By MARK UGOLINI
The Republican Party takes primary charge of the U.S. government this month with Donald Trump sworn in as president, and both houses of Congress under Republican control by a slim majority.
The new administration is taking shape with announcements of key government cabinet posts. These include a combination of professional politicians, former military officers, and powerful captains of industry and finance.
As in past cabinets, leading billionaire capitalists will be well represented. They include Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a longtime Wall Street investor and speculator; Linda McMahon, Small Business Administrator, one of Trump’s biggest campaign donors; and Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, who comes from a family of billionaires and plans to privatize public schools.
Big name Wall Street industrialists and financiers include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, Goldman Sachs trader, and Hollywood financier; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, president and CEO of Exxon Mobile; and Andrew Puzder, Labor Secretary and CEO of fast-food giant CKE Restaurants.
The new team will bring new policies, but the overall goal of Trump’s Republican government will be the same as that of the Democratic Party preceding it—to conduct the business of the tiny capitalist ruling class, and remove obstacles that stand in the way of profits for Wall Street and the banks.
Both capitalist parties struggle to overcome years of economic stagnation and lagging profits. Major divisions have emerged on how to correct this, but under capitalism new policies can’t solve this issue in a fundamental or lasting way.
Driven by this crisis, the new administration has only one recourse—to continue imposition of the severe and ever escalating austerity offensive that began in the 1970s and has continued through each succeeding presidential administration. Along with union busting and economic attacks on the standard of living of working people, the offensive’s broader features include racist police violence; new attacks on abortion rights; anti-immigrant harassment, particularly targeting Muslims; and widespread deportations. In all these areas, attacks will continue, and likely accelerate.
While much is not yet known about the new Trump administration or its priorities, some of its direction is becoming clear.
We can expect big tax cuts for the rich, while regulations on corporations and financial firms will be eliminated or relaxed. The appointment of Scott Pruitt, a climate denier and longtime supporter of the fossil-fuel industry, to head the Environmental Protection Agency signals full backing of the oil, coal, and natural gas interests, as well as fracking. Regulation of these industries will be targeted.
The selection of Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary points to additional attacks on workers. Puzder is only interested in labor and unions to the extent that he can limit their power. His goal is to get rid of unions or minimize their influence, not to defend them. As head of a big fast-food chain, his job was to exploit workers.
Puzder opposes minimum-wage increases above the current $7.25 per hour, which has been in place since 2009. Earlier this year he proudly told Business Insider his true feelings about workers and automation. The good thing about machines is that “they are always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
Trump promotes “law and order” and giving police departments a free hand to act with limited constraints. His comments target Black and Latino communities victimized by a spate of highly publicized racist police murders over the last few years. Trump believes that local police departments are not strong enough.
Trump selected Jeff Sessions, an Alabama racist with a long history, for Attorney General, and retired General John Kelly for Director of Homeland Security. They will team up to implement this “law and order” policy. Both back police against opponents of police violence. They also support the War on Drugs, militarization of the police, mass incarceration of Black youth, and the growing private prison industry that sustains itself on slave prison labor.
New attacks will be directed against immigrants, with stepped up deportations and harassment. Trump will continue and likely expand Obama’s aggressive deportation of over 2 million immigrants. Trump agrees with Obama’s method of targeting “undesirables” or “non-deserving” immigrants who may have been arrested or jailed in the U.S. Using this distinction the incoming administration will first target the approximately 3 million immigrants in the “bad immigrant” category.
The idea that a certain category of immigrant in some way deserves deportation is unacceptable and will only divide the immigrant rights movement, which stands opposed to all deportations. It also provides political cover for politicians to unjustly label large sections of the immigrant population as “criminals.” Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Trump wants to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the legal right of women to abortions, and stated that any candidate for Supreme Court justice must share his view. Since a new nominee will be selected by Trump early in his first term, it’s clear that the on-going fight for abortion rights will be near center stage.
As the preeminent world power, the United States under Republican-majority rule will continue to assert its dominance throughout the world. U.S. foreign policy is designed to pave the way for the insatiable drive of powerful corporate giants to dominate markets anywhere in the world.
The capitalist crisis is global, as no nation on earth can boast of a “recovery” or an economy free from stagnation or decline. Along with widespread imposition of austerity measures worldwide, imperialist wars of domination and plunder continue unabated throughout the world.
As Obama leaves office, the U.S. is engaged in at least seven wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia), either by direct military intervention or through client states and mercenary armies. In many, drone warfare prevails, and the CIA provides leadership utilizing covert methods. In others, U.S. military Special Forces provide training and support for local troops or intervene directly on their own. Meanwhile, regular U.S. imperialist troops remain stationed at some 1100 military bases around the world, from which drone attacks and a myriad of deadly covert actions are regularly planned and executed.
