There’s a lot to be talked about regarding the rapidly advancing Trump administration. To say that it will be unlike any other in my lifetime would be a gross understatement – the potential and likelihood for governmental corruption has skyrocketed to levels you’d normally expect from tinpot dictators and banana republics. Today I want to bring up two things, each touching on ethics and the responsibilities of our federal government.
The first is from last month. On 60 Minutes Mr Trump said he would decline to take the presidential salary. Upon first glance this might seem absurdly noble. The man is rich on his own after all, he doesn’t even need to be paid to be the president!
This is a fucking disaster of an idea.
If you speak to any employer in America they will tell you that not only would they never hire someone who agreed not to be paid, that person is in all likelihood going to steal from you. As with any job in this nation, the salary is recompense for the time and work put in. Beyond that, it serves as a method of holding a person accountable. By waiving the salary he is not only telling us that he isn’t interested in being paid for his work as president, he’s telling us that he’s isn’t interested in being responsible for his work as president. In fact, it looks like nothing short of a kleptocracy in which he will use the office to enrich himself and his already wealthy cabinet members.
Given many cabinet members positions are at cross-purposes to the jobs they’ve been selected for, it should be a real shit show. An Exxon CEO as secretary of State, our nation’s chief diplomat? His job is to secure oil deals, diplomacy will be a far distant second priority. A Goldman Sachs exec as secretary of the Treasury? By all accounts he profited greatly during the housing crisis. Rick Perry as secretary of Energy? The man said it should be dismantled.
All together it looks like a big ass ball of financial conflicts of interest poised to roll right over the nation.
Which brings me to my 2nd point. There is a clause in the constitution which forbids a president from taking any form of payment from a foreign power. Of course, Trump is in violation of this clause right now.
Every other president has willingly divested of their own financials while sitting in office, but Trump has shown no inclination to do so. Senator Elizabeth Warren is planning on introducing legislation that would require this to happen, and frankly it ought to be mandatory.
It seems all but destined to fail, and fail hard, possibly with echoes for years to come.
The republican party holds majorities in the both the House and Senate. For this bill to pass into law, forcing the president to abide by the constitution’s anti emoluments clause, a significant number of GOP representatives and senators would have to back it. While there have been a few that seem to hold our constitution more dear than party affiliation, I’ve read nothing that indicates enough of them will be willing to hold Trump’s feet to the fire in this way.
If this bill fails then the chances of actually holding Trump accountable for his financial conflicts of interest drops greatly. Not only that, it could set the stage for future presidents to engage similar corruption and self dealing. If you want to go one step further, it allows for the constitution to be ignored at will, without changing it via the amendment process.
If we set the precedent that allows Trump to do whatever the hell he wants, where does it stop, and do we even have a United States of America afterward?