Fed up with Washington politics, many Americans wanted a successful business leader to have the job of president. This is not a new trend. For years, candidates for all levels of local, state and federal government have been touting their success in business to garner votes. In October 2012, Representative Tom Latham from Iowa’s 3rd district stated, “I’m a farmer, small business person, someone who’s actually had, you know, signed the front of a paycheck and tried to grow a business.” He was running for his tenth term in the House of Representatives and was hardly an outsider.
The American people do not have a high opinion of Congress. Gallup’s monthly polls following President Obama’s 2009 inauguration showed a congressional job approval spike into the mid to high thirties. There was hope that the federal government would work together to address the financial crisis, but that enthusiasm did not last long. Congress’ job approval ratings dropped to 25% by December 2009 and have spent the past seventy-three months below that level, bottoming out at 9% approval in November 2013.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama had promised hope and change. The Republicans in Congress helped fulfill that promise, just not the way the president had envisioned. On the night of Obama’s inauguration, political consultant Frank Luntz organized a gathering of Republican leaders at a steakhouse in Washington, DC, to plan a strategy for the next four years. Many who were in attendance are members of today’s House and Senate leadership. After three hours of discussion, they agreed to a plan of obstruction. They would fight the President on every one of his initiatives as a strategy to win back the White House in 2012. What began that night was a steep drop in cooperation. The American people certainly noticed the change, but they were no longer so hopeful.
Republicans intended to win back the presidency in 2012 because they believed the electorate would blame the president for inaction in Washington. The American people blamed both, but Congress’ job approval rating was much lower than the President’s 38-69% range. That was not a concern for many Republicans in the House and Senate because a low nationwide job approval rating often means a high approval rate among conservatives and libertarians. For most Republican members of the House of Representatives, the only threat to their reelections came from a more conservative candidate, so a “do nothing” Congress was a good thing. They could demonstrate how much money they saved the taxpayer by stopping Obama’s tax and spend agenda.
So forty-six percent of the voters distributed in all the right places wanted a businessman to be president on Election Day. They wanted change. Some wanted protectionist policies, and some wanted racist ones. A majority wanted changes in the healthcare system. It appears we have it all in President Trump, but it seems that we have chosen the wrong businessman. The head of a family business is only concerned about himself and his family, not the customers beyond their desire to purchase and ability to pay. It seems safe to assume based on Mr. Trump’s personality, cabinet picks, and Tweets since Election Day, that he considers the American people to be the customers, not the family.
If we are to be the beneficiaries of The Trump Presidency, Incorporated, President Trump would build up those institutions that make us stronger as a nation. One of the most important is the existence of an independent and unfettered press. In fact, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, reads, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” That basic human right does not appear to be endorsed by President Trump and members of his inner circle. Mr. Trump, Mr. Spicer and Ms. Conway have undermined the media, opinion polls and the truth, as evidenced by photographic, video and eyewitness accounts.
Another foundation of support for the American people is a functioning healthcare system. President Trump’s executive order on Friday is so vague and broad that most media outlets have little idea how to handle it. Some believe it was a noncommittal order so that Mr. Trump could keep his campaign promise to begin repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Day 1. It appears to be much more dangerous to the country’s wellbeing than most people realize.
The order instructs all executive agencies and departments that oversee any part of the healthcare law’s implementation or operation to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”
What other news organizations may be forgetting is that the Attorney General is an executive appointee. Stories have focused on the fact that many parts of the ACA cannot be changed by executive action, but what if the Attorney General decides not to enforce those parts. Because of its broadness, this executive order also means that we don’t know where to look for changes and a lot of damage to the healthcare system may occur before an investigative journalist discovers what has taken place.
Perhaps the Trump Administration will quietly tell insurers that they will not be prosecuted if they begin charging women more than men, or begin collecting co-pays on preventative tests and exams. Maybe they will again limit the total lifetime benefit, hidden in a 50-page PDF that the insured must accept in order to obtain insurance. There will be lawsuits, of course, when these “violations” are discovered, but with the Attorney General on the side of the insurers, the whole system could collapse before the legal battles are resolved.
Going back to the family business analogy, there is a major difference between being a customer at a Trump hotel and being “customers” of the United States. The latter don’t have another option – we have to “buy” the only product available, that offered by The Trump Presidency, Incorporated.
Consider, instead, a businessperson president who was the CEO of Boeing, General Electric or Microsoft. In that case, we the people are not only the customers of the United States, we are also the shareholders. These ex-CEO presidents are used to working on behalf of the shareholders and they will follow disclosure guidelines. These potential presidents would release their tax returns, divest their investments to avoid conflicts of interest, and inform the shareholder-public how the business of the United States is doing. It certainly isn’t unreasonable to have a president who has been successful in business, but that person should come from a publically traded company.
For now, we have President Trump. In line with his family business mode of operation, he is keeping his plans close to the vest. We, the customers, will not know which parts of the healthcare system are being undermined. We will not know if we are being lied to as a way of enriching the family business. We will not know if the long term stability of the United States is being damaged because our president makes bad decisions without oversight. We probably will not get accurate facts when President Trump justifies why he ordered the bombing of a building in Iran or North Korea, or a city in Syria. When the legal Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, dismisses a recent poll that 74% of Americans want Mr. Trump to release his taxes by insisting that voters aren’t concerned about the issue, we are dealing with a business model in which the customers have no power because they have no choice.