with no Latino selected), there is yet another theme that is consistent: the financial background many of the nominees boast.
From the CEO of Exxon to a member of the board of Wells Fargo, Trump’s closest advisors represent private interest in ways that other cabinets have not done so blatantly in the past. Not only are the cabinet members closely tied to some of America’s largest businesses, they also believe in the privatization of many services your average American relies on daily, with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act only being the first step.
Not only are the nominees to these positions very wealthy but many of the government agencies they are in charge of are in direct opposition to what they support. One key example of this is Ben Carson, the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is in charge of managing public housing and funding at the federal level and dictates how it is distributed to states and cities across the country. Carson has been quoted as saying he doesn’t think the public should be “vegetating” in public housing and believes that Americans on public assistance should have limited time so they can work themselves out of their economic situations.
With Carson as head of this department, that could mean a decrease in the 1.1 million public housing units that currently provide affordable housing to 2.2 million low-income Americans in the United States according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.
But Carson is just one example of what could be a drastic cut in federal assistance for public services. As the nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos will be the head of the U.S. Department of Education. Betsy DeVos has a long career as an activist for school choice, working hard to encourage the development of paid private education and the implementation of private and charter schools in place of free public education. Under her watch, Trump will achieve his goal of redirecting the financial responsibility of public education to the state and local levels, many of which cannot afford such a task.
Yet another example is the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, who has close ties with the fossil fuel industry, particularly his representation of Oklahoma in a lawsuit against the E.P.A as it stood under the Obama administration. With him as the appointee, current regulations the E.P.A. has in place will drastically be repealed and current cuts green energy receive may be greatly reduced if not eradicated.
Trump’s nominees greatly align with many of the statements he made during the campaign, and largely signal a privatization of public services. This reduction in federal support is a minor symptom of what Trump’s appointments seems to indicate: the creation of a front and center seat for corporate interest in the federal government. And as CEO’s hold government positions, one can assume corporate interest will thrive.
Cabinet of New "White" House
With a vote in the Senate in the event of a deadlock and a position as the President’s primary advisor, the position of Vice-President is key to both the executive and legislative branches. With Mike Pence as vice-president elect, this position will be held by the former Indiana governor who signed into law the religious freedom bill making it legal for business owners to deny service to LGBTQ patrons. A supporter of gay-conversion camps, anti-abortion, and an advocate of the tea party, Mike Pence’s position as Vice-President elect proves he will continue to be “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
Secretary of Treasury
A hollywood producer and former Goldman Sachs employee, Steven Munchin has been named Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Treasury. Having worked on the Trump campaign in May, Mnuchin is no stranger to political campaigns, especially via contributions. He’s financially supported Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Charles Schumer in political campaigns or other ways. The biggest drawback on Steven Mnuchin’s career is the billions ($1.55 billion) he made off of the 2008 financial crisis with his bank as well as his associations with contributors that even Trump ridiculed in the past.
Secretary of Transportation
Previously serving in the White House as deputy transportaion secretary under President George Bush, Elaine Chao has an extensive career on Capitol Hill. She served as director of the Peace Corps under President George Bush and has worked throughout different areas of government during her career. As secretary of labor under President George W. Bush, she was the only official in his administration to serve all eight years. Chao currently has associations some find questionable, namely her positions on the boards of Wells Fargo and Fox News. Though many in Trumps cabinet are on the board of Fox News or serve as a commentator, with the recent scandals Wells Fargo has faced, some hint Chao may face a conflict of interest.
Secretary of Health
Tom Price, who is currently the chairman of the House Budget Committee and is one of the leading critics of Obamacare and has a comprehensive replacement plan. His ideas has also spanned from reforming Medicare to allow beneficiaries to use their benefits to purchase private insurance, or changing Medicaid into a block grant, in which states receive funds in a lump sum. His selection raises concerns among women’s rights groups, who looks at his past support for defunding Planned Parenthood and curtail access to birth control. He is also an opponent of abortion.
Secretary of Defense
General James Mattis
The Secretary of Defense is the defense policy advisor for the president. The position is at the head of the Department of Defense and is the lead authority in the position. As overseer of the military, the will head the fight against the Islamic State.
