Donald Trump's strategy of state deconstruction

The expert on America of the German Association of Foreign Policy (DGAP), Josef Braml
Donald Trump's strategy of state deconstruction

US President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was fired last week said that there are serious disagreements in the current US administration over the direction about where it should go. However, according to Bannon, "if the Republican Party on Capitol Hill gets behind the president on his plans and not theirs, it will all be sweetness and light, be one big happy family." The expert on America of the German Association of Foreign Policy (DGAP), Josef Braml told in his article about the policy pursued by Trump and his supporters.

Anyone who evaluates the Trump team's actions, based on ingrained models of representative democracies, is inclined to believe that his government is stuck at the level of experiments. But it would be a mistake to conclude that Washington is ruling irrationally and without following a strict plan: Donald Trump came to power to limit the state's influence on the economy and people's lives as much as possible. That's why Trump's supporters voted for him in the presidential election. That's why representatives of the economic community financially supported him. And that's why Trump might even be elected a second time - even if high-ranking economic representatives distance themselves from him and publicly condemn his moral ambivalence towards racist and anti-Semitic tendencies. No matter how reprehensible and alien the president's speeches may be, his mission to dismantle the state's influence is clear, and it finds support among the representatives of the economy and the Republicans.

If we consider the measures taken by Trump through the prism of this strategic goal, then they suddenly make sense. The 2018 budget project was the first sign of the Trump government's radical intentions. The budget's significant spheres of state influence were reduced, including programs of social assistance, environmental protection, foreign policy, as well as the development policy and budget of the administration staff. Exceptions were only military and intelligence services. With his draft budget Trump has started "the deconstruction of the administrative state", named by his [now-former] chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

The creation of a sort of shadow office of the trusted White House employees was opposed to the financial weakening of the established government structures: being included in the working processes of the ministries at the highest level, these employees are not in any way subordinate to the relevant ministers, but are directly accountable to the White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn. A chess move, which turned ministers into altar servers and the continuing deconstruction of the state. For example, Foreign Minister Rex Tillerson, whose placating influence in the White House is hoped by Western governments, has no authority to appoint a deputy and other important personnel.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has learned policy as a manager of hedge funds and a political fundraiser in the investment bank Goldman Sachs, on the contrary, has more decision-making capabilities. The prerequisite for this is he taking care of deconstruction of the state regulation in the financial sector carefully introduced under Barack Obama. According to the vice chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, Stanley Fischer, it can be considered a dangerous trend. Trump also systematically pursues a strategy of deregulation and deconstruction in energy and environmental policy. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy is led by Rick Perry, a man who wanted to dissolve this ministry as a candidate during the presidential election campaign. Previously, he served as governor of Texas; it was the oil industry that financed his election to this post. Scott Pruitt sets the tone for the Environmental Protection Agency. He is also a former lobbyist who, in cooperation with energy companies, has repeatedly sued his current agency to abolish established environmental standards.

Systematically, the Trump administration also sets in motion its strategy of state deconstruction in the field of the judiciary, which, in accordance with democratic principles, is in fact an independent guard and an executive correction. The White House is gradually working to organize federal justice from the lowest level through appeal courts to the high court, the Supreme Court. Nine U.S Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president, but before their lifetime appointment to this position their candidacies must be approved by the Senate.

Neil Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court just 11 days after Trump's inauguration demonstrated the fact that Donald Trump can act quickly and effectively, when it's important to him. Unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who had been vainly trying to "occupy" a vacant post in the Supreme Court with his candidate for more than a year, Donald Trump promoted his candidate by the so-called nuclear option, bypassing the control mechanisms existed in the Parliament. Thus, the president, aimed at the state deconstruction, has secured himself an ally at the top of the US jurisdiction: with the exception of his position on abortion (half the battle for Trump's possible re-election by his Christian right-wing electoral base), the ultra-conservative Gorsuch is considered an enemy of state intervention in the private and economic spheres.

Therefore, the Trump administration's budget and personnel policies, as well as its policy in the judicial system, can in no way be called inconsistent. On the contrary, this policy follows the strategic course of state deconstruction. It also applies to Trump's cooperation with the legislature: the effectiveness of the state visibly declines with every political measure that boosts public debt and, simply depriving possible future regulatory measures of funds. In this sphere Trump also looks forward to cooperate with so-called party comrades in the Congress when it comes to reducing taxes.

If his economic plans resembling Ronald Reagan's "magic economy" will be realized, then we should expect a significant increase in public debt as in the 1980s. The plans are already getting out of control. After the economic and financial crisis of 2007–2008, the national debt doubled to 19 trillion dollars. And it does not even include the debts of individual states and municipalities.

The American state can become incapacitated soon - especially as demographic development will blow up social funds in the foreseeable future. In a few years, the baby boomer generation will reach retirement age, will burdens retirement insurance, as well as Medicaid and Medicare, health care for the socially unprotected strata, including for the elderly and disabled. Like its predecessors, President Trump will avoid engaging programs that are important for the survival of older persons; besides, this active electoral group is too important for him. However, according to the estimates of the budget office of the Congress, the public debt will grow to 86% of GDP in ten years and to 141% of GDP by 2046 without any cutbacks in this area. This is a quantity that surpasses even the peak of 106% achieved during the Second World War. The budget office already warns that a growing debt is a significant risk for the country. It threats with a financial collapse, which may paralyze the state's ability to act.

An empty treasury means down time for future governments. Donald Trump's debt policy cuts down the role of the American state, which is approved by lobbyists and their clients from the economy. The Tea Party movement's activists are inspired by the idea of ​​making the role of the state as small as possible so that it can be "drowned in the bathtub" - a frequently quoted joke of Grover Norquist, the strategist of the libertarian movement and the Americans for Tax Reform President. Up to 150 officials from the legislative and executive branches of government, as well as representatives of interest groups and electoral organizations, meet weekly in his office in the center of Washington. Their main theme is the tax policy. Norquist has already incited the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate to publicly declare that they will not vote on tax increases in the future. Those hoping that the administration will either "come to life" or will be doomed to failure sooner or later, due to Trump's publicly resonant breaks with established political processes, should not delude themselves. The strategy of state deconstruction, being implemented by Trump and his supporters, should be taken seriously - and it has long-term consequences.