The Poly Spotlight

CABINET:  President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s cabinet choices reflect the inexperience and contradiction that riddled his campaign.

By Claudia Smith, Staff Writer

On January 20, 2017, President Barack Obama will leave the White House, and President-Elect Donald J. Trump will begin his first term as President of the United States. Preparing for his transition of power, Trump must appoint members for his cabinet. The cabinet, made up of secretaries of executive departments, serves as a board to advise the President and greatly influence the way this nation is governed. Some of these high-ranking secretarial positions include Secretary of Education, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Secretary of State.

As the presidential cabinet holds some of the highest offices in the United States, Trump’s choices are being closely watched. Many question his ability to choose members who will exemplify strong leadership to push the nation toward a better future; some of his choices are downright contradictory. While some appointments are expected, such as Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, for White House Chief of Staff, others appear to be made thoughtlessly. Many cabinet members face scrutiny for their inexperience in government, conflicts of interest and remote lack of qualifications for their departments.

Trump’s appointment of Elisabeth DeVos as Secretary of Education has been particularly criticized in the media. DeVos, a billionaire and former Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman, is the chair of the American Federation for Children, a pro-school choice advocacy group. School choice advocates for the allocation of public funds to privatize education, either seen in vouchers — funding for children to attend private schools for those who cannot afford it — or in the development of charter schools. DeVos, motivated by Christian ideals, devoted her life to advocating for school choice, which she claimed would “advance God’s kingdom.” The notion of reforming public schools to just expand “God’s kingdom” is frankly ridiculous; to imbue public schools with Christian values is to go against the concept of separation of church and state the United States government was built on.

DeVos has unsuccessfully worked to establish these schools in Michigan. According to the Washington Post, most Michigan charter schools “have recorded student test scores in reading and math below the state average.” Michigan also “tolerates more low-performing charter schools than any other state.” In addition, DeVos has also been criticized for her inexperience in leadership. Pulitzer-Prize winning Detroit Free Press Opinions and Community Engagement editor Stephen Henderson denounced DeVos’ appointment, writing,  “DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader… [She is] not an expert in curriculum or school governance […] She has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools,” Henderson said. To appoint someone so unsuccessful in creating education policy is a danger to the United States public school system.

Another extremely contradictory appointment is that of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The President-Elect promised to tear down the existing agency in “almost every form.” The United States under Obama’s administration has been one of the world’s greatest contributors to the prevention of climate change. The nation’s policy to move away from coal energy toward clean renewable energy sources has made the United States a global front runner against human-caused global warming. Under Trump and Pruitt, this may completely change. Pruitt blocked acts such as the Clean Power Plan that proposed to help cut American contributions to global emissions. Pruitt plans to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Conference due to his disbelief in human-caused climate change, despite the general scientific consensus of its existence. Many scientific organizations, such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Joint Sciences Academy, agree that climate change is a real phenomenon specifically caused by humans.

Pruitt also has ties to fossil fuel companies that go completely against his supposed care for the environment needed to run the EPA. His ties with production companies Exxon and Koch Industries, as well as trade groups American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturing bring up a major conflict of interest between his position and financial ties. According to Ken Cook, the head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research group, due to Pruitt’s contempt of the idea of global warming and associations with non-clean energy production, Pruitt could be “the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.”

Other outrageous picks litter the cabinet. The Secretary of State will be the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson, a personal friend of Russia, the long-known enemy of the United States. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development position will be filled by Benjamin Carson, a former neurosurgeon and Republican Presidential Candidate with no experience in running a bureaucracy or government. The Chief Strategist will be Steve Banner, the media executive of Breitbart News, known to make anti-Semitic and racist remarks. The Secretary of the Treasury, perhaps most ironically, will be Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood filmmaker with no government experience. These choices reflect an unfamiliarity with government, as they seem to have either direct conflicts of interest with their positions or minimal government experience.

While many of these positions need confirmation from the Senate, it is likely no picks will be denied. America will have to wait until January to know the full extent of the damage these picks could inflict on the current state of the nation. While the idea of choosing a cabinet that may have refreshing views on current issues sounds appealing, perhaps a more traditional, experienced cabinet should be leading the country rather than a group of men and women with about as much government experience as the President-Elect himself.

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