Vengeance of Bane: Trump’s First Week
One of Trump’s first acts as a president of the US was to reverse Obama’s plan to cut mortgage insurance premiums for FHA-backed loans, which would have helped first-time buyers and those with low credit scores buy a house. Obama’s policy would have cut premiums for borrowers by an estimated $500 a year. What does this mean for Trump?
This action says a lot about Trump and contradicts most of his promises laid out in his speech earlier the same day. This is a cynical move that reveals the intentions of someone that has built an empire by selling houses to the wealthy and renting property to those who cannot afford buying one; and he wants to keep it this way.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said,
"In one of his first acts as president, President Trump made it harder for Americans to afford a mortgage. Actions speak louder than words. One hour after talking about helping working people and ending the cabal in Washington that hurts people, he signs a regulation that makes it more expensive for new homeowners to buy mortgages."
Trump’s executive orders
Most importantly, on Monday (23 January), Trump pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which former president Obama had negotiated, but hadn’t yet taken effect. It was signed by 12 countries in 2015 and it was an important movement towards solidifying America’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China. Trump, however, considered this a “potential disaster” and his demand that US allies should pay more for their security, is raising concerns in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.
Trump also signed an executive order, known as the “Mexico City Policy,” that stops any federal funding for international groups which perform or offer information on abortions.
During the government’s first briefing on Monday, the press secretary Sean Spicer, said that Trump “wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn.” The advocacy group Naral Pro-Choice America stated that, "It's telling that one of Trump's first executive actions combines two of his favourite things: silencing anyone who disagrees with him and repressing women."
He froze hiring for federal employees except for those working in the military, national security and public health. The move is part of his attempt to “clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” The memorandum, which he signed on Monday, stated that “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.” But, in terms of “corruption” and “interest collusion,” his choice of son in law as his senior adviser is telling.
What also stands out this week is the controversial approval of 64-year-old Texan oilman Rex Tillerson as a Secretary of State, after widespread concern about his business ties to Russia. Trump’s choice of Tillerson for the position of US Secretary of State was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with 11 Republicans voting in favour and 10 Democrats against. While usually nominees for the secretary of state have been approved by both parties, the split in the vote is unprecedented. The Democrat and senior United States Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin, had expressed his concern over Tillerson’s close ties to Russia which he believes could compromise his position as secretary of state. Others believe that his experience as an international businessman would benefit his diplomatic role.
Populist and protectionist politics
Trump’s inaugural speech was written by himself. This fact, however, we take with a pinch of salt, despite photographic evidence that the president himself supplied. Since his counselor Kellyanne Conway told the media, a few days ago, that they needed to offer “alternative facts” to the facts presented by mainstream media, then we can also provide an alternative to Trump’s own evidence. That, maybe, perhaps, he didn’t write his speech.
The Wall Street Journal reported that white-nationalist chief strategist Steve Bannon had partly helped write the speech.
In his inaugural speech, Trump promised to protect America and rebuild it with “American hands and American labor.” His protectionist agenda is obvious in the slogan: “buy American and hire American.” He declared: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” Of course, we all know, that despite what he says, he hasn’t done any of this himself. His clothing accessories and other Trump-related properties or products have been built with materials from, or manufactured abroad, “cheaply” and “bigly.”
According to the Washington Post, Trump’s speech “painted a bleak picture of a world run by elites, in which the little guy was being stomped on by the oppressive ruling class—a ruling class that could only be ousted by an unprecedented uprising by the masses themselves.” Some have noticed that the dark tones of the speech reminded of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. The super-villain Bane, had also proclaimed: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you, the people.”
Returning the power of the government back to its people is the cornerstone of populism. Words to satisfy the ears of the many but only to retain the system unchanged. But we shouldn’t forget Trump’s political agenda, despite his calls to support and improve the lives of “struggling families all across our land.”
All media, whether mainstream “unfair” media or his alternative Breitbart-variety media, have given him their full attention. Without, however, having the time to think and recollect our thoughts, the 24-hour coverage of Trump threatens to muddle facts and distract from reality. Let’s remind ourselves that this is a man who believes climate change is just “weather,” Arab-Americans cheered the attacks on 9/11, illegal immigrants should be deported and, most disconcertingly, that the Black Lives Matter movement is “trouble”—not to mention his tweeting of this worrying statistic. He also wants to lower business tax to 15% from 35% and allow multinationals, which keep their profits overseas, to transfer back home cash at a 10% tax rate. All of these Trump sayings have nothing to do with the “people” he so zealously defends in his speech.
But, perhaps, his comments on “groping” and the subsequent allegations by women against him, have triggered the beginning of a movement of dissenting voices. After the Women’s march, last Saturday, attracting more than a million protesters—a larger number than his inauguration crowd—and the growing number of people around the world gathering to protest against him, Trump has brought people together. He has given birth, against his will, to a movement that could potentially become a cohesive political multitude, and like every outraged woman’s voice on Saturday, he hasn’t got the power to abort it.