The story is told that after Lyndon Johnson attended his first meetings early in the new administration of John F. Kennedy, he was in awe of the talent and abundant Ivy League pedigrees of those seated around the table. When he told his mentor, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, about how impressed he was with the JFK team, the Speaker replied.
“I’d feel a lot better if some of them had run for sheriff just once,” the wily Texas sage observed.
In looking at Donald Trump’s cabinet, clearly none of the cast of billionaires and CEOs have ever run for sheriff, including the reality show host himself. Retired surgeon Ben Carson pointedly violated Rayburn’s Law, launching his first attempt at public office not by running for sheriff or even school board, but by starting at the very top.
We know how that ended.
After his presidential run, Carson said he was lacking government experience and therefore unqualified to run a federal agency. So we will list him first as part of an abridged version of a rogue’s gallery of profoundly unqualified people that nevertheless will serve in the cabinet, or, if you have a darker view, will serve to destroy the very agencies they will be sworn to safeguard.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has been urged to honor his medical training and first do no harm. Carson’s candor about being unqualified did not deter Trump from appointing him to join a crew of deplorably conflicted billionaires to be at the levers of government. He also believes that “government efforts to end racial discrimination is a form of socialism.”
Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos is a Michigan billionaire who hates public education but loves vouchers and charter schools. She is destined to be the first-ever anti-education secretary of education. According to the New York Times, it is “hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools.” A policy statement from People for the American Way went a bit further in identifying her:
In addition to these ideological concerns, DeVos is simply unqualified for the job: she has never been a teacher, school administrator, or even state-level education policy bureaucrat. She did not attend public schools and neither did her children.
Instead, she has spent the last several decades crusading to establish privately managed charters and vouchers for use in private and religious schools with public funds. She also famously said that “government really sucks.” So much for such a non-inspiring figure to lead the national effort to produce the next generation of skilled, productive, caring and ethical citizens. Certainly, Trump’s choice of secretary of education really sucks.
Secretary of Energy. Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas, has a degree in animal science. He replaces Dr. Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist and a former member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In naming Perry to the cabinet, Trump might have been thinking about assigning the Texan, with his background in animal science, to create a new Manhattan-like Project that might harvest methane gas from flatulent Longhorn cattle to complement the nuclear fuel the very competent Dr. Moniz safeguards in his key position. That would be a dynamite idea for Perry to champion, inasmuch as he was, at best, a mediocre student at Texas A&M and certainly not a physics major like Moritz. It’s also interesting to note that SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, is developing rocket engines using methane-based fuels. As of this writing, Trump has not designated a Secretary of Agriculture. Perhaps Perry would be a better fit there.
In the meantime, Rick, don’t light a match.
Secretary of Labor. Andrew Puzder, a CEO of fast-food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has been described as someone who
hates workers, unions, the minimum wage, and worker safety laws and whose company was found guilty (by the DOL) of labor violations – including wage theft offenses, such as failing to pay the minimum wage or overtime – in 60% of its inspections at these two fast food chains.
Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce. Minimum wage does upset us, Puzder believes.
Indeed, the list of people who have no government experience or no expertise in their area of assignment, goes well beyond these Non-Fab Four. But they are nevertheless stellar examples of the new anti-government government that is to be installed on January 20.
According to an analysis by the Boston Globe, the new cabinet members possess an incredible $11 billion in net worth, an astounding figure.
Collectively, the wealth of his Cabinet choices so far is roughly four times greater than President Obama’s Cabinet and nearly 30 times greater than the one George W. Bush led at the end of his presidency.
And Trump has named less than half the group of advisers so far.
The net worth of the Cabinet Trump had selected as of Thursday was at least $11 billion, based on available estimates, or more than the annual gross domestic product of about 50 small countries.
We have not seen a cast as remarkable as the Trump cabinet for some time. Compare the present lineup of new cabinet secretaries with their combined wealth to that of Dwight Eisenhower’s team in 1953.
The cabinet was much smaller then, but a popular joke that characterized Ike’s crew was that he had assembled nine millionaires and a plumber.
The millionaires included John Foster Dulles at State and Charles E. “Engine Charlie” Wilson at Defense. The plumber was Martin P. Durkin, at Labor; he was president of the plumber’s and pipefitter’s union. He lasted eight months.
Speaking about popular jokes, during the Reagan Administration, one of the most unpopular figures was Secretary of the Interior James Watt. Instead of being the protector of federal lands, Watt wanted to sell as well as lease substantial tracts for harvesting, ranching, and commercial purposes. He also tried in 1983 to ban The Beach Boys from performing on the Washington Mall.
How much energy does it take to destroy America? the joke went. One Watt was the answer.
Today, with a population of 325 million – 100 million greater than James Watt’s era – it will take more than one Watt to destroy America. With DeVos, Carson, Perry, and Puzder, that much negative energy, with methane added, might certainly fuel our anti-government crew as it itches to start swinging the wrecking balls in their agencies.
In the meantime, while none of this crew has ever run for sheriff, we certainly need a sheriff on duty in the nation’s capital to impose some law and order to prevent vandalism by wrecking ball on a scale yet unseen.