Could it be that Republicans believe President Trump will actually “Make American Great Again?” Nah! They know that’s just a campaign slogan to enthuse his base.
Are they enamored by his visionary leadership? That’s laughable! Virtually everything Trump does is transactional, without much consideration of the consequences. He decides issues based on his gut feelings at the time, like abruptly pulling U.S. troops out of Northern Syria and ordering a drone strike on Iranian General Qassim Soleimani.
Perhaps it’s Trump’s unwavering conservative ideology? Oh my! No! Republicans see their president as totally focused on himself. That’s why they try to stroke his ego so they can shape the policies he supports. I suspect that Trump can be talked into supporting just about anything if he thinks it will enhance his image. And I’m sure he’s being told by his conservative advisors that dismantling the “oppressive” federal government will make him a Republican hero.
That’s why my concerns spiked when Trump’s then-chief advisor, Steve Bannon, proclaimed in February 2017 that Trump would, “deconstruct the administrative state.” Was this Trump speaking through Bannon, or was Bannon attempting to nudge Trump toward this right-wing objective? Either way, conservatives at their annual CPAC meeting loved it.
So, just what is this amorphous threat that Bannon claims that Trump will take apart? Well, it’s the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Departments of Labor and Education – among others – and the Dodd-Frank regulations on the financial industry.
Obviously, Bannon has been getting his way. The Trump administration has spent the past three years trashing every regulation they can and hollowing out various federal agencies. The “too big to fail” banks that were bailed out by taxpayers after they caused the Great Recession are high-fiving. The energy, chemical and other industries that had previously been restricted from filling our air and water with pollutants and despoiling our federal lands are ecstatic too.
This war that Trump is waging on executive branch departments got me thinking about how American citizens have been losing power to the special interest money that floods the political system – and how government is our only protection against corporate hegemony.
Fact is, the federal government has been pushing back against corporate power for over a century. Oligarchs of the early 1900s, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, etc. were called “robber barons” for good reason. They built their empires and became fabulously wealthy by exploiting American workers, many of them children ages 10 to 15 or younger. It was only after Washington politicians began focusing on industrial age abuses during this period that things started to change.
Most Americans remember Republican President Theodor Roosevelt (1901-1909) as the “trust buster” who dismantled J. P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Company, a behemoth railroad trust and John D. Rockefeller’s massive Standard Oil Company. But many other dramatic changes were occurring in the U.S. around this time.
In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution clarified that Congress could increase revenues by imposing taxes on income and the 17th established that U.S. senators would be elected by the popular vote. With the 19th Amendment in 1920, women finally achieved the right to cast a ballot, which was really huge.
Unfortunately, the excesses of the “Guilted Age” of the late 19th century and “Roaring Twenties” culminated in the Great Depression of 1929. Unemployment reached a peak of almost 25 percent by 1933 and remained above 14 percent until 1940.
It was during the dismal 1930s period that labor unions began to flourish and Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to enact much of his progressive “New Deal” legislation, including the Social Security Act of 1935. The GOP has been trying to rollback these achievements ever since.
The top rate on individual taxpayers was 7 percent in 1913 and the top corporate rate was 1 percent. But during World War II, the top tax rate soared to 94 percent on individuals and 40 percent on corporations. These high rates supported an expanding, more socially responsible federal government and the individual rate remained north of 90 percent until 1964.
Another decade of landmark, progressive legislation occurred in the 1960s, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Medicare and Medicaid amendments to the Social Security Act. Republicans want to weaken or bulldoze these important social legislative accomplishments too.
I believe the anti-labor, low-tax policies of conservatives hark back to the early 1900s when the federal government wasn’t involved in education, health care and extensive regulation of corporations. They plan to emasculate the government by cutting off its revenues. And Republicans cheer Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as he packs the federal judiciary with right-wing judges that will strike down or weaken existing progressive laws and block any social legislation that Democrats might pass.
Sure, candidate Donald Trump claimed he wouldn’t touch Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – but he lies about everything. When President Trump was recently asked if “entitlements” would be on his plate he replied, “At some point they will be. And at the right time, we will take a look at that.”
No doubt, Republicans realize they have finally found an unscrupulous leader in Trump who will help them turn the clock back to the era of American oligarchs. Is it any wonder why they’re so desperate to keep him in office?