Trump’s political appointments seem to illustrate an extreme neoliberal approach to politics – those who are successful at business are being placed into senior positions in the U.S. political system which will allow them more power to shape domestic and foreign policy.
Trump’s Appointments – Transnational Corporations to Shape U.S. Social Policy
According to a recent Guardian article on Donald Trump’s political appointments he ‘has so far nominated a number of billionaires, three Goldman Sachs bankers and the chief executive of the world’s largest oil firm to senior positions…. His team [has been] dubbed the “team of billionaires”.
Trump’s (neoliberal) argument for these appointments is that the accumulation of wealth is a sign of success and that having internationally successful business people in positions of power to negotiate (or renegotiate) trade-deals will benefit the U.S. economy and the the American people.
Two of Trumps appointments demonstrate this neoliberal approach (and its problems) perfectly: his appointment (still prospective at time of writing) of the CEO of Exxon-Mobile to Secretary of State and the appointment of Steve Mnuchin to the position of treasury secretary
It is the selection of Exxon’s chief executive, Rex Tillerson which has caused the most controversy. Tillerson has a close relationship with Vladimir Putin and some years ago agreed a joint venture with Russia to drill for oil in Siberia and the North Sea, however this venture was shelved following sanctions against Russia when it annexed Crimea. As secretary of state, Tillerson (who has $250 million of Exxon stock) will be leading discussions on whether the US should maintain sanctions against Russia.
According to this article from the Daily Kos, Tillerman’s appointment would be a disaster for business ethics…
‘Rex Tillerson is exactly the man you would expect a man who rose to the top of the oil industry to be. He has no evident morals or concerns about the world that supersede a paycheck. His respect for his own nation ends when there is a business deal to be made somewhere else.’
Trump’s pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is also a multimillionaire former Goldman Sachs banker who went on to be dubbed a “foreclosure king” for buying up distressed mortgages and evicting thousands of homeowners during the financial crisis.
Potential problems with Trump’s neoliberal agenda
- Increasing wealth and income inequality in the U.S. – With the transnational capitalist class now in direct control of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, there is every likelihood that the super rich will get richer while the income and wealth of the majority of U.S. citizens will stagnate or even go into reverse. Critics such as Warren (above) argue that Donald Trump has every intention of running Washington to benefit himself and his rich buddies”.
- Less respect for human rights globally. The appointment of Tillerson as Secretary of State and his close relations with the human-rights abuser Vladimir Putin suggests that the financial interests of the super-rich will trump (excuse the pun) issues such as respect for universal human rights – it’s more likely that the U.S. will turn a blind eye to dictators who trample on human rights, so long as there’s a profit to made for U.S. companies.
- More economic instability – The fact that Goldman Sachs executives now have greater say in shaping U.S. economic policy could mean more deregulation of financial markets and more instability in the global economy in the long run.
- Environmental decline – this is possibly the beginning of the end of life on planet earth as oil companies will almost certainly be given the green light to dig up the arctic.
Where can you use this in the A Level Sociology Course?
Unfortunately for those of you who haven’t been given the option of studying global development, this is just extension work, but if you are one of the fortunate few studying this most relevant and interesting topic – this info fits in as follows:
- It’s a great example of current neoliberal policy (so neoliberalism is still very much relevant)
- It demonstrates the increasing power of TNCs – yet how they need control over nation states to empower themselves.
- It’s a great example of how the global super-class work – at a level above that of the nation state.