"President Obama is a very good man. I will seek his counsel in the future"
-- Donald Trump (November 10, 2016)
The honeymoon with his supporters did not last long, did it?
I begin with 2 statements:
1. Donald Trump is not part of what is sometimes called "the conspiracy."
2. he will be alive on January 20, 2017.
We are about to see the capture of Donald Trump. It has already begun.
The mainstream media are beginning to see this. By January 20, it should be clear to anybody who wants to look at his nominees for the top cabinet positions. CNN's headline has it right: Team Trump is already filled with Washington insiders (http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/politics/donald-trump-transition-drain-the-swamp).
We have already learned that the transition team has approached Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase.
He was offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury.
Anyone who thinks that this would be an improvement over the former CEO's from Goldman Sachs is living in a fantasy world.
The handwriting is on the wall. We can expect more of the same. We had better expect more of the same.
Just for the record, the phrase "handwriting on the wall" comes from the fifth chapter of the book of Daniel. May I remind you, that was originally written in Hebrew, and Hebrew is written from right to left. So is everything in Washington. You should also recall what the handwriting said.
And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. His is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. ekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians (vv. 25-28).
That was a revolution. It was not just a coup d'état. Accept no substitutes.
There are two cabinet positions that really matter in every presidential administration. This goes back to Washington's first administration. First, there is the Secretary of State. Second, there is the Secretary of the Treasury.
The other cabinet positions of importance are the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, which determines who is going to get prosecuted, and the Department of Homeland Security, which is the real enforcement arm of the government.
Watch who gets appointed to these five positions. That will tell you the direction of the Trump administration.
All of the rest of the departments are agencies for the enforcement of rules designed by special-interest groups and cartels. If President Trump is really serious about undermining the federal government, he will leave these other positions unfilled for four years. In doing so, he would help de-legitimize each of the departments. All but one should be shut down. Of course, so should the Department of Homeland Security. But it is not possible for a President to shut them down, so he can at least send a message: these departments are irrelevant, and ought to be shut down. No one should be appointed to run any of them. I am speaking of these departments: Agriculture, Education, Transportation, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Commerce, and Interior. If the budgets for all of these were cut to zero, the nation would be better off.
He should turn over the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They should take care of their own, institutionally speaking. They should run it like a military operation. It has proven again and again that it is utterly incompetent. Put the generals and admirals in control of it, and let them take the heat when another scandal emerges.
This would be a real revolution. This would strike a blow for liberty. This would make it clear to the public that these departments have long since been captured by the bureaucracies. They cannot be changed except by budget cuts. Therefore, we should stop pretending that the President and the voters have any control over them. There is no way to control these departments, because everybody in them, except for about 4,000 temporary figurehead appointments, are ineligible to be fired. If you can't fire employees, you can't change the departments. Therefore, the cabinet level positions are merely figureheads. They exist to placate the special interests associated with each of the departments. They are there to reassure the various cartels that in fact control these branches of the government that everything is just fine, and the money will keep flowing.
In every case, the money should be completely cut off. But this is impossible politically. So, the government should give paid leave to everybody on the payroll for the rest of their careers, not to be replaced. Again, it would be better to fire all of them, but Congress would not go along with that. So, it is best to stop the charade. Since you can't change the system, you should at least admit this in full public view. Washington is an unstoppable bureaucracy that responds to nothing except the threat of budget cuts. This has been the essence of the federal bureaucracy ever since the establishment of Civil Service in the 1880's. It was designed to work this way.
There should be no federal Department of Education. The federal government should have nothing to say in the area of education. It should have no rules to enforce. The same is true of agriculture, business, and so forth. But because conservatives are committed to capturing the levers of power rather than removing them, there is always a fight to get into control, and without exception, the conservatives always lose the fight. This never ceases to baffle them.
Candidate Ronald Reagan promised to shut down the Department of Education. President Reagan didn't. Neither will Trump.
Let me explain how the Cabinet-level selection procedure works. It would be easy to find voters who would be ready to set up a Department of Whorehouses in order to regulate the nation's whorehouses, making them safer for the customers. They would then find that the Secretary of Whorehouses is always somebody who is a successful developer of a chain of whorehouses, and is ready to gain recognition for the fine work that she has done. They would look long and hard to find a woman to represent them in this department.
I think this establishes my basic position. Anything less than this is a compromise.
Trump should look for the hardest core people he can find for State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice. The people who occupy these cabinet level position should reflect his revolution, if any.
