This is What it Looks Like to Starve the Beast

What do we call it when an Education Secretary has no public school experience and seeks to supplant public schools with voucherized Christian charter schools to “build God’s kingdom”?

What do we call it when a nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator is suing the EPA for regulations on carbon emissions and water pollution?

What do we call a nominee for Labor Secretary who opposes unions, minimum wage, and worker protection laws such as mandatory breaks?

What do we call a nominee for Energy Secretary who once vowed to eliminate the Energy Department when he ran for president, and had no clue until after his nomination the Energy Department’s role as a steward for the nation’s nuclear arsenal?

What do we call a Department of Housing and Urban Development director whose only HUD experience is growing up in low-income housing in Detroit, who stated individual effort, not government programs, are the key to overcoming poverty?

What do we call a Health and Human Services Secretary who feels healthcare is a privilege, not a right, seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and, as a congressman, benefited from health industry stock trades?

What do we call a Secretary of State with no government experience but is “qualified” for his business acumen?

What about a Treasury Secretary with no government experience but is “qualified” for his business acumen?

And a Commerce Secretary with, you guessed it, no government experience but is “qualified” for his what? Business acumen.

Three words: STARVE THE BEAST.

“Starving the beast” is a political strategy coined by former Reagan budget director David Stockman. Basically, the goal is to eliminate government spending (the “beast”) by defunding vital government departments so those departments collapse under their own weight. Republican lawmakers can then return to their constituents and report that, just as predicted all along, those government agencies were a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Since it’s been around since Reagan, it’s hardly new. But make no mistake, Republicans have been hard at work at it for the past three and a half decades. Now they have a President, a businessman, who promises to enact a pro-business agenda complete with privatizing our nation’s most indispensable agencies. Public education could fail under an administration that works to undermine it in favor of corporate charter schools not required to adhere the same academic and professional standards like state teacher certification, gender and cultural diversity, and curricular oversight. We will not be able to confront the imminent dangers of climate change without a vigorous Energy Department advocating for alternative energy. We will not keep our lakes, rivers, and coastlines free of industrial waste without a robust EPA. We can forget about workers’ rights with a Labor Secretary beholden strictly to profit at the detriment to workers’ safety, security, and sovereignty.

It is no accident Donald Trump appointed Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Andrew Puzder, Rex Tillerson, Ben Carson, Tom Price, Jeff Sessions, and Steven Mnuchin, among others, to man the country’s most important posts. If there’s one thing we hear most from the business milieu, it’s that “Regulations are killing jobs. If we just get government out of the way, all will be right with the world.”

That’s the mantra of the political party bought and paid for wholesale by special interests. Republicans love to tout “smaller government”, but have no problem with government when it works to protect their lobbyists. They cry about eliminating welfare programs when those programs benefit the underprivileged and minorities, but will fight tooth and nail against their elimination when it comes to corporate welfare. The Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, in 2015 received $7.8 billion in government subsidies; McDonald’s: $1.2 billion; Goldman-Sachs: $207.7 billion; JP Morgan Chase: $485.6 billion; Morgan Stanley: $115.9 billion; Bank of America: $457.1 billion; Boeing: $8.3 billion; General Electric: $2.6 billion. This is what you and I are handing to these companies despite their record profits and what they are–or are not–paying their employees.

Trump’s cabinet symbolizes what Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address in 1981: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

And present-day Republicans LOVE Saint Reagan. They love him so much (maybe more than Libertarians love Ayn Rand), they have adopted Reagan’s slogan as their business model.

Yes, regulations can be onerous at times, causing enormous headaches. Why should you obtain that building permit before construction of your new deck? Why should you get your car inspected each year? Why should doctors and teachers have licenses? Why should lawyers and doctors be held to ethics codes? Why not permit gas station owners to gouge their prices and water-down their fuel? Why not allow that chemical company to dump its industrial waste into the river? Why shouldn’t the pharmaceutical industry release untested drugs? Why shouldn’t health insurance companies be able to drop someone’s coverage if he or she gets seriously ill? Why should we stop for stopped school buses? Why pay taxes? With regulations out of the way, wouldn’t life be easier? We can trust people to do the right thing, right?

Perhaps occasionally. Regulations keep people honest and safe. Maybe I sound a bit naive, but I actually believe most people will do the right thing when given the chance. However, corporations are not people, contrary to what the Supreme Court says, and when there are obscene amounts of money to be made and loopholes to exploit, can we really trust corporations to protect us from being poisoned, sick, or poor?

The anti-government wave on which Trump rode into the White House has the potential to unravel the very system delineated in those immortal words in the Preamble to the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”.

Call your senators, especially if they are Republicans, and express your disapproval to Trump’s cabinet picks. Yes, they’re getting confirmed, but if the historic tie-breaking vote of Vice President Pence in the confirmation of Betsy DeVos is any indication, our outcry is not falling on deaf ears. If it were, VP Pence would not have had to step in to break a tie vote for a cabinet confirmation for the first time in history, especially for a position as traditionally ignominious as Education Secretary.


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