- Created: Wednesday, 05 April 2017 13:32
- Written by Steve Palmer
So much Trump, so little space. The first two months of the Trump presidency have been nothing if not eventful. We’ll go through his achievements. Most spectacularly, his promised ban on Muslims entering the United States crashed, brought down by massive protests throughout the US, and by Federal judges who have ruled the ban unconstitutional. His revised ban, pruned of its more obviously discriminatory features such as exceptions for Christians, has now met the same legal fate, although this time the Trump administration has promised to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s plans to repeal ‘Obamacare’ – the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) – have met noisy demonstrations up and down the country. There are thousands of people who would be dead without the AHCA, and many, many more whose quality of life would be far worse. Republican lawmakers have found it impossible to craft legislation that would replace it without harming a significant slice of their constituents, and at lower cost than the AHCA. Trump was warned by Republicans in Congress that change could not come quickly, but he insisted that it go to a vote so he could shame moderate Republicans. The votes proved impossible to achieve and the Republican leadership pulled the bill. Unable to tweet his way out of this failure with ‘alternative facts’, Trump is loudly blaming the Democrats and liberal media. Sad!
Crisis after crisis
The Trump administration has failed to make real progress with its transition. Unlike in Britain, where career civil servants head administration departments, key executive positions in the US administration are filled with political appointees, nominated by the incoming president. Of 553 key positions – which include cabinet secretaries, deputy and assistant secretaries, general counsel, heads of agencies and ambassadors – 20 have been confirmed, 37 await confirmation and 496 still await nominations. Whether this is a problem or an achievement depends on who you listen to. For most of the media and experienced politicians this is a serious deficit; for Donald Trump it is part of his plan to slim down government. We don’t take a position on how best to run imperialism, but this would explain why the Trump administration seems to be staggering from one crisis to the next.
The President has, however, been busy with important activities, hitting the golf links 11 times since the beginning of his term, as well as some five visits (costing $2m-$3m in security costs per visit) to his Mar-a-Lago luxury mansion, dubbed by Trump as the ‘winter White House’, in Palm Beach, Florida. While we’re mentioning security extravagances, Trump’s wife Melania, who is living in New York instead of Washington DC, costs the New York Police Department between $127,000 and $145,000 per day – about $18m per year.
Trump has made a point of singling out North Korea, which he has claimed is ‘behaving badly’, while its leader is a ‘whack job’. What elevates this above the normal level of Trump tweetery is that his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has threatened the use of force against North Korea, at a time when the US and South Korea are engaged in military exercises, involving hundreds of thousands of personnel in and around South Korea.
Domestically, Judge Neil Gorsuch is going through confirmation hearings to sit on the Supreme Court, filling the seat left vacant by the death of conservative Judge Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed, restoring the Court’s 5-4 conservative majority, at a time when immigrants’ and minorities’ rights are coming under assault from the right, as well as the right to abortion, workers’ rights, environmental protection and other progressive gains.
Military spending balloons
Trump has released the preliminary proposal of his 2018 budget. ‘Defence’ (ie war) spending is up by $52bn to $639bn; Veteran’s Affairs is up by $7.9bn to $78.9bn; Homeland Security gets $48.6bn. In order to pay for the massive increase in war spending and the border wall with Mexico, the budget will make equally massive cuts in discretionary spending: Education gets cut by 13%; Health and Human Services cut by 16%; Labor loses 21%; Agriculture is cut by a similar proportion; the Environmental Protection Agency is gutted with a cut of over 31%. The budget will eliminate 19 agencies and departments, including the African Development Foundation, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (long a target of conservatives), Institute of Museum and Library Services, US Trade and Development Agency, the Legal Services Corporation (largest funder of legal aid in the US), the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities (cultural sponsorship), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the US Institute of Peace and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. Many of these are institutions of imperialist so-called ‘soft power’, as Marine General Anthony Zinni reminded Congress in 2011 about the US Institute of Peace: ‘You will find the institute’s competent work behind practically every American success in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has undertaken missions from the Balkans and Sudan to the Philippines and Somalia...[it] is like the Marine Corps or special forces for foreign affairs and peace-building.’
Trump is reaction and racism all along the line. What we have yet to see clearly is how far Congress, dominated by Republicans in both houses, is prepared to let Trump have his way. One thing is clear though: every opportunity must be taken to oppose and protest against the Trump programme in its entirety.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 256 April/May 2017