The traditional media has yearned of late to deem Donald Trump’s White House staff and cabinet a “team of rivals,” with wide disagreements on economic policy. I don’t really see it; despite a few variances here and there, by and large Trump’s advisers all fall in a comfortably snug ideological range, with dedication to doctrinaire conservative economic beliefs about tax cuts and deregulation. And another area of consensus sticks out: the idea that government should outsource public functions to private industry.
In the Public Interest, a research organization monitoring privatization, has compiled a list of 32 different members of the Trump transition team or formal nominees for top agencies who have either close ties to privatization groups, or demonstrated support for the philosophy. If these officials get their way—and there’s no reason to think they won’t—America’s schools, roads, air-traffic-control systems, prisons, immigrant-detention centers, and critical social-insurance programs will soon fall into private hands.
“Donald Trump ran on improving the lives of working families, yet he’s surrounding himself with people that want to line the pockets of corporations and the politically connected,” said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, in a statement.
The list includes Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a leader of ultimately unsuccessful efforts to privatize Social Security during the Bush administration, along with high-profile cabinet picks like education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos (a known advocate of steering public money to private charter schools), health and human services selection Tom Price (whose relentless advocacy for the privatization of Medicare is well-documented), and defense secretary James Mattis (recipient of almost $1 million in compensation as a board member of major defense contractor General Dynamics).
One lesser-known connection is between attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions and the private-prison industry. In October, a couple months after the Justice Department announced that they would phase out the use of private contractors in federal correctional facilities, Geo Group, one of the two dominant private-prison operators, hired two former Sessions aides as lobbyists. Sessions is expected to reverse the privatization phase-out (which wasn’t much of a phase-out at all, actually, as Obama’s Bureau of Prisons renewed a private-prison contract just last month).