What’s behind Trump cabinet choices

Capitalism in crisis

Since the election, the corporate media have focused on the president-elect’s cabinet and senior White House staff appointments, often announced by tweets and leaks.

The contention among ruling-class factions over coordinating vast government ministries is still a vicious fight, involving subterfuge, leaks, sudden scandals and personal exposés of past dirty deeds. Enormous profits hang in the balance.

The individuals nominated are overwhelmingly reactionaries and billionaires. Their appointments confirm a new stage of all-out war on poor and working people. This overreach may provoke a new phase of militant class struggle from below.

Departments overseeing public education, health care, housing and environmental protection are in the hands of administrators committed to their dismantlement and destruction.

The appointments confirm that no section of the working class belongs to Donald Trump’s real base. His cronies are overwhelmingly corporate billionaires and hedge-fund operators, all people from his narrow, privileged strata.

His cabinet will be the wealthiest in U.S. history. Preservation of their positions and personal profit will drive the administration.

Despite his many campaign attacks on Goldman Sachs and on Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wall Street, Trump appointments include three present or former Goldman Sachs bankers and other billionaire investors, plus CEOs of big corporations.

Each of Trump’s appointments will be dealing with government services that dispense billions of dollars in tax revenues to private corporations.

Trump’s cabinet and capitalism

What do Trump’s appointments say about the capitalist system itself?

For three generations the U.S. ruling class has bought social peace at home in order to fight wars abroad. But the decay of capitalism, deindustrialization, a globalized economy and the flight of capital chasing the lowest possible wages has undermined past gains of the U.S. working class.

Even before the Trump election, the United States had fallen behind every other industrialized country on measurable standards of life expectancy, infant mortality and educational levels.

The drive to maximize profits is becoming more ruthless. Every social gain won through decades of class struggle in the U.S. is under attack.

During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly called out Goldman Sachs for hurting the working class. He nevertheless chose the president of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, to head the powerful White House National Economic Council.

He named Steven Mnuchin, who worked at Goldman Sachs for 17 years, as Treasury secretary. Wilbur Ross, CEO of the investment banking company Rothschild Inc. and worth $2.5 billion, was nominated to head the Department of Commerce.

A New York Times Dec. 10 headline applauded these cabinet choices as “tough-minded.”

Such “tough-minded” choices include multimillionaire Betty DeVos as secretary of the Department of Education. Her goal is to undermine public education and give school vouchers to finance private and religious schools.

Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services wants to gut the Affordable Care Act. He is co-sponsor of a bill to grant fetuses equal protection under the 14th Amendment and is for banning health coverage and all federal funding for abortion.

Jeff Sessions, named as attorney general, is a Republican senator from Alabama whose focus is on ruthless immigration policies. He is a racist advocate of mass incarceration, with the excuse of fighting addictive drugs.

Andrew Puzder as secretary of Labor is a fast food CEO who opposes a federal minimum-wage increase.

Republican Congress member Mike Pompeo, who urged Congress to re-establish bulk collection of domestic calling records, was named director of the CIA.

Trump’s military choices should be a wake-up call for those who had an illusion that Trump would have a less threatening approach than Clinton, who talked of a “no-fly zone” in Syria, expansion of NATO and encirclement of Russia and China.

He named Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis as secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as secretary of Homeland Security and retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. All of these generals are considered extreme militarists, even by Pentagon standards.

Disbelief in climate change and a strong alliance with the oil and coal industries are the qualifications of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to head the Interior Department. She supports drilling on Native American treaty lands and opening untouched federal lands.

Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency calls for “freedom for American businesses” and an end to regulations.

To anyone concerned with the environment, climate change and war, the expected nomination of Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil — “big oil” — as secretary of State is especially ominous. ExxonMobil is the most powerful force in climate change denial and has multibillion dollar investments in the Middle East, Russia, China, Venezuela and beyond.

The way forward

The fierce struggle in the ruling class that is emerging among contending corporate interests will further destabilize the political process and undercut confidence in capitalist order. The Democratic Party will make every effort to steer this into safe, controlled electoral channels.

The sheer scale of the assault on the working class projected by these nominations will awaken an unprecedented resistance from the most oppressed.

The role of revolutionary leadership is to help arouse a working-class resistance that fights in its own interests.