The United States, thank God, has a vibrant and effective federal system. Every day, at the state and local level, fully independent, self-funding governments are enforcing laws, working to preserve the environment, providing support to the sick and needy, offering public education from primary school through university, and supporting business in making investments and enforcing good pay. Local governments provide police and fire protection, insurance regulation, and a host of other vital services. That is fortunate, because our federal government has become increasingly dysfunctional.
I had long predicted that President Donald Trump would play havoc with the federal government. My last post discussed how his policies and actions have reduced US influence around the world. In this post, I focus on actions at home. Anyone who has spent time studying poor and kleptocratic authoritarian regimes — also known as “banana republics” because such dictatorships were once especially common in the tropical regions where bananas are grown for export — would recognize the many characteristics that the Trump administration shares with such regimes.
To sum up, let me offer a short (well, not so short) list. You know you are living in a banana republic when:
1. The top policy-making jobs go to the President’s children and in-laws, rather than to experienced, qualified professionals.
2. Second-tier jobs go to friends and hangers-on of the President (e.g. having the President’s family wedding-planner appointed to a top housing job in the country’s largest city; or appointing people with no scientific qualifications to critical jobs overseeing scientific/technical programs).
3. Qualified professionals are reduced to window-dressing; they don’t attend key meetings and are not put in charge of key policy areas.
4. Across the government, loyalty to the President is the main qualification for getting and keeping your job; those whose loyalty is suspect or seem too independent are soon reassigned or fired.
5. The President asserts that he and his family are above the law, as they can be pardoned for any crimes by the President.
6. Prosecutors or investigators looking into crimes or corruption by the President and his family are dismissed.
7. The President and his administration routinely make blatant lies to put themselves and their actions in the best possible light; then expect those lies to be accepted as fact.
8. The President and his administration repeatedly attack any media who criticize or seek to correct their lies as “Fake news,” while praising and promoting media who endorse their fictions.
9. The President accuses political opponents (such as his predecessor and candidates who ran against him) of committing major crimes, calls them bad people, and urges that they be investigated, prosecuted, and locked up.
10. The President treats opposition parties as irrelevant, excluding them from any serious role in political appointments or legislation.
11. The President treats his own party in the legislature as people who should do his bidding and work mainly to serve him.
12. The President loves parades, displays of military force, and public adulation, but has no interest in policy details or patient negotiation and compromise to produce better policy.
13. The President and his family operate private businesses on the side, and use their power and position to help those businesses increase their profits.
14. The President routinely flaunts and violates ethics laws, and claims they do not apply to him or don’t matter.
15. The President surrounds himself with people whose main duty is to flatter him and protect him from any criticism.
I think that’s quite enough for now. But I may start to keep a running list!
Actually, it’s not funny. American is going from a country that plays “Hail to the Chief” to one that panders to “El Jefe.”