Donald Trump ran for the presidency as an economic populist who promised to implement stringent new reforms to limit the power of money in government. Not only has he ignored these promises, he’s likewise failed to observe even the old norms, which called for some pretense of good government. For instance, people in government might have always given their donors more influence over their decisions, but they at least pretended that was not the case in public. The Trump administration is not even bothering to put up a façade.
Mick Mulvaney, the budget director and director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has gutted the latter agency’s role in preventing consumer fraud. Tuesday, he met with lobbyists and executives from the banking industry, promising further steps to gut regulations to prevent them from cheating customers. That’s not even the scandalous part! The scandalous part is that Mulvaney asked the executives and lobbyists to donate more money, and told them the more they donated, the more influence they would have. Mulvaney didn’t offer this as a sad concession to reality but an actual principle of governance he had personally abided:
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lobbyists at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
The levels of corruption in this administration are simply staggering, and they range from open self-enrichment to openly selling policy to the highest bidder. The completely accurate sense that Trump and his party are out to get themselves and their friends rich is the administration’s gaping vulnerability. What’s especially odd is that nobody in the administration seems to have taken even cursory steps to address or paper over this weakness. They’re all just grabbing as much cash for themselves and their allies as they can, while they can.