The torrent of financial disclosure forms that the White House released March 31 confirms it: The Trump administration is the wealthiest in history. The combined net worth of the Cabinet members and President Donald Trump’s top advisers exceeds $12 billion.
Wealth in itself is not the issue, except that in some places, Trump is still regarded as a “populist.” An administration packed with plutocrats is not in the best position to empathize with the problems of average Americans. If banking and business has made you rich, your priorities are likely to be with banking and business.
Then there are the dozens of nouveau riche administration minions who come from the world of political consulting. They’re only millionaires, not billionaires, but they come from the “dark money” world where they did the bidding of secretive billionaires. They are the spawn of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, the one that opened the door for unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns.
This is not a new phenomenon. Republicans and Democrats alike have long known that working in government can be a ticket to wealth in the influence-peddling business. What’s different now is how much money is out there. Independent expenditure groups, including “super PACs” and nonprofit “social welfare” organizations” now outspend traditional party organizations. Each one hires lawyers and consultants.
So a well-placed lawyer like Donald F. McGahn can bill clients like the National Rifle Association, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United (the eponymous right-wing group that brought the famous lawsuit) $2.4 million in 2016 and then slide into a job as Trump’s White House counsel. And he’ll be the guy who rules on the ethical conflicts of the rest of the staff.
So the administration proposes gutting clean air and water rules that average Americans count on. It attacks the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that keeps average Americans from being ripped off by banks and mortgage companies. It supported a bill that would have eliminated health insurance for 24 million non-wealthy Americans.
Trump is no populist. He’s the plutocrat in chief.