Whoever gets the position of Secretary of State will either reflect the existing commitment to internationalism, or else reflect a real revolution, namely, the shutdown of the American Empire. But the conservative movement basically is committed to the Empire, which is why we can never get budget cuts in the Department of Defense. So, we wind up with neoconservatives or outright Wilsonian internationalists as Secretary of State.
BETRAYAL IS AS BETRAYAL DOES
There is going to be a growing sense of betrayal within the conservative movement. They will see, certainly by January 20, and no later than the end of 2017, that nothing has changed. The general population will never really understand this, but there will be a growing awareness that this is the case.
Donald Trump is not going to betray deliberately the revolution that he launched. That is because he did not launch a revolution.
There are four driving forces in the lives of successful males: money, sex, power, and fame. More than any man in American history, Donald Trump is going to prove to be the incarnation of all four. There is nobody else in American history to match him in this regard.
He has done what no one in the history of the United States has done. He has been elected President of the United States, and he really is beholden to nobody. He has no experience in politics. He was not vetted by the powers that be. He has no agenda. We have, for the first time in American history, a President who got the position entirely on his own. We speak of the powers behind the throne. There are no powers behind the throne. But there will be on January 20.
There will be conspiracy theorists who will tell us that this was all planned from the beginning. It was not. This is what in the English language we use a Latin term to describe: sui generis. It is something that is truly unique. It is in a class by itself. There are no precedents. None. Really.
Donald Trump never had a list of men and women who are independent of the existing power base that runs this country. He would be a real threat to the powers that be if he had such a list. Agents of the powers that be are now rushing into the vacuum. By January 20, the deal will be done.
Let me give you examples of what would constitute a revolution. If his choice for Secretary of State were Angelo Codevilla, I would be impressed. If his choice for Secretary of the Treasury were Paul Craig Roberts, I would conclude that he really has an economic agenda. If his choice for the Department of Defense were William Lind, I would assume that Trump knows what he is doing. If his choice for the Department of Homeland Security were Sibel Edmunds, I might have some hope. As for the Department of Justice, Andrew Napolitano is the obvious choice. But, in the words of John Wayne in The Searchers, that'll be the day.
Here is the problem that Trump now faces. He doesn't know anything about the federal government. He really doesn't. He doesn't know who's on first. He doesn't know the good guys from the bad guys. He is surrounded by people like Newt Gingrich (CFR) and Rudy Giuliani. We already know where this is headed.
We see a unique opportunity. We have a man who has just been elected to sit on the supreme throne of political power in the world, and this time, there are no powers behind the throne. I have a Ph.D. in history. I can assure you, that there is nothing like this situation in American history. I suggest that there is nothing like this in British history.
Now I'm going to say something which could be misinterpreted. There are two figures in the 20th century who are at least comparable to Donald Trump. One is Vladimir Lenin, and the other is Adolf Hitler. I am not suggesting in any way that Donald Trump thinks like Lenin or Hitler. I'm speaking only institutionally. From the point of view of political history, these are the two men who are most like what Trump is today. They had no political experience before they gained the top political positions. They came from what seemed to be out of nowhere. They were never elected to political office. People tend to forget that Hitler's Nazi party did not win the election of 1932. He was appointed as Chancellor by President Hindenburg. There were no subsequent elections.
Yet even here, the examples don't hold. Lenin ran a hierarchical political organization, the Bolshevik Party. Hitler ran a hierarchical political organization, the National Socialist German Workers' Party, called "Nazis" as an acronym. Donald Trump has come out of the world of business, which means he has always faced competition in an open market. His skills are completely separate from the skills of political mobilization. He has no skills whatsoever in the area of politics, which is a matter of power inside a system that is not based on free-market pricing.
Ludwig von Mises in 1944 wrote a little book, Bureaucracy. In it, he showed that there are two completely separate kinds of management: profit management and bureaucratic management. They are separate because the sources of their funding are separate. Profit management seeks monetary profit in a world governed by double-entry bookkeeping. Its income in not guaranteed. Bureaucratic management seeks power in a world controlled by a monopoly: civil government. Its income is guaranteed by law. The two forms of management are in no way linked in terms of the skills required for success in each.
Trump is the most naïve elected senior politician in the history of Western civilization. He has no skills whatsoever for the position which he has now been elected do. He is what is sometimes called a babe in the woods. More to the point, he is a sitting duck.
Before January 20, the revolution that millions of voters hope for today will be gone with the wind. The revolution is going to die a stillbirth. Trump is going to cooperate with Ryan. He is going to cooperate with McConnell. He is going to cooperate with the Council on Foreign Relations. It has already begun.
This is a unique historical situation. We have never seen anything like this before. This is why the conventional approaches to explaining what is gone on will fail. This really is sui generis. There are no historical precedents for what is now taking place.