Foreign policy will be led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, one of the most powerful multi-national corporations. Tillerson has strong ties to Russian government officials and oil magnates from years of partnership managing their shared oil interests. Tillerson and Exxon are sure to prosper mightily.
Foreign policy will also be shaped by two retired generals, Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Mattis was a central leader of U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which destroyed those countries and killed hundreds of thousands in the process. Flynn, an Islamophobe who believes fear of Muslims is “justified,” supports targeting Muslim organizations and mosques with surveillance and spying. Both will be instrumental in executing and possibly expanding involvement in U.S. wars.
The foreign policy theme of the new administration will be “America First.” Trump raised this slogan during his campaign largely as a false promise to U.S. workers that his administration would remedy stagnant job growth by means of a system of tariffs and other protectionist devices aimed at increasing the volume of products that are “Made in America.”
But “America First” also has a military connotation. Large doses of anti-Muslim rhetoric are used to project a strong image of U.S. military strength and dominance worldwide. This posture demands subservience from less powerful nations. It will be a foreign policy that “respects” authoritarian figures such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Trump also seeks closer ties with Philippine dictator President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government has overseen extrajudicial killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers. In accepting a congratulatory call from Duterte following Trump’s victory, the president-elect communicated approval for these police actions.
Democratic Party administrations also have a long history of supporting tyrants and dictators. The Obama administration provided full-throated support for dictatorial regimes like the Saudi monarchy, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Persian Gulf states including Qatar and Bahrain, and Idriss Deby in Chad. Obama greatly expanded funding for apartheid Israel—which has 1.8 million Palestinians under siege in Gaza, rules by military occupation, regularly tortures Palestinian political prisoners, and has a long history of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial murders (for more on Israel, see articles on next page).
Trump’s “America First” approach is at odds with Obama’s foreign policy posture, which uses different methods but is designed to achieve the same result. Obama’s program ostensibly focused on “building trust” with other countries. The Dec. 29 Washington Post described it as a “collaborative approach and emphasis on international norms [to] convince other countries to partner with the United States to do things that were not always popular.”
Clearly, these differences are purely tactical. The goal is to force compliance with U.S. interests, and the differences concern how best to posture on the world stage to achieve that result.
There is little doubt Trump plans a massive buildup in military spending, exceeding spending during the Obama years. He has called for 90,000 more Army soldiers, dozens of new Navy ships and hundreds of warplanes, and bolstering nuclear and missile defense. As expected, justification for this massive buildup is the “heightened threat of terrorism.”
Forbes cited an expert analysts on the cost: “[a] good ballpark estimate … is about $800-900B higher over ten years than the most recent president’s budget requests. Foreign Policy Magazine estimates about “$100 billion more than the Pentagon has currently budgeted for Trump’s first term.”
Trump is proud to admit that a big chunk of military spending will go to upgrading the military nuclear arsenal, continuing and expanding Obama’s work in this area. In fact, Trump is calling for “a new nuclear arms race.” He wants the U.S. to “expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The U.S. currently has 4500 nuclear warheads, including 1800 deployed strategic nuclear weapons, far surpassing all other countries that have them.
The new administration will build on the work of their predecessors. Despite Obama’s carefully crafted statements posing as an opponent of nuclear weapons, he has taken major steps to strengthen the U.S. nuclear military capability with an extensive “modernization” program, which the Dec. 22 New York Times reported “may cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. It features new factories, refurbished nuclear arms and a new generation of weapon carriers, including bombers, missiles and submarines…”
This “modernization” means replacing older and outdated missile systems with smaller more streamlined versions equipped with newest technology that makes them much more accurate in hitting targets and more difficult to shoot down.
Continued support to Israel
Staunch bipartisan military support for Israel, the only military nuclear power in the Middle East, has further heightened the risk of nuclear war. Former President Jimmy Carter estimated in 2014 that Israel’s nuclear arsenal totaled somewhere near 300 warheads, with ample delivery systems to deploy them.
Obama’s award to Israel of a record $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years will greatly strengthen its nuclear capability and poses a grave risk of nuclear war in the region. To this day, Israel denies it has a nuclear program and it refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Republican electoral victory reflected the absence of class-conscious political leadership within the organizations of the U.S. working class and the oppressed. That’s why revolutionary socialists raise the pressing need for a Labor Party in the United States, based on a fighting and re-energized labor movement. Such a party, fully independent and opposed to capitalist parties, could have filled this void and presented a political program that fights for working-class issues, demands an immediate end to U.S. wars around the world, opposes all forms of racism and sexism, and champions the struggles of all those oppressed under capitalism—a program that relies solely on the independent power of working people and their allies organized in mass struggle.