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Courthouse News Service
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Taking the United States Private

December 1, 2017

We should have known. Donald Trump is staging a hostile takeover of the United States: taking a public corporation private and delegating to his Cabinet the task of selling it off in parts.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

We should have known. Donald Trump is staging a hostile takeover of the United States: taking a public corporation private and delegating to his Cabinet the task of selling it off in parts.

Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky and others went to prison for it, but Congress, as usual, has other rules for the leveraged buyout swindlers who hold office.

In a typical leveraged buyout, corporate raiders buy a company by borrowing money, the collateral being the company itself. Sometimes they even manage to borrow money from the company they are buying, on the way to dismembering it.

The raider breaks up the company, sells it off in parts, then walks away from it. Or holds on to the most valuable piece and lets the rest go hang — entire businesses, employees, shareholders, other businesses up and downstream — screw ‘em, the corporate philosophy says: I’ve got mine.

This is precisely Trump’s “philosophy” of government. And it’s “succeeding,” in the corporate raiders’ sense, because Trump is doing it in dozens of places at once: using the levers we’ve constructed over centuries — the Cabinet departments — to pry apart what once was our political union. This is made crystal clear by merely taking a look at his Cabinet secretaries, not to mention the grotesque, pending tax bill.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry ran for president on a policy of abolishing the Department of Energy, though he couldn’t remember its name or what it does — control nuclear weapons and power plants, for example. Now he’s the secretary of energy.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos believes public schools should be abolished and the entire system turned over to private enterprise. She campaigned for years for this to happen in Detroit. Now she’s in charge of our public schools.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — not a Cabinet position, but a job that wields equal power—made his name as attorney general of Oklahoma by suing the EPA 14 times to protest environmental regulations, mostly on the oil and gas industry.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a fierce opponent of environmental regulations, sits on the board of an oil pipeline company; he recommended shrinking national monuments to allow more oil and gas drilling and fracking. He was chairman of a super PAC that paid another Zinke business $28,258 for “consulting” while the super PAC was contributing to Zinke’s campaign for Congress.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could not be confirmed for a federal judgeship because of his racist statements — he also called the ACLU “communist-inspired.” Now he’s in charge of enforcing federal civil rights laws. “States’ rights” says it all. Remember states’ rights? Anyone who lived through the 1960s does.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin is a hedge fund manager who keeps a lot of his money in offshore accounts; he was head of the mortgage department of Goldman Sachs when it repossessed tens of thousands of homes during the financial crisis; he wants to repeal major sections of the Dodd-Frank Act — which was passed in response to the mortgage/financial crisis — because, he says, Dodd-Frank is “too complicated” (for the banks). During his confirmation hearing it was pointed out that he’d failed to disclose $95 million of real estate holdings in an offshore tax haven — “too complicated” for him, presumably, which is why he wants to “simplify” the tax code through the tax bill pending in Congress.

Need I go on?

No, but I could. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thinks the State Department is “overstaffed.”

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is a bankruptcy specialist who as a senior managing director at Rothschild Inc. helped Trump keep three failing casinos in Atlantic City out of the hands of creditors; and according to the Paradise Papers, he failed to disclose his own ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin during his confirmation hearings.

The entire Trump administration is obscene. It is making a hostile raid on the public corporation known as the United States, and selling us off in parts.

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