Day 1: Trump Unveiled
“Trump Unveiled ” appears in the “Our First 100 Days” issue of Lumpen magazine. Illustration above is a painting called Sinister, By Tom Torluemke.
by John K. Wilson
The presidency of Donald Trump is still a mystery waiting to be unraveled. It is easy to predict that such an awful person will make an awful president, but it is not yet certain precisely how Trump will be so awful. We already know that Trump will be appointing people with terrible ideas to fulfill his terrible promises. Trump’s cabinet seems destined to be the worst in history: a mixture of billionaires and ideologues devoted to destroying the idea of a government that helps the poor, using outsourcing and crony capitalism to build a model of government subservient to corporations and the wealthiest.
By winning the presidential election, Trump has established himself as the greatest con artist in history. He was already one of the great con artists ever: defrauding the suckers who enrolled at Trump “University,” using the Trump Foundation to benefit himself in ways big and small, running his companies into bankruptcy and then scamming banks and shareholders to eliminate his personal debts, all while avoiding $916 million in income taxes because of losses he made other people pay for.
Trump was a buffoonish billionaire posing as the voice of the working class. He won because he simultaneously pretended to be a conservative (attacking Clinton, promising to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices) and a liberal (embracing some left-wing economic goals), all while pushing his populist xenophobia. This combination of positions, along with his bigoted personality, made him widely hated among the American people, more so than anyone else ever elected president in modern times.
Almost no one loves or trusts Trump. But his extraordinary skills as a con artist allowed him to overcome that. Most of all, what Trump offered was hope. For anyone who hoped for some kind of improvement in America, or any type of change in their lives, Trump embraced every false hope possible. He promised jobs, success, wealth, victory in every foreign conflict without having any foreign conflicts, and everything else Americans might dream of. It was the Trump University fraud writ large, a scam on a scale and with a chutzpah unmatched by any presidential candidate in American history.
Trump appealed to the new white nationalism based on a fabricated sense of victimization and grievance. Among Trump voters, forty-five percent think that white people face “a lot of discrimination” in America today. Only forty percent of Trump supporters think that Muslims face a lot of discrimination, and discrimination was one of his campaign planks. A mere twenty-two percent of Trump voters think that black people encounter a lot of discrimination, half of those who believe this about whites. A substantial number of white Americans believe in the delusion that they are an oppressed group, and delusional thinking was at the core of Trump’s support.
A successful con artist needs a gullible and ignorant audience willing to believe their lies, and Trump found that in his favorite group of people: whites without a college education. In the election exit polls, college educated whites supported Trump by four points, while non-college educated whites supported Trump by thirty-nine points. That gap was 2-3 points in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was elected. As Trump famously explained, “I love the poorly educated.”
For a con artist like Trump, his focus will be on giving a public demonstration of small-scale symbolic achievements, while behind the scenes he runs the government the way he wants, to serve himself and the interests of the super-rich.
Trump’s policies and his appointees will cause enormous damage. Trump has promised to destroy affordable health care for millions of Americans by repealing Obamacare. He has promised corporate de-regulation of exactly the kind that led to the housing bubble and the Bush Recession in 2008. He has promised massive destruction of the environment because he thinks the overwhelming scientific evidence of global climate change is a Chinese plot against America. No segment of the government—and no part of the world—will be immune from the damage Trump is likely to do.
The Trump Administration will use executive orders and administrative rules to annihilate the few progressive reforms enacted by Barack Obama. The president has enormous power over immigration policy, and Trump is likely to fulfill his promise to ban many Muslims from entering the country, and to launch a crackdown on undocumented people. In education, Trump will undermine public schools with voucher programs and allow for-profit institutions to prevail. In labor, Trump will seek to destroy the right to unionize, and undermine protections for workers. Veterans will see veteran hospitals replaced with insurance vouchers. In trade, Trump will seek to help corporations while pretending to stand up for workers. In the environment, Trump will open up federal lands to oil, gas, and coal companies, and remove many regulations. In discrimination, Trump will make the federal government a barrier to equal rights rather than a defender of it. Trump has already promised to increase American forces fighting in the Middle East, and his inept diplomatic skills, attacks on American alliances, and propensity for personal revenge are likely to cause future wars.
And if Trump, a pathological liar, decides to break his promises to protect entitlements, increase infrastructure investments, and improve child care, his rule will be far worse than even his promises would be if fulfilled.
The damage that Trump and a Republican Congress can do to the budget is even more frightening. For the next four years, Trump’s worst enemy will not be ISIS, China, Mexico, disorganized Democrats, disaffected leftists, or disinterested journalists. No, Trump’s biggest opponent will be math. Trump ran a con-artist campaign, promising trillions of dollars in tax cuts, trillions of dollars in new spending, a balanced budget, four percent economic growth, jobs for everyone, and every other fantasy a politician can offer to gullible voters. Every politician makes promises they can’t fulfill, but no president has ever made more impossible-to-deliver promises than Trump.
Math is also the enemy of America under a Trump presidency, because if he can enact even a small proportion of his budgetary promises, the deficit will spiral out of control. The only possible way to keep the deficit under $1 trillion will be massive cuts in the areas where Trump didn’t promise more spending: social services, education, science, the environment, and much more are under dire threat from President Trump and a Republican Congress.
The presidency gives Trump enormous power to wreak havoc and cause massive damage to Americans and people around the world.