By Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.
“Hitler was first elected, and then he destroyed his people” –Pope Francis
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” –Abraham Lincoln
The two above mentioned quotes in some way complement and explain each other. What the Pope is implying is what Lincoln prophesized; misguided people may vote for the monsters they have created and ultimately for their own downfall and destruction.
The question arises: has Lincoln’s prophecy been fulfilled with the election of Donald Trump? Are we in the process of destroying ourselves, just as it happened with the Roman Empire which began the process of self-destruction with the installment of deranged emperors such as Caligula or Nero?
Only five days after the inauguration on the 20th of January 2017, it has become apparent to any observant spectator that Trump has already recreated the corruption of Tammany Hall in the 1800s and early 1900 when cronyism dominated this nefarious group of New York politicians whose only aim was that of satisfying their personal ambitions through any actions, legal or illegal. That was especially true under Tweed in 1858 when corruption in the form of kickbacks from public works programs invaded practically every aspect of city and state governance.
Imperceptibly but inexorably democracy is being replaced by an oligarchy of corrupt politicians aiming at control of the people and putting profits before people. With the Trump presidency the US is now at risk of becoming a plutocracy catering to the rich, the only ones to enjoy the freedoms and rights guaranteed for all by the Constitution.
Trump has a shining example in Putin who has managed to become just about the richest man in Russia and whose net wealth is at least 10 times that of Trump. That may go a long way in explaining the affinity and admiration the two men feel for each other. The problem of course is that a plutocracy cannot exist without a fascist government equipped with a propaganda machine where the truth is what the government says it is and alternate facts can be dished out any time the government is scrutinized and criticized by the media.
On the day of his presidential inauguration, it’s already clear how Donald Trump will govern. We’ve seen his Cabinet appointees, and watched some of their confirmation hearings and they are very revealing. Now we’ve got a first glimpse of his budget ideas. What they predict is a veritable orgy of conflicts of interest, looting and corruption ending in violation of the Constitution and an unmitigated disaster.
Trump has already instituted policies designed to repeal the first amendment. He has proudly declared that he has a running war with the press. And he made such declaration in front of the wall memorializing CIA members who died in their line of duty and blaming the press for his communication difficulties with the agency.
Some in the press are still deluding themselves with the notion that our constitutional provisions of checks and balances among the various branches of government will ultimately save the day and correct this abnormal situation. Others are not so sanguine and are afraid that we might have seen our last free election. Next time around the election will not only be rigged but will be decided before any voting occurs.
Let’s examine Trump’s budget plan first. During the campaign, he flirted with left-leaning fiscal ideas, saying he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare. But thus far he is going in the exact opposite direction, albeit his populism, as a way of deceiving the middle class which he has exploited and manipulated his whole life, remains strong.
Last year the Republican Study Committee came up with an ultra-conservative plan to slash federal spending by $8.6 trillion over 10 years. But Trump’s initial budget has cuts of $10.5 trillion. The details aren’t worked out yet, but it is becoming more and more obvious that that all manner of government agencies would be gored or killed off altogether and that foxes have been placed in charge of chicken coops. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated. They are considered unnecessary frosting on the cake. Barbaric times call for barbaric solutions. Several offices designed to help minorities would be gone. Research and scientific spending would be sharply rolled back and several agencies dedicated to climate change and renewable research would be simply abolished. Seventy five per cent of government environmental regulations are scheduled for elimination. Who needs a livable environment if we have jobs and economic prosperity. That too seems to be considered frosting on the cake.
The scale of these proposed cuts is simply staggering. The military, debt payments, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid account for three quarters of the federal budget. It is literally impossible to get that scale of cuts without cutting deeply into some of those programs. And when you dig into the budget proposed by the Heritage Foundation, which the Trump plan is based on, it turns out everything but defense is getting slashed — Social Security by 8 percent, Medicare by 41 percent, all domestic discretionary spending by 41 percent, and Medicaid by 47 percent. And with Republicans in charge of most state governments, huge austerity at the state level can also be expected.
The rationalization for these cuts is that they are about cutting the deficit, but in reality they are about making budget headroom for large tax cuts on the rich, the so called top 1 per centers. The outrageous lie is apparent by the choice of cabined officials; a good number of them are millionaires or billionaires, or people who have spent their careers undermining the very departments to which they have been appointed (Sessions, Perry, Puzder), and then there are those, like Tillerson who like Trump are clueless about the nature of public service, or De Vos who fits in all three categories.
Private industry will be in charge of the state and it will be called “business as usual.” In the book The Wrecking Crew Thomas Frank elucidates how corruption is usually a logical product of a misguided approach to government. When the very idea of quality government is treated with scorn declaring government incompetent and inefficient, and the normative principles are greed, private industry, markets, to which all human society is subordinated, the predictable result is a Frankenstein monster who eventually turns around and destroys the very people who created it. But the worst, I am afraid, is still to come. Buckle your seat-belts.
About the author:
Professor Emanuel L. Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy