Hard to drain the swamp by hiring swamp creatures

The 45th US President won the election, in part, because of his commitment to drain the swamp in Washington. It should have given us pause when he hired more wealthy people than ever before to be members of his cabinet. As we continue to witness, it is hard to drain the swamp when you hire swamp creatures.

A few weeks ago, Scott Pruitt, the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned. Pruiit was under significant scrutiny over a series of unehtical and extremely poor leadership decisions around spending, travel, favoritism, and influence. Staff who tried to cry foul were let go or reassigned.

Last year, we saw Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services leave. A report came out last week that detailed his significant use of charter flights at taxpayer expense. A similar criticism over questionable trips and sporting tickets led to the resignation of David Shulkin, the Director of Veteran Affairs.

Now, Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, is under fire for not divesting himself from several investments in companies. This astute business owner and investor claims these were oversights. But, documented reporting reveals he has numerous meetings on his calendar with CEOs of companies with whom he remained invested. That does not sound like an oversight to me.

Then, there is Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law who has no real title and only recently was fully vetted by the FBI for security clearance. It has been reported other global leaders speak openly about how they could use Kushner since he was soliciting money to pay off a $1.2 billion debt payment next year. He did get his funding, but