Since my last update on the subject, Trump has made several more important appointments, or at least hinted as to whom he would choose for a slew of positions. Here’s a breakdown of Who’s Who in Trump’s Administration:
Secretary of the Treasury: Steven Mnuchin (m-NEW-chin) (Expected/unconfirmed.)
Steven Mnuchin is “a financier with deep roots on Wall Street and in Hollywood but no government experience” (sound familiar?). He is a Goldman Sachs alum, which may come as a surprise to anyone who believed anything Trump said while he was running, such as that he was determined to take on Wall Street and take back America from the hands of financial and political elites. (This is, however, far from the only appointment or potential appointment to Trump’s inner circle that contradicts the tone of his populist, champion-of-the-working-class campaign.)
Mnuchin served as Trump’s campaign finance chairman. From the Wall Street Journal:
Despite his successful Wall Street career, Mr. Mnuchin has no experience running a massive organization—the Treasury Department has 86,000 employees—or in economic or financial policy making. The biggest entity Mr. Mnuchin has run was the technology division of Goldman, which had over 5,000 employees.
Mnuchin also worked alongside George Soros and others to buy a bank from the government in 2008. Trump and his people, meanwhile, have been spreading rumors that Soros is paying for protestors to be bused in and out of cities just to make Trump look bad. Nevermind that this would be a huge waste of money on Soros’s part, as the People can and will rise against Trump with or without any financial aid; if Trump himself believed this to be true, wouldn’t he be hesitant to give an old business partner of Soros’s oversight of the US Treasury?
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Georgia Representative Tom Price (Confirmed.)
Tom Price has drafted a full replacement for the Affordable Care Act called the Empowering Patients First Act. This would get rid of the mandatory health insurance rule, whereby if you’re not insured, you have to pay far out the ass in taxes; but it would also make it harder for patients to win malpractice suits, and make it easier for doctors to enter into private contracts with Medicare, meaning they can eschew Medicare’s structure at will and impose higher prices for their services than would be allowed under current Medicare rules. From the New York Times:
One particularly contentious provision would limit the amount of tax-free coverage that workers could receive from their employers. The limits would be set at $8,000 for coverage of an individual employee and $20,000 for family coverage, with adjustments for inflation in later years.
The Fiscal Times explores in depth each of the following Big Changes Under Tom Price’s Obamacare Replacement Plan:
- Obamacare would be scrapped, including the government-run insurance markets in every state, the mandates on individuals and businesses and federal tax credits to subsidize the insurance of lower income Americans.
- People with pre-existing medical conditions or chronic illnesses couldn’t be denied coverage under Price’s approach — provided they had continuous insurance for 18 months before choosing a new policy. That’s a big caveat.
- Price would seek expanded use of health savings accounts to allow people to save income before taxes to pay for future health care needs (a clear sign of transferring the burden of America’s health care costs from the government back to the consumer).
- Price would likely roil businesses by imposing a cap on the amount of money that companies could deduct from their taxes to defray the cost of providing health insurance to their workers.
- Price would repeal the expanded Medicaid coverage in 32 states and the District of Columbia for able-bodied single people and leave those current beneficiaries to fend for themselves on the open market.
- Price’s plan would allow consumers to shop around for health insurance across state lines, just as they might for any other insurance product.
- “Finally, the Price proposals would foster an insurance market very welcoming to young, healthy and financially self-sufficient people but hostile to sicker and older people. For one thing, it would eliminate Obamacare-style mandates for insurers to include a standard package of benefits such as maternity services and pediatric care and allow them to offer cheaper, less comprehensive policies to younger people who are looking for a bargain.“
Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos (Confirmed.)
Betsy DeVos is “a school choice activist and Republican fund-raiser” who helped pass Michigan’s first charter-school bill. The Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that the selection has unions terrified. After the announcement was made that DeVos would be Secretary of Education, American labor leader, attorney and educator Randi Weingarten tweeted: “Trump has chosen the most ideological, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Dept of Education.”
During an interview in 2013, DeVos said “What we are trying to do is tear down the mindset that assigns students to a school based solely on the zip code of their family’s home. We think of the educational choice movement as involving many parts: vouchers and tax credits, certainly, but also virtual schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools.”
Honestly, this is the least offensive appointment Trump has made so far, to the best of my knowledge. I’m all for unions, and I will reserve my praise for DeVos for when she’s actually in office and actually makes a positive difference. But if we are to take her at her word, I for one agree that children should not be forced to go to particular schools just because they happen to live near them. At the same time, I am painfully aware that school choice might result in wealthier students being able to attend other schools while lower-income students are forced to continue attending their less-funded public school.
This is already largely the case; San Francisco is a perfect example. Many San Francisco public schools are majority-minority, meaning most students at any given SF public school are children of color. In San Francisco in 2013, 41.6% of the overall population was white, according to the Census estimate. Of the city’s population age 19 and under, 28.7% were white. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 12.9% of San Francisco public school students were white, while Asians and Latinos accounted for the majority of the student population. San Francisco Public Press offered this possible explanation:
The average white San Franciscan makes three times more money than the average black resident. Whites on average also make 66 percent more money than Latinos, and 44 percent more than Asians. Possibly as a result of this wealth, white children are much more likely to be enrolled in private schools than other racial groups.
At the elementary level, the overall San Francisco public school student body is about 16.4% white, far above the district average; by middle school, however, that number drops to 10.9%. By high school, only 8.9% of students are white.
So while school choice sounds more just and liberating than the current system, we have to ask ourselves Who does it liberate?
For whom will school become a choice, and for whom might it remain assigned?
How will we either empower those who cannot make a choice to do so (i.e., offer a variety of schools that are free, just like existing public schools are) or ensure that there’s no penalty for not choosing because the assigned schools are just as resourced, and the teachers therein just as qualified, as parent-chosen schools?
Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao (Confirmed.)
Elaine Chao is “a veteran of past Republican administrations who is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.” She is also a former labor secretary. From CNN:
At the Transportation Department, Chao would have a key role in helping Trump get an infrastructure spending bill passed through Congress and start government-backed works projects — a role likely to be complicated by her relationship with McConnell, who will also be a critical player in any infrastructure bill negotiations.
Chao is yet another well-connected establishment figure to be appointed to a top position by Trump. From the LA Times:
Chao’s establishment ties conflict with Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington and promote outsiders to lead his government. But Chao’s connections could be an asset in Trump’s plan to promote a major infrastructure proposal that could face resistance from within his party.