Donald Trump is a masterful con man, and his presidency will be a bait-and-switch of epic proportions. He will, on one hand, appeal to the populist temper of the time—as he did this week with his “thank you tour”—and with stunts, as he did with the Carrier deal or his series of tweets purporting to hold Boeing to account for overcharging the Air Force.
The switch comes in Washington, with what David Axelrod dubbed a “Monster’s Ball” of Wall Street and right-wing ideologues in the cabinet. Republican majorities in Congress will work to further rig the economy for the wealthy few.
Trump’s opening speech of his “thank you tour” in Ohio laid out the bait. While putting forth his “action plan to make America great,” Trump dished out nationalist and populist themes with a characteristic mix of racist signaling. Trump promised to put America first: “There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag. From now on it is going to be: America First,” Trump said. “Never anyone again will any other interests come before the interest of the American people. It is not going to happen again.”
Trump echoed Bernie Sanders with his focus on the “forgotten” American worker. Trump felt their pain, and indicted trade deficits and flight of manufacturing jobs. He promised good jobs. He will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and take on China. He bragged about the Carrier deal, and pledged a 35 percent tariff on companies that offshore jobs and try to ship products back into the United States.
Like Sanders, Trump proposed a major plan to rebuild America, including “our inner cities.” His plan will have “two simple rules”: “Buy America” and “Hire America,” phrases that too many Democrats would choke on.
The conservative core of his program—corporate tax cuts, deregulation, reviving coal and oil, repealing Obamacare—is wrapped in this populist gauze.
The switch, of course, will take place in the suites of Washington where, instead of draining the swamp, he’s populating it with predators. Trump’s CEO council, which will advise him on taxes and regulation, is a classic gang of thieves. Steve Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone Group, and impassioned defender of the carried-interest tax-break scam, is the chairman of Trump’s group. (He famously compared the effort to roll back this obscene tax rip-off with Hitler’s invading Poland). It also includes Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase, the bank with one of longest rap sheets coming out of the financial debacle. His bank paid over $38 billion in fines for various fraudulent schemes from 2008 to 2015, and still counting.