Is the Trump presidency a kakistocracy

review

Trump in office
"A president who would like to be a dictator"

The original title sums up what David Cay Johnston explains in this book: "It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America". This analysis, in which central policy areas such as labor market, tax and education policy as well as foreign policy appearances and decisions are at the center, is embedded in a characterization of the president, who primarily enriches himself through his office, and the declaration of his election victory as an expression a deeper crisis that triggered this political "tsunami" (401).

David Cay Johnston, who, as he writes, has published about Donald Trump since 1988 and has collected tens of thousands of pages of documents during this time, sees the President as personified "Kakistocracy" (14) - government by the very worst. He agrees with other biographers in the perception of Trump as a vicious narcissist with chaos in his head, who brags about the unpunished sexual harassment of women and openly appeals to the racism of his white compatriots. His entire philosophy of life is simply: "Vengeance" (32) - it is the creed of dictators and mafia bosses. Trump is a con artist, as an entrepreneur he regularly refused to pay their bills in full to tradesmen and construction companies commissioned by him, was convicted twice for tax evasion, maintained contacts with an international drug dealer and did business with representatives of Russian organized crime. This means that Trump has a unique selling point compared to all of his predecessors in office: He is the first president who does not care about the welfare of the country, he only cares about himself, "period. End. "(32)

Johnston seamlessly connects this characterization with the statement that the kleptocracy in the USA is on the upswing under the Trump administration and that the president is blatantly using his position for self-enrichment. As a first example, this will be International Hotel Washington DC called, Trump leased the building from the state for 60 years before his election. According to the figures available to Johnston, things have been going extremely well since he took office - because foreign delegations now prefer to stay there. According to a clause in the lease that is quoted, however, state employees are "expressly forbidden" (51) to derive or benefit from profits from the lease. But Trump now also earns particularly generously with his golf courses because he is president: if he goes to Mar-a-Lago, for example, all services for his companions are normally billed to the taxpayers there. So even the rent has to be paid for the caddies with which the secret service agents follow Trump for his protection while he plays golf.

Trump is the first president who also "raises concerns about possible income from business with foreign governments. The constitution fathers would have classified this as corruption in any case ”(60). Since meeting Xi Jinping, Trump and his family have now owned the rights to 100 Chinese brands. Before that, he had invested in Saudi Arabia, where his first trip abroad took him. There, for no plausible reason, he took the Saudi party against Qatar, which as the home of Al Jazeera is a thorn in the side of the region's autocrats.

The picture that Johnston paints of the work of the Trump administration is not surprising against the background outlined above. As a central measure, he states that the administration “places' political termites” in all places within the government ”(34). The declared intention is the deconstruction of the constitutional state. The slow filling of the 4,000 positions in the government apparatus to which a new president can appoint employees belongs in this context. All ambassadors had also been dismissed and after seven months only 36 of 188 of these posts had been filled. This approach represents a serious economic and national security risk, since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular had thinned out its institutional memory in the course of the intention to downsize its personnel. In addition, Trump prefers to fill vacancies with special government employees in order to initially bypass the confirmation procedure in the Senate.

Johnston names several Trump-appointed executives who are "political termites" involved in the deconstruction of the administrative state. These include, for example, Education Minister Betsy DeVos, who previously held shares in companies that grant poor students loans in a practically unregulated manner and who is a strong advocate of the private school system, or the appointment of a new person to the head of the Federal Environment Agency with an advocate of energy generation from coal. The closure of the is also required Trade and Development Agencysays Johnston. This authority promotes the export of American products and services and thus demonstrably secures the preservation of jobs. According to Johnston, the proposed closure is justified by the fact that the private sector can do this job better - for which there is no evidence. Overall, from the listing and analysis of the work of the Trump administration to date, it becomes clear that Trump, contrary to his campaign promises, does not help workers, students or veterans to cope with their lives - on the contrary: benefits are cut, jobs in the authorities that So far it has mainly been given to veterans, not newly appointed and the education system starved: This affects all students whose parents are not wealthy enough to pay for college. In fact, African-American students in particular are deprived of their financial ground. That is "institutional racism" (302). "One could understand Trump's measures as a 'war against the poor', especially against the poor who are not white." (309)

This arbitrary aggravation of social hardship is supplemented by a tax reform, with which large companies (and Trump himself) in particular are relieved. Trump did not publish his own tax returns, but from some pages he had received, Johnston said, information could be gleaned - especially about the tricks of how tax payments were avoided. According to Johnston, the fact that Trump is not interested in the concerns of normal workers is also shown by the (now implemented) intention to impose punitive tariffs on the import of steel and aluminum. These tariffs would actually only make products more expensive in the USA and endanger jobs in the processing industry. The construction of a wall on the border with Mexico - one of the key campaign promises - will also be paid for by the US taxpayer alone, as Johnston shows using the various financing options. The suppression of migration will also dampen the country's economic growth by two percent, with all the consequences for the labor market. In summary, Johnston states that Trump is committing "treason" (89) to the American workers.

The deepening polarization in business, politics and society is rhetorically fueled by Trump, as Johnston points out with reference to the pardon of Joe Arpaio - the former sheriff was convicted in July 2017 for violating court orders in the prisons subordinate to him Fundamental rights have been violated. Trump, however, used this context to move "from tongue-in-cheek encouragement" to "open calls to disregard the law" (336). Fittingly, after the events in Charlotteville, in which a right-wing radical deliberately ran over and killed a woman, the racists saw their actions confirmed by the president. Johnston is not surprised: Ivana Trump once reported that Trump occasionally read Hitler's speeches in a book that he himself had confirmed.

How did the election of Trump come about, who, in Johnston’s view, represents “a clear and very real danger to the entire world” (12)? "The supporters of Trump are to a large extent recruited from those 90 percent of Americans whose wealth has shrunk in the last 50 years." (39) Out of frustration at the opaque policy in Washington in favor of the rich, Trump promised to return America to make it big and to bring back industrial jobs, to be heard by them. "Donald Trump is not the political disease that has afflicted America, he is its symptom." (412) Instead of now, as promised, a policy for the general population, further deregulation and state dismantling are taking place to the detriment of these 90 percent of citizens . Political scientist Jason Johnson is quoted as saying "that the failure of Congress to counter Trump's greed for profit, his machinations with the Kremlin, and his bellicosity will continue to harm America long after the end of this administration." (415) There are further consequences not in sight - "Democracies do not die in a dramatic act. They are removed like sand." (414)