We’re Living in Steve Bannon’s “Deconstructed Administrative State”… How’s that Workin’ Out for Ya?
My wife and I watched an action-adventure movie a few nights ago, breaking out of our comfort zone a bit, and by the end a lot of people had been killed. And it was an accountant that killed most of them, Ben Affleck as a weird sort of accountant whose main work instrument is an apocalypse-worthy assault rifle. As the credits scrolled at the end, I saw this creep creep by right near the end, “Executive Producer, Steve Mnuchin.” Oh, right, before he was US Treasurer, he was a movie producer. Anyway, it made me wonder, in the worst financial catastrophe since the Great Depression, who would you rather have than a movie producer managing the country’s finances? Of course, Steve is much more than a mere money guy for movies, he’s a hedge fund guy, an erstwhile “asset stripper” of the old Sears company, and he’s “embroiled in several lawsuits over questionable foreclosures.” Maybe we should be asking instead, who could possibly be worse? I’ll tell you. How about a reality TV star?
Our current dilemma is gloriously documented in George Packer’s Atlantic story We Are Living in a Failed State. I can’t match it for sheer rhetorical brilliance, but let me add this. In reading about the college loan debacle a while back, I learned that the founding fathers were more worried about bankers — money lenders — than insurrectionists or foreign foes. Well it would be no real surprise then if the accountants ended up being the ultimate villains in this mess. Goodness knows, who did all the damage in the movie. Our problem, however, is that the Trump team can’t manage their way out of a cardboard box. They don’t have the imagination, skill, leadership, ethics, courage, intelligence, character… or desire.
They have only one weapon in their apocalypse arsenal: writing blank checks. As attested to by a courageous businessman on the Rachel Maddow show, the emergency loan/grant program is so vaguely worded that he got a $3.2 million ‘loan’ that becomes a grant if he maintains his payroll for eight weeks. And all he has to do is certify, in good faith, that “the uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the loan request to support the ongoing operations of the eligible recipient.” This is a rare instance of generosity on the part of the otherwise draconian Trump administration, but it undercuts the stability of the dollar by unnecessarily giving away money indiscriminately. Businesses can be highly profitable yet take the money merely for uncertainty. Who exactly was this written for?
It’s increasingly clear that the Hydroxychloroquine Salesman in Chief is determined to let the virus run its course, wreaking what havoc it will… killing some pre-ordained number, without exactly fighting back with all our might. If the epidemiologist I heard last night is right — and he only has 45 years of experience with viruses, so what does he know? — the virus might not stop until 60% of the country has inhaled it. Perhaps the hard-hit states’ governors will have formed their own government and buying group before we learn what Steve Bannon’s ‘end state’ looks like.