Privatizing the Presidency

Conservatives have long sought to reduce the role of government in all aspects, and the Trump presidency will no doubt provide a good deal of help in that endeavor.

Just to cite one example of many, Betsy DeVos, the incoming  Secretary of Education, really doesn’t believe in public education at all, preferring charter and religious schools.

The failed Bush administration attempt to privatize Social Security doesn’t seem to have deterred Trump. His “point man” for Social Security, Tom Leppert is a long-time privatization advocate.  Mike Korbey, who is heading the SSA transition, is a former lobbyist who has advocated privatizing Social Security. Dorcas Hardy, a commissioner of the SSA during the Reagan administration, is also on the Trump administration’s SSA transition team. She called for privatizing Social Security while at the libertarian Cato Institute in 1995.

The privatization of the military and security services began in earnest in the Bush/Cheney era with companies like Blackwater USA doing most of the heavy lifting in Iraq. But there are many companies contracting work that used to be done by our armed services. There can no longer be any doubt that war is a for-profit enterprise in the Trump era.

But all this is old news. What’s really different about Trump is his desire to privatize the presidency itself. He prefers his private security detail to the mandatory protection of the Secret Service. He’s said that he wants to use his own plane rather than Air Force One.  He’s indicated he will be spending more time at his home in New York than the White house (with the family not even moving to D.C.).

Even the use of his private Twitter account, rather than official channels of communication is an issue. Just as it’s easy for him to impulsively blast out some nonsense, it’s also easy for an unthinking citizen to impulsively respond, only now that citizen will be talking at the POTUS, and must be very careful indeed about any opposing speech that might be deemed a threat.

And, of, course Trump has refused to release his tax returns, divest any business holdings, or even clarify what they all are. His conflicts of interest in at least some of these businesses, e.g. his Washington D.C. hotel, are nonetheless obvious.

All this blending and blurring of the private with the public is ominous. While each of these things seems trivial enough on its own, and no direct threat to our way of life,  in the aggregate a clearer picture emerges.

This is how it’s done in countries where the government operates for the benefit of the rulers and not the citizens. This is what the dictators and despots do.

 

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