Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mick Mulvaney, Republican...

...Congressman from South Carolina, has just been named as President-elect Trump's budget director.

A founder of "the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative lawmakers who pushed for Speaker John A. Boehner to resign," Mr. Mulvaney "would help guide the president-elect’s promise of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a tax overhaul and a huge investment in the nation’s infrastructure," according to an article in the New York Times today.

Mr. Mulvaney joins Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Andrew Puzder, Betsy DeVos, Rep. Tom Price, Gov. Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Scott Pruitt (have I left anyone out of this freak show?) in what has to be the most extreme right-wing administration ever. (As I already wrote, Saint Ronald Reagan would be blushing!)

I haven't read this anywhere, but Trump's Cabinet looks as if it's been completely outsourced to a triumvirate of Reince Priebus, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan (above). In short, it's a libertarian's wet dream.

And all I can say is, is this what Trump's voters voted for? The Star Wars bar scene? I thought the Donald ran on a populist agenda? Now we're about to have a Labor Secretary who's anti-labor, an Education Secretary who doesn't believe in public schools, a Health and Human Services Secretary that would like to take away health care from 20 million people and privatize Medicare, an Environmental Protection Agency head who doesn't believe in protecting the environment, and now a budget director who, according to that piece in the Times (my emphasis):

...joined a conservative bloc that pressed for slashing federal spending more deeply than House Republican leaders preferred, and became a prominent face of the anti-Washington movement on Capitol Hill. He was one of several dozen House Republicans who refused to back the deal to raise the statutory debt limit.


If this isn't the definition of a reactionary administration then I don't know what is. And, while we still don't know what kind of president Trump will be, if he outsources domestic policy to his Cabinet we may be about to see the biggest example of overreach ever. And what happens when you over reach? There's a backlash. And, I think, in this case it may be a huge one.

I've often said that I know Paul Ryan because I used to be Paul Ryan. Oh, sure, I was never as tall and good-looking as the Congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin (full disclosure: my mother-in-law's hometown), but when I was his age I was an avid reader of Ayn Rand and a Libertarian with a capital "L." (I was actually a member of the party; can you believe it?) And I remember well when the Republicans shut down the government back in the mid-1990s. I remember thinking breathlessly: It's the libertarian moment; our time has finally come!

But then something funny happened: the public turned against the shutdown. What? It turns out, people like some of the services that the federal government provides. And that was the first time, I think, that I began to reconsider my libertarian philosophy. (Exploring and explaining -- to myself -- my own political evolution has been one of the main purposes of this eight-year-old blog.)

Now, just like me, other ideologues -- like Paul Ryan -- may have a similar epiphany if they get their way and pursue an extreme, right-wing agenda. You see, the United States is still a democracy -- the majority rules. And Mr. Ryan and the Trump Cabinet may find out that people want services from the public sector that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide. And that means health care; an "old age" pension (sorry if that's politically incorrect); a good labor/management balance; quality, free public schools (including -- gasp! -- a college education that doesn't bankrupt you); clean air and water (imagine!) and everything else that makes life better.

As someone who has been in the private sector his whole life (an advantage I have over Mr. Ryan, who, as far as I can tell has never spent a day), I can tell you that left to its own devices, businesses are rapacious. And socialism, taken to its extreme, doesn't work. So, as people figured out a long time ago, you need a little of both. You need capitalism to create jobs and wealth but government to oversee it and provide protection for its citizens.

Now Paul Ryan strikes me as an earnest, well-intentioned young man. I have no doubt that he's a good family man and someone I'd like to go hunting with or have a beer with if I did either of those things. But I also think that if he and Mike Pence and Reince Priebus and the rest of the Trump administration try taking us in an extreme libertarian direction they are going to be sadly disappointed because I just don't believe the majority of the country is where they are ideologically. You take my late parents, for example. While they were always railing against "welfare" for Those People, they were all for Medicare and Social Security for themselves. ("We paid into it!" they'd argue. "Not as much as you're getting out of it," I'd reply.) And I think the Trump voters are the same. I predict if he lets his Cabinet secretaries run wild he's going to have a backlash from the public that will be so severe you could see serious Democratic gains in the next midterms and even a progressive Democratic president in 2020.

But, ultimately, I don't think that will happen because, unlike Mr. Ryan & Company, Trump couldn't possibly care less about policy. In fact, I don't think he really believes anything about anything. (Except maybe lowering taxes on the rich.) Just look at his stance on any other issue: he's been all over the map!

So it will be interesting to watch. Will Trump outsource domestic policy to his vice president and the Speaker? Or will he just react to the latest poll numbers that come in? (I think that question answers itself.)

I mean, come on, privatize Medicare and cut Social Security benefits? Good luck with that! While it might make a lot of sense when Ryan is dining with billionaires like Cliff Asness, it won't to Trump's voters. No way! And as another Republican president might say, "Go ahead; make my day!"

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