Op-EdOpinion

Trump’s Cabinet: A White Billionaire Boys & Girls Club

Donald J. Trump, the wealthiest man ever elected President of the United States, has set about assembling the richest Cabinet in U.S. history.

This election took most observers by surprise. While blacks and Democrats mumbled complaints about voter suppression before the vote, they didn’t really take the danger as seriously as they should.

Folks are now wondering: when will the Trump voters realize they’ve been lied to and he cannot possibly make good on half of his campaign promises?

They won’t wake up, and don’t really care. Trump’s election was about putting black people back into their “place” again, about making America great again, like it was before civil rights and political correctness. They don’t mind being lied to by Trump.

So here comes this rich guy who lies, contradicts himself, and commits every conceivable political blunder during his campaign and still wins a narrow victory. Then he stocks his Cabinet with a bunch of rich people I frankly had never heard of before.

For example: billionaire banker and movie financier Steven Mnuchin has been named to be treasury secretary. Billionaire private equity investor Wilbur Ross has been named to be commerce secretary. Billionaire Betsy DeVos has been tapped to serve as education secretary.

Instead of “draining the swamp” in Washington of political hacks and inside traders, The Donald has stocked the swamp with fresh alligators.

Mnuchin has deep ties to Wall Street, including 17 years at Goldman Sachs, where his father also worked. Mnuchin played a role in the housing crisis. His bank IndyMac in foreclosed on 36,000 families, particularly elderly residents trapped in reverse mortgages.

Ross specializes in flipping bankrupt companies for profit, often buying the U.S. companies at low prices and then selling them to overseas investors. Even Ross’s likely deputy, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, is also a billionaire.

DeVos is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and a longtime backer of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. Her husband is heir to the Amway fortune. She never attended a public school or university, nor did any of her children. She does not have a degree in education, only millions in donations to charter schools and school voucher efforts.

Now, with the exception of his choice of black, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Trump’s other cabinet picks are Caucasian, career politicians and military men and women. Carson, who challenged Mr. Trump during the Republican primary, has little experience in housing or management.

So if black people think they have a welcome place at that table, they are delusional. The shameless black folks who rushed to greet Trump after the election are beneath pitiful: former “Celebrity Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigualt, boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, boxing promoter Don King and BET founder Bob Johnson. Please.

“There are not that many black billionaires anyway,” Dr. Ray Winbush told me in an interview. “I can’t think of one wealthy — and I’m using wealth in terms of inherited wealth — I can’t think of one inherited wealth black billionaire in this country. Bob Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, none of that wealth was inherited. They’re rich people, but they’re not wealthy people.”

The only two black billionaires, according to the latest figures I saw, are Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan. In fact all of the richest black people in America — including Tiger Woods, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Bob Johnson and Beyonce — all came by their success as entertainers or athletes. They are unlikely government officials.

There are few black officials in Republican Party elite circle of elected officials. And where have they been: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), or even former officials like Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), or former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell? So far, all have been absent from Trump Tower.

The corporate sector has few black success stories to offer Team Trump. At the end of 2015 when McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson retired, that left only five black CEOs at all the Fortune 500 companies: Kenneth Chenault of American Express, Rodney O’Neal with Delphi, Merck’s Kenneth Frazier, Carnival Cruise Line’s Arnold W. Donald and Ursula Burns of Xerox.

The issue is simple. “Let me tell you about the very rich,” wrote author F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby.” “They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

So get use to it. Trump and the oligarchs are at the controls now, and no one can do anything about it.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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