Here is Trump's problem. Political power is based on leverage. It is based on the ability to raise money. It is based on the ability to gain support from the existing political hierarchies. Trump has literally broken into the political system the way a thief breaks in to a bank. Nobody has seen anything like this before.
POWER AND REPRESENTATION
Power is based on a system of representation. Always before in Western history, a senior political figure got into the top position by way of a hierarchical system of representation. He was always the representative of a particular group or worldview. Donald Trump is not. He represents Donald Trump. We have never seen anything like this in history.
He has been elected directly by the people, or at least almost directly: by way of the electoral college. This has never happened before. He owes nobody anything. This is why there is a frantic scramble by the powers that be to get his ear. I think they have achieved this already. The revolution is less than one week old, but I think it has been captured.
I am not saying that Trump is going to sell out the voters. The powers that be cannot buy him. He owns too much wealth. He is already at the top of the political system. I don't think anybody is threatening him with assassination. I think it is a situation in which a politically naïve man with no political experience finds himself at the top of the most important political hierarchy in the world, yet he doesn't know what he's doing. Nothing he has ever done in the free market has prepared him to sit on the throne of political power.
Today, there are no powers behind the throne, but there soon will be.
THE FLOW OF INFORMATION
Every senior political leader is captured by special-interest groups by way of the flow of information. There is no bureaucracy in history that is not based on a hierarchical system of the control over the flow of information to the decision-maker at the top. Trump will soon be trapped in a system in which the papers that are put on his desk, and the people he is scheduled to meet with, will be determined by a handful of appointees. He will issue orders. But the hierarchical system that supposedly must carry out his orders is staffed by people who know how to control the flow of information upward.
Below them is the army of bureaucrats in each department. Civil servants control the flow of information in all but the top 4,000 positions, and he doesn't have time to run a vetting operation over all 4000 appointments. I've written about this here. It is called the Plum book, and almost nobody knows about it. The Plum Book lists the plum jobs available to political appointees when a new President is inaugurated. There is a scramble of potential employees to get to the top of the pile in the job applications for the Plum Book. I doubt that Trump has ever heard of the Plum book. So, he has no list of people from outside the system to be put in charge of the various departments. In any case, the person in charge isn't in charge, because he can't fire anybody. Everybody else protected by Civil Service. I have described the Plum Book and its importance here.
There isn't going to be a Trump revolution. There will be a few things that probably will be better. If Obama cannot get the Trans-Pacific Partnership passed by Congress in this lame duck session, then the election of Trump was worth it. If he can cut the funding on the worst features of ObamaCare, the election of Trump was worth it. More good news: global warmers are in near-despair. But don't expect anything remotely resembling a revolution. It's not going to happen.
Here is the bottom line: the Washington bureaucracies can be controlled only by one thing, which is budget cuts. Nothing else scares them. Nothing else affects them. Only if their budgets are cut will their influence be reduced. We will see with Trump's proposed budgets over the next four years how committed he is to changing the system. If there are no budget cuts, there is not going to be a revolution. It's very simple.
Ultimately, the Speaker of the House is the dominant figure with respect to the federal budget. The United States Constitution places initiatory authority over the budget in the House of Representatives. I realize that the federal government pays no attention to this any longer, but legally speaking, this is the law. Paul Ryan is the guy who holds the hammer. The Ways and Means committee is where the decisions ought to be made with respect to the federal budget. But, these days, the President of the United States is the one who submits the budget.
Donald Trump knows nothing about this. Hardly anybody knows much about this. This will determine what happens over the next four years. If he takes a blue pencil to the budget, he really can change the country. He is not going to do it. The powers that be, which this week are not yet the powers that be, will make sure that the flow of information to his desk is tightly controlled. Garbage in, garbage out. Keynesianism in, Keynesianism out.
So, don't be surprised when you read that the revolution has been betrayed. It hasn't been betrayed. There was never any institutional arrangement by which the revolution could be implemented. This is a man with no experience politically who gained the senior position of world politics without anyone's having vetted him.
It's going to be fun to watch. There will be a mountain of monographs written by scholars on what takes place over the next four years. Nothing like this has ever happened before. As an historian, I lament the fact that I am 74 years old. I would love to write one of the monographs.
Don't get seduced by articles that tell you that, from the beginning, he was an agent of the conspiracy. He blindsided them as no one else in history has blindsided the powers that be. But they understand power, and they have already moved in on him. He really is a sitting duck. I hate to say it: he really is Donald Duck. Up until now, he was Scrooge McDuck.
I just hope he isn't in a barrel.