Trump Sets the Stage with Controversial Cabinet Picks

Julia Chang, News Associate

On November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, an unforeseen victory—and an indisputably controversial one at that. Perhaps more shocking than the establishment-defying winner were his picks for cabinet. The early progress of these nominees gives us insight into the future of Trump’s America.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, is devoted to the rise of charter schools. In her home state of Michigan, she helped pass bills to funnel public funds into privatization. Since then, private schools in Detroit have consumed vast amounts of money, yet there has not been much of an improvement in grades. Despite this, one of Devos’ main platforms is school choice, providing funds and vouchers for private schools, charter schools, and parochial schools.. Her anti-establishment views align with those of Trump’s, a probable explanation to her nomination, despite her evident lack of experience with the public education system. Republican freshman Tommy Bocian said in an interview, “I think she’s 100% unqualified, and based on the stuff she said in the confirmation hearing, we certainly hear more examples of how unqualified she is—like her being born into this old money [and a] super rich family, never having experience with the crippling effects of student debt and paying off your own and your children’s student loans, which is very challenging. She’s really had it handed to her.”

James Mattis, a Marine Corps general, is Trump’s new Secretary of Defense. He has presided over more than 31 air strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria since his confirmation and has begun work on his plan to reinforce the role of the US military. Mattis’ plans include increasing military spending and becoming more involved in the war on terror in the Middle East. An executive order calling on Mattis to strengthen American attacks on ISIS is currently in the works at the White House; the Defense Secretary is reviewing options with the Pentagon to present to President Trump. In contrast to his remarks above, Bocian spoke of this nomination positively: “I think General Mattis is more than qualified for Secretary of Defense, and his views on ISIS, enhanced interrogation/torture, and military spending are good. I generally agree with him.”

Since taking office, Mattis has conferenced with the NATO Security General and has reassured Japan and South Korea that security commitments from the US will not be compromised under Trump. He seems to agree with Trump on most issues, except for his adamant opposition to torture. Trump, however, has conceded power over this issue completely to Mattis, demonstrating his trust in the general. Under Mattis, America can expect significantly increased military involvement compared to the Obama campaign.

Trump has also picked Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, to be Treasury Secretary. Since his nomination, Mnuchin has stated that his “number one priority is tax reform,” and he hopes to oversee the “largest tax change since Reagan.” His proposal is to drastically cut both personal and corporate taxes. Under Mnuchin, corporate taxes are expected to drop from 35% to 15%. Ideally, this would boost the US economy and personal income for Americans and would also create more jobs. In an interview, co-head of the Student Progressive Coalition junior Max Miller said, “I would not be so upset about that if they decided that they would close all of the corporate loopholes, but I’m almost positive that that’s not gonna happen, so I am a little annoyed about that. Cutting off a main source of government revenue is a great idea if you don’t want the government to be involved, but, currently, the government is pretty involved, so…I just think it’s not smart.”

Mnuchin’s nomination corresponds with Trump’s desire to prioritize American financial growth, although his Wall Street background is alarming to some. “Steve Mnuchin is upsetting to me because he just embodies the hypocrisy of the Trump campaign, that they can criticize Hillary for giving speeches to Goldman Sachs,” Miller stated, voice growing with irritation, “and then [Mnuchin] is one of their main people from Goldman Sachs! How does that work, Trump? Are you criticizing Hillary because she wasn’t like Goldman Sachs enough?” Here, Miller cut himself short with an exasperated groan. While his background raises some concern, Mnuchin’s authority ultimately aims for fiscal success.

Trump’s cabinet choices cover an extensive range of people. From veterans with 44 years of service to bankers with zero government experience, Trump’s council has aroused skepticism from many Americans, including Trump supporters. However, one thing is certain—Trump’s cabinet picks intend to steer the next four years of American history in the direction of radical change.