John L. Micek, 12/1/2016 [Archive]

The Populist and His Crew of Billionaires

The Populist and His Crew of Billionaires

By John L. Micek


A cabinet populated by bankers and wealthy insiders. A $1 million premier package of tickets to the presidential inauguration in January. And a posh dinner with Mr. 47 Percent, himself, Mitt Romney.

If his earliest actions are any guide, America's incoming chief executive isn't so much draining Washington's swamp as he is refilling it with higher quality sludge.

As The Washington Post reports, three of President-elect Donald J. Trump's cabinet picks have personal net worths running to the billions of dollars. One possible pick for energy secretary, Harold Hamm, is worth $15 billion alone.

That's $15 billion - with a "B." Crack open your wallet - do you even have $15 in cash in it right now?

And if you're thinking about heading to Washington for the inaugural festivities, you'd better take out that second mortgage now. Trump and his team are looking to raise an eye-watering and record-breaking $65 million to $75 million to finance inaugural events across the Capital.

They're doing it on the back of high-dollar events that include an "exclusive" luncheon with Trump's cabinet picks; a dinner with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife and a "ladies luncheon" with Ivanka and Melania Trump, The New York Times reported.

The events will run anywhere from $25,000 to as much as $1 million. That's a long way from the hot dogs and chips populism that fueled Trump's packed rallies on the campaign trail earlier this year.

And, just for good measure, Trump's chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, once mused about the possibility of only letting property owners vote. When an associate reminded him that would shut out a lot of black voters, Bannon allegedly said "maybe that's not such a bad thing."

So maybe it's no surprise that the shine went off Trump's populism not long after he entered the halls of power. It was a mirage to begin with.

Keep in mind, this is a guy with a private jet; who lives in a gold-plated penthouse on top of a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, and who has never had a problem showing off the gaudy trappings of his success.

The "blue-collar" billionaire who was going to build a wall; repeal and replace Obamacare and "lock-up" Hillary Clinton has been since been exposed as something much more obvious - and far less surprising - a card-carrying member of the same elite he said he would scourge.

Remember how Trump teed off on Hillary Clinton's six-figure speeches to Goldman Sachs during his rallies? Well, it's not such a nest of vipers that he's above raiding it for two of his cabinet picks.

Trump's choice for treasury secretary is former Goldman partner Stephen Mnuchin. Another Goldman executive, Gary Cohn, might be tapped for budget director.

As Politico notes, after a decade in the "wilderness," the Wall Street firm that was the embodiment of the financial collapse is set for a big-time return to Washington and maybe even a rehabilitation of its battered public image.

After all, as recently as October, Trump was Tweeting that Clinton was "[meeting] in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich" her donors.

Putting aside the disturbingly undertones of anti-Semitism from candidate Trump in that 140-character burst, President-elect Trump now seems to find that international cabal of bankers perfectly acceptable.

Again, that's no surprise.

It's always been accepted wisdom that Trump, a Washington outsider, with little to no existing political network, was going to have to turn to Washington's elite and veteran Republican hands to populate his administration.

On the one hand, that's a good sign because it means that some of Trump's more radical campaign trail proposals will be moderated.

And despite the presence of Bannon, the white nationalist Trump-whisperer at his side, both Mnuchin and Cohn are Jewish, which means some of the uglier, dog-whistle tactics of the campaign might be jettisoned as well.

But that again might leave the blue-collar voters who packed Trump's rallies wondering what they signed on for.

If Trump doesn't repeal and replace all of Obamacare, doesn't bring back coal or manufacturing jobs, but instead doles out goodies to the 1 percent in the form of tax cuts (as a Republican Congress will no doubt demand), there could be some restlessness in the cheap seats.

At the Sex Pistols' notorious final live show at San Francisco's Winterland in 1978, lead singer Johnny Rotten asked the crowd, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

After 18 months of being promised the Earth - and the moon to boot - Trump's hardcore supporters might want find themselves asking the same thing.

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© Copyright 2016 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at jmicek@pennlive.com.

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