Since November eighth, many people from around the world have been left wondering where and how the Trump administration will lead the United States. The unknowable ramifications of the election of the nation’s first billionaire president will reach many parts of the country and the world.
The first indicator of the direction in which Trump will steer the country is his cabinet picks. So far, Trump has cobbled together a cabinet consisting of veteran legislators, Washington outsiders, ex-generals, and fellow millionaires and billionaires that is sure to back his plans for drastic reform.
Some of Trump’s boldest promises have been that he will defeat ISIS, replace Obamacare, and create jobs in infrastructure. His appointees for the Secretaries of Defense, Transportation, and Health and Human Services have reflected his intention to fulfill these promises.
James Mattis, the possible Secretary of Defense, is a widely respected and experienced four-star general and military thinker. He has denounced Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and supports Trump’s determination to refocus American efforts onto the Middle East, labeling Iran “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.” However, regardless of Mattis’s credentials, he will need a waiver from congress to be appointed Defense Secretary. Federal law states that a secretary of defense must be out of uniform for at least seven years to ensure civilian control of the armed forces.
Next to defeating ISIS, Trump’s promise to create jobs in infrastructure was a crucial part of his campaign. Elaine Chao, Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, will oversee the creation of these jobs. In a promising statement, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer declared, “Senate Democrats have said that if President-elect Trump is serious about a major infrastructure bill…we are ready to work with his administration.” As a candidate who campaigned as someone who can bring jobs to Americans, Trump needs a capable Transportation Secretary to help fulfill his promise.
Trump demonstrated his dedication to abolishing The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), when he appointed Georgia Representative Tom Price as secretary of health and human services. The ex-orthopedic surgeon has criticized Obamacare for increasing the size of the federal government. Following with Trump’s anti-establishment attitude, Price explained, “The problem that I have with Obamacare is that its premise is that Washington knows best.” As Health and Human Services Secretary, Price will oversee funding for Medicare and Medicaid, programs he promised to shrink, the FDA, the Center for disease control and prevention, and the national institutes of health.
A second national legislator appointed to a position on Trump’s cabinet is Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s most controversial selections. Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal judge in the 1980s; however, he was denied the position due to racist remarks, Matt Apuzzo explained in The New York Times. Apuzzo also writes that Sessions has denounced the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as “un-American” and as organizations that “force civil rights down the throats of the people.” Sessions’s appointment has inspired questions about whether the Trump administration is truly dedicated to serving all Americans or if it will normalize things like racism, Islamophobia, and hate speech
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On the international front, Trump appointed the current governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, an appointee with almost no experience in foreign policy, as the US ambassador to the United Nations. In their article for Politico, Nashal Toosy and Alex Isenstadt explained that ex-ambassador Thomas Pickering and Senator Tim Kaine have claimed that Haley’s experience, as governor will help her when she represents the US in the Security Council. However, a UN official labeled her “an unknown in foreign policy.” Haley will have to negotiate with and challenge the veteran Russian ambassador, and her inexperience may hurt her.
Nikki Haley, however, is not the only Washington outsider who has scored a cabinet position. Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin, and Wilbur Ross, all have no experience in public service, but have been chosen for Secretary of Housing and Development, Education Secretary, Treasury Secretary, and Commerce Secretary respectively.
Ben Carson will be tasked with the job of helping to provide housing for impoverished families and enforcing anti-discrimination laws. He has no experience in housing or in public service. According to the Wall Street Journal, Carson “has challenged the Obama administration’s beefed-up enforcement of fair-housing regulations,” but has said little else on specific housing policy.
Unlike Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos has some experience in the field of her department. As a conservative education reformer and billionaire from Michigan, she fought for school vouchers and the deregulation of charter schools. As stated in a BBC article, DeVos will oversee the reduction of the education department and transfer of power to the states will give them more freedom to implement core curriculums and provide schools vouchers (or not). Unlike some of Trump’s other appointees, DeVos hails from the mainstream Republican Party. However, she has no experience in the classroom or in public service.
Like DeVos, who hails from the richest rungs of the American economic ladder, Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, two ultra-wealthy businessmen, will be overseeing international trade, tax policy, job creation, bank regulation, and sustainability. Neil Irwin wrote in The New York Times that Ross and Mnuchin indicated that they will cut taxes for businesses and the middle class.
Ross has criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was negotiated by the Obama administration in an interview on CNBC. In that same interview, Mnuchin denounced parts of Dodd-Frank, legislation that was put in place as way of preventing another recession and that allows for government supervision and regulation of banks and trading.
While these men are experienced in the world of finance, they contradict Trump’s claim that he represents average Americans. Trump campaigned on a populist platform, yet his cabinet is the wealthiest in recent history.
With a relatively inexperienced cabinet and president, Trump and his administration will experience a sharp learning curve when they move into the White House. Ultimately, the success of Trump’s cabinet will determine whether he probes wrong those who believe he will fail or anger those who placed their trust in him.