The Trump Presidential Train Wreck: A Preliminary Assessment

Donald Trump lied and weaseled his way through business dealings and bankruptcy, yet won the White House despite having no political experience. His presidential campaign was marked by gaffes and misstatements, and triggered circus-like media coverage that obsessed over his rhetoric and paid little heed to his likely policies.

The mainstream media and political establishment has yet to figure out how to deal with Trump. He still sounds as unhinged and arrogant as he did on the campaign trail, while his administration has been held together with help from former Goldman Sachs alumni and neocons who hopped on the Trump bandwagon.

So what has the Trump administration accomplished to date?

He and Republicans came up short of an outright repeal of Obamacare, but they’ve deregulated and defunded the system at the state level. On October 12 he issued an executive order claiming it would make the marketplace more competitive. In reality,  it will keep Americans from signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  In addition, Trump recently gave employers’ the right to choose whether their health insurance plans will cover birth control.

For Trump, environmental protection is seen as an impediment to grabbing resources and profits. His Department of Interior is pushing an unprecedented attack on the Antiquities Act and the National Park Service. Trump’s EPA has handed the agency over to energy lobbyists, while scientists are pushed out and the administration promotes Arctic oil drilling projects. Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing to gut or repeal the Endangered Species Act and rules on clean water and air.

Trump’s foreign policy has been an extension of the reckless interventionism of his predecessors. He’s deployed additional  forces in Afghanistan and Syria, and dispatched new troops to Niger, Cameroon, Uganda and South Sudan, with no clear strategy for what the U.S. is doing there. Depending on which day of the week it is, Trump threatens war in North Korea, Venezuela, Iran or elsewhere. One of these days it seems inevitable that he’ll move forward.

Democrats and Republicans joined together to give the Trump administration $700 billion for the military budget, which was more than requested and an increase of $70 billion from the previous year. Multibillion dollar weapons deals with Saudi Arabia continue to fuel human rights abuses in Yemen.

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos is pursuing privatization through deregulation. She has scaled back federal loans for college students, rescinded campus sexual assault guidelines, and revoked public service college loan forgiveness.  The Republican tax plan makes it exceedingly difficult for graduate students to complete their education without being further burdened by debt.

Trump has targeted civil and voting rights, and made a personal crusade of opposing NFL protests started by Colin Kaepernick against racism and police brutality. He has pushed to ban transgender persons from serving in the military, and his attorney general ended workplace discrimination protections for them. His immigration policy is based on xenophobia, especially towards those seeking to come to the U.S. from poor  countries.

Despite the 1 percent’s uncertainty about Trump, mostly due to his instability and general unpopularity, it has immensely profited from Trump’s presidency. His administration passed a tax reform bill that provides drastic cuts for the wealthy and an even larger burden on the middle class, and is seeking to slash budgets for social programs that have been gutted for decades.

In a sense, Trump’ may be less interested in major programatic accomplishments than he is in quietly and relentlessly stripping away impediments to greater political and economic power for the corporate class. It’s a pretty grim picture, especially given the feckless pushback by top Democrats.

It remains to be seen if the country will learn anything from last year’s awful election between two supremely terrible candidates, and the early stages of Trump’s presidency. If not, we appear headed towards a period of unparalleled economic prosperity for the few and a road to nowhere for the rest of us.

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