Shortly after the election, Donald Trump released a video outlining his 100-day plan for the beginning of his presidency. It contained one of the most arbitrary items ever to exist in a presidential platform: a plan to, for every one new regulation introduced, remove two. The compromise Trump is brokering is clear. If citizens want something from corporate America, they’ve got to give corporate America two things in return.
Already this is in perfect evidence. Trump’s deal with Carrier, the air conditioner manufacturer that wanted to move 2,100 jobs to Mexico, made big headlines last week. Even many liberal commentators applauded Trump, who persuaded Carrier to keep around 800 of those jobs in Indiana.
But as the fine details trickled out, the deal became less impressive. While Trump proclaimed, “Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences,” Carrier received a $7 million tax credit and a bevy of incentives – and still plans to ship 1,300 jobs to Mexico. As Bernie Sanders wrote, “Trump has… signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives.”
That Trump will end up giving more away to corporate America than any president in history can be reasonably predicted. After all, he brings new meaning to the notion that corporations are people. Despite the populist rhetoric he used during the campaign, every move he’s made since the election has further consolidated power in wealthy hands. He has solicited the very same crony capitalists that formerly backed “Crooked” Hillary Clinton and has assembled a dense network of the superrich for his cabinet and transition team.
- The appointment of former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department caused some Trump supporters to regret their votes, including a woman whose home had been foreclosed on by one of Mnuchin’s investment partnerships.
- Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, is a billionaire GOP megadonor and a powerful advocate for education privatization who once said of her political donations, “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”
- Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price will likely try to go beyond Trump’s promise to repeal Obamacare. Price is a fierce opponent of any government spending on healthcare and an advocate for privatizing Medicare – something Trump promised not to do during the campaign.
- In addition to the myriad allegations of racism against him, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is a proponent of privatizing the prison system. His appointment comes as the Department of Justice had been planning to phase out the use of for-profit prisons due to reports of widespread abuse.
- Trump’s energy transition leader, Thomas Pyle, worked for Exxon and Koch Industries. After the election Pyle wrote a memo declaring the new administration’s intent to cancel clean energy targets, remove carbon emission regulations, fast track pipelines, open up federal land to resource exploration, and heavily scrutinize wind energy.
Such appointments fly in the face of Trump’s repeated pledge to “drain the swamp.” Private-sector cabinet members are nothing new, but Trump is charting new territory with his “everything must go” attitude toward public institutions. For decades, business as usual for the Washington establishment meant special interests paying politicians for favorable treatment. Trump, who promised to fight such corruption, has designed a creative solution: cut out the middlemen and place the special interests in office directly.
In addition to giving away half the government to for-profit concerns, Trump is promising corporate America precisely what it’s spent so many millions of dollars lobbying for in the first place: lower taxes and fewer regulations. Trump’s income tax plan disproportionately benefits the highest earners and his proposed slashing of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent will reduce federal revenue by trillions of dollars. Meanwhile, 61 percent of Americans say the rich pay too little in taxes.
Deregulation is a little more popular among the electorate – so long as it’s unspecific. Particular regulations are often quite popular, including regulation of Wall Street. Nearly 60 percent of Americans favor strong environmental regulations. Surely not all regulations are necessary, but Trump’s 2-to-1 ratio comes from nowhere. Cutting two regulations every time one is introduced is arbitrary and nonsensical.
It does, however, illustrate how much of the public good Trump plans to surrender to private interests. He is ushering in a new era of business-run society, marked by rampant privatization and the explicit use of political office to achieve business ends. Already Trump has used his President-elect status to arrange controversial powwows with heads of states where he and his family have business concerns, including a phone call to Taiwan and a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister attended by his daughter Ivanka.
Trump has no intention of shifting political or economic power down to ordinary Americans. He may save a few American jobs by bribing companies with taxpayer money, but these will serve primarily as propaganda opportunities to maintain his populist image. While acting as a cheerleader for the working man, Trump will give as much of the country away to corporate America as he can during his time in office.