When Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, what exactly did he mean? Did he himself know? The inference was that he wanted to rid Washington of all its insiders that were ruining the country, particularly the ensconced politicians and the lobbyists. But he also railed against Wall Street and the moneyed elite. These were in cahoots with Washington to produce legislation that would benefit them financially, even if it damaged working men and women in various ways.

As a supposed populist, it was assumed by his supporters that their needs would be foremost in what Trump did as president. However, in naming his proposed cabinet members and advisors, Trump has tapped no one from the working class, preferring to have multi-millionaires and billionaires help him set policy. Doesn’t do much for his populist bona fides.

And after his diatribes against the Wall Street banks during his campaign, he has brought current or former Goldman Sachs executives into his cabinet and as major advisors. Isn’t this rather a strange sequence of events? Does he really expect these wealthy individuals to come up with ideas that will help the middle and lower working classes? Aren’t they the swamp dwellers he was describing?

Trump also campaigned against free trade and the trade deals that America was involved with, telling his supporters that these deals had stolen American jobs and lowered American wages. He was going to renegotiate these trade deals or renege on them if he couldn’t make them better for America. But Goldman Sachs has been a major beneficiary of free trade and the various deals, advising domestic and foreign corporations on these deals and lending money when necessary. Now, Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, his Director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, and one of his senior advisors, Steven Bannon, have all cut their teeth at Goldman Sachs. (Cohn was the president and COO of Goldman.) Are they going to be the ones to revise the trade deals to help the little guys in America? Don’t bet on it.

Draining the swamp also implied making America fairer. Yet, Trump wanted special consideration by the Senate for his cabinet appointees. He asked that they be approved quickly, even before they had finished filling out their financial forms to eliminate any conflicts of interest or ethical problems. But on the other hand, Trump himself never released his tax forms while he was running for office, claiming they were being audited. (The IRS said that would not stop them from being made public.) No other presidential candidate in modern history has failed to release his taxes to public scrutiny. And as president-elect, Trump has still not released his taxes. What is in these forms that he does not want Americans to see?

The Republican Party has stood for free trade for decades. (Are they considered swamp dwellers?) How will the party establishment react when Trump extricates the United States from all the trade deals that have been in place? And what about TPP, the Trans Pacific Agreement that was not ratified by Congress? This was negotiated with the idea of constraining China and if America backs out, it virtually gives free rein to China in the Pacific regarding trade deals with other nations. Is that part of draining the swamp? The benefits of trade have to be weighed against the adverse effects when doing deals. Some groups may be hurt, but it may be advantageous to the nation as a whole.

And does draining the swamp include deporting all undocumented Mexicans with the negative effects that will have on the American economy? Polls have shown that more Mexicans have been leaving the country in the last few years than coming in. So is spending precious money on the wall at America’s southern border really necessary, when so many other things need to be done?

Draining the swamp is really a metaphor for getting rid of all the bad guys. So that should be Trump’s goal. Just not sure he’s the person to do it, particularly after his choices for cabinet posts and advisors. But the country has at least four years to see how he does and hope for the best. However, it’s hard to be an optimist these days.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Columnist
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