Saturday, July 7, 2018

Fascism In America

                                                                                                written 30 June 2018
                                                                                                published 7 July 2018

            My father's generation put their lives on the line in World War II to defeat fascism, defined by Italian dictator Mussolini as "state powers used for corporate profits."  It is sad to see that while America won that war, we seem to have lost in the long run. 
            From a holistic perspective, the capitalist system of exclusive gain is contrary to nature, thus inevitably fails.  Fascism is the darkest side of capitalism, and some American industrialists helped the Nazi powers, despite the totalitarian racism, because of the profit to be made.  After the war, the CIA helped Nazi's escape to South America because we wanted their networks in eastern Europe to spy for us against communist Russia.
            Throughout US history, the Supreme Court judges have been mostly corporate lawyers, which explains the persistent rise of corporate power over workers, leading to unfettered corporate money in politics, while restraining political funding by unions.  The insane fiction of corporate personhood is part of this process.
            Previous administrations have occasionally used political power to enrich their friends, but sought to keep these financial transactions out of the public eye, knowing they look bad, and are often illegal.  The Trump administration doesn't even pretend to care how it looks, or if laws are broken.  The stage is being set for an American Emperor, where the law is what he says it is.  Contrary to his campaign promise to "drain the swamp in Washington", he is on a swamp breeding program.
            This is the first president to retain control of his economic investments while in office.  He said he was giving financial control to his family, but they are part of his While House team.  He frequently travels to his Mar Lago hotel, enriching himself with each trip.  In a blatant "pay to play" episode this May, he threatened trade sanctions against the Chinese company ZTE, then reversed himself after the Chinese loaned his hotel development in Indonesia $500M.
             Trump's appointments to head government agencies are fraught with conflicts of interest.  He appointed Ajit Pai, a former executive for Verizon, to head the FCC.  Pai has regulated the end of net neutrality, which will allow his former company to choose whose messages get to the public by charging higher rates for faster service.  Pai is currently working to end the Lifeline subsidy program, which helps poor people afford web access, enhancing the digital divide, leaving more Americans behind.
            Betsy DeVos, a lifelong advocate of using taxpayer money to fund private and religious schools, is Secretary of Education.  She has repealed efforts to make school loan repayment easier, even when schools go bankrupt, allowing for-profit schools to rip off their students.  She is working to limit consumer protection against school loan providers, and protects abusive school loan collection firms.  When appointed, DeVos listed more than 100 financial conflicts of interest, including investments in school loan collection agencies and for-profit schools.
            Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is opposed to the mission of the EPA.  A staunch climate denier, he has received campaign funds from the fossil fuel industry for years.  He is against government regulation of any kind, preferring industry self-regulation.  Since EPA regulations were put in place because industries refuse to regulate themselves, putting profits over people, Pruitt's actions are total betrayal of the American public.  A 2018 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that Pruitt's EPA had adopted a pro-business agenda unlike that of any previous administration.  Pruitt has been so flamboyant that he is the focus of 12 investigations into spending habits, conflicts of interest, extreme secrecy, and poor management practices.  Even some conservative Republicans are calling for his resignation.
            Previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have included some self-serving, incompetent, and corrupt individuals.  In the Trump administration, unrestrained greed and self-promotion are the name of the game, and his appointees have risen to the challenge.  This is America today, where being rich or famous is all that counts.  Competence, critical thinking, and moral code are not necessary or valued.  It is understandable why the wealthy approve this situation.  It is less clear why a portion of the non-billionaire class supports this kleptocracy.