Throughout this past miserable campaign, I couldn't tell whether Trump was as frighteningly bigoted as his public utterances seemed, or if he were putting on a show to win the right-wingnut vote but was secretly just as establishment as his history suggested he'd be. And then two days after the election he appointed his running mate head of his transition team, yesterday appointed RNC Chair Reince Priebus his chief of staff, and in between named Steve Bannon a special advisor.
Seriously, Priebus as Chief of Staff? You have to wonder who else he could have appointed to the most important West Wing job that his angry, white, low-education supporters, were they interested in these things, would consider a total betrayal. Good news to them that Steve Bannon is in there somehow. But neither Pence nor Priebus cares one whit about the middle classes.
But that's all a side show. More important than the clown car he's loading up are the policies he's actually starting to propose. Because let's face it, "Trump is instinctively corrupt:"
He took a substantial amount of the campaign money he raised and ran it through his own companies. He practiced textbook self-dealing with his family foundation. Many of his private businesses were no better than glitzy cons and he developed a reputation for cheating partners, even if in many cases doing so in ways that didn't explicitly violate the law. He is placing his own children into prominent positions organizing his administration. His version of a "blind trust" is one in which his children and heirs administer his companies on his behalf while he is President. His companies are not 'public companies' in the corporate governance sense. But the vast majority of his companies' activities are carried out in public - hotels, golf resorts, licensing businesses, consumer businesses. None of this can really be blind even if there were any attempt to make it so. Trump and his children are in the process of building a real life version of the cartoonishly caricatured fantasy of the Clinton Foundation he created for his followers on the campaign trail.
Trump is so thoroughly corrupt in his dealings that it is probably fair to say that he doesn't even recognize the concept of self-dealing as being a problem in itself. They say hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue. In Trump's case there isn't even much hypocrisy. In every case we've seen him discuss it, he sees self-dealing and self-enrichment as a normal, meritorious way of doing things.
Let's see how much public money he can funnel into private hands before we have an opportunity to wrench Congress back from these thieves. For starters, his infrastructure proposal, which looks more like Chicago's disastrous lease of public parking spaces than it does a serious plan to fix broken roads:
[T]he details of Trump’s infrastructure plan are in keeping with the other thing he likes to do: license his name to private operators. Only his name in this case would be the U.S. government’s public assets, passed off in a privatization fire sale. In fact, the outsider Trump that rode a populist wave to the Oval Office would be engaging in a plan that reeks of the worst of neoliberalism.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the common justification for privatization, and it’s been a disaster virtually everywhere it’s been tried. First of all, this specifically ties infrastructure—designed for the common good—to a grab for profits. Private operators will only undertake projects if they promise a revenue stream. You may end up with another bridge in New York City or another road in Los Angeles, which can be monetized. But someplace that actually needs infrastructure investment is more dicey without user fees.
So the only way to entice private-sector actors into rebuilding Flint, Michigan’s water system, for example, is to give them a cut of the profits in perpetuity. That’s what Chicago did when it sold off 36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group. Users now pay exorbitant fees to park in Chicago, and city government is helpless to alter the rates.
We knew this was coming. I have objected to Trump's candidacy on many grounds, but throughout I had some doubts about whether the campaign reflected his true beliefs. But I never doubted that a Trump presidency, especially with a Republican Congress behind him, would be a kleptocracy of the first order.
Trump isn't Hitler, Mussolini, or Pol Pot. He's Juan Peron, Hugo Chavez, or Silvio Berlusconi. So we probably won't get tossed into camps. But most of us will be a lot poorer when we finally dislodge these guys from government.