Though General Mattis has come under fire for his 2005 statement that “it’s fun to shoot some people” to a group in San Diego, his political and military clear has been decorated with praise. Highlighted as a key figure in the Iraq war and a seasoned combat commander, General James Mattis boasts over 44 years of service in the Marine Corps. And after rising to a position to oversee US Central Command, General Mattis would need to apply for a waiver from Congress to be eligible for the position due to his recent service.
Secretary of State
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has been selected as the Secretary of State. As head of the most valuable oil company on the planet, many site Tiller’s associations as a clear conflict of interest that could impact the environmental sector as well as U.S. security operations. Exxon has partnered with Rosneft, a Russian oil company to access oil reserves in the Arctic. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin himself attended the Exxon dealing, revealing Tillerson’s association are largely in line with Trump’s support of Putin himself.
Secretary of Interior
An ex-Navy SEAL, Ryan Zinke has been nominated by Trump to be Secretary of Interior. At 55, the avid Trump supported was set to run against Minnesota Senator Jon Tester in 2018 and his appointment would prevent a viable opponent for the senator that year. Having previously served on the Armed Services and Natural Resources committees where he received significant backlash from various environmental and conservation groups for his votes and practices. “We are both very hopeful for the future,” Zinke has been quotes saying of his possible position with Trump.
Secretary of Commerce
An avid Trump supporter from the start, Wilbur Ross is another billionaire on the list of nominees to Donald Trump’s cabinet. His billions were made through his company’s ability to transform companies from the ground up, having recently sold the failing Bethlehem Steel company and transformed it into the International Steel Group which then sold for $4.5 billion. However, there have been concerns over his $3 billion dollar net worth or fears over his accumulation of personal debt that may transfer to his advice while in office specifically with the NAFTA renegotiation.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Ben Carson was the former director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital and the youngest Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery in the country at the age of 33. His publicized speech towards President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2008 hurled him to fame for his views on social and political issues. He was also given the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the same year. He has looked at his experience as an example of the power of education. “I’m acutely aware of education being the ladder that can lead one out of poverty and into realizing the American Dream.”
John F. Kelly
Retired four-star Marine General John F. Kelly is taking this position. He was head of the United States Southern Command, which made him in charge of military operations in 32 countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America. He has been a critic of Obama’s administration military policy such as trying to close Guantanamo Bay and opening all combat roles to women. He has also placed an importance in enforcing human rights and has told Latin American military commanders that they refer to the past when they overthrow civilian leaders who they do not agree with.
Secretary of Labor
Currently the CEO of CKE Restaurants, Andrew Puzder has been openly opposed to government regulation in business as well as the raising of the minimum wage that many states and small businesses have already adopted. Though Trump’s administration has vocalized a commitment to the working class and poor, the appointment of Andrew Puzder to this position in the cabinet could mean a hit to jobs, minimum wage and other economic policies. His own company, CKE Restaurants which has faced accusations of both labor violations and sexism.
Secretary of Energy
Former Air Force captain, state agriculture commissioner and a former three-term governor. Perry has said that global warming is an unproven scientific theory and that climate change has existed since the earth was formed. He has always been a rival of EPA regulations focused on cutting carbon emissions and sued the agency in 2010. He also opposes any road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants until the American border is secure. He also has opposed the federal DREAM Act, which would give legal status to immigrants brought in to the U.S. illegally as children.
Jeff Sessions is the Junior U.S. Senator from Alabama who is known for his opposition to illegal immigration and an advocate of reducing legal immigration. He has also supported major legislative issues from the George W. Bush administration such as the Iraq War and a national amendment to ban same-sex marriages. He has opposed the 2009 stimulus bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Act, and the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has opposed all three of President Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court.
Secretary of Education
As a chair of the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos has not been known as an advocate for public schools but more of a school choice activist. Notably, her position as chair on the American Federation for Children board highlights this as it is an organization that promotes charter school education. Previously, she served on the board of Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in education, which also promoted school choice.