Trump's choices shouldn't be surprising
There has been much hand-wringing in some circles about many of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections, people who seem to disdain the very agencies he is asking them to direct. Yet Trump, sometimes criticized for not being a true Republican, is making Cabinet choices that line up well with the party’s rhetoric and stated ideology.
These “anti-agency” choices also line up with the positions Trump took when campaigning for the presidency. The appointments are a reminder, once again, that elections have consequences. That is something those Bernie Sanders primary supporters, who couldn’t stomach Hillary Clinton and cast a protest vote for Trump, might think about.
Andy Puzder, the CEO of the fast-food CKE Restaurants company, which includes Hardee’s, hardly fits in with the U.S. Department of Labor’s mission statement: "To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights."
Puzder is anti-union. He is not a big fan of the minimum wage or of new rules pushed by the Obama administration to extend overtime requirements to more workers. Puzder advocates using robotic technology to replace human labor where possible because machines "never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case."
Many conservative Republicans don’t like the minimum wage. They prefer that the market set salaries, and have resisted raising the federal minimum wage from the paltry $7.25 per hour. Some see rules, such as stringent overtime requirements and protections against discriminatory hiring, as red tape that detracts from the ability of businesses to grow and create jobs.
No surprise, then, that the new Republican president would appoint someone with a predilection towards easing worker protections to the benefit of business. Except, perhaps, that Trump campaigned as a hero of the working-class.
Another “anti-agency” pick was Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to direct the Environmental Protection Agency. The Obama administration sought to reduce greenhouse gases using EPA regulations to force power plants to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Pruitt opposes that policy. He questions the significance of human activity in causing the planet to warm, despite the settled science to the contrary. The man nominated to direct the EPA sees these rules as an overreach, which hurts the fossil fuel business and so is bad for the economy and job creation. He’d rather see environmental regulation largely delegated to the states.
Naming someone to head the EPA who will seek to weaken and delay environmental enforcement aligns, again, with Republican ideology and Trump’s campaign stances.
Then there is the choice of Betsy Devos for secretary of education. The person who will head the Department of Education does not see its role as supporting public education, but rather promoting private competition with it. She has advocated for school-choice voucher and tax-credit programs, helping parents send their children to private, charter or religious schools, or home school.
The philosophy is that forced to compete, public schools will improve academic performance. Research into such initiatives, however, suggests that “competition” leaves public schools with the lower-income, academically challenged students. Devos would like to vastly expand the experiment.
Trump called for more school choice in his campaign. In that regard, Devos was the perfect pick.
Personally, I think these choices are awful. But this newspaper did not endorse Trump and I did not vote for him. He won and, with these choices at least, he is doing what he said he would do.
Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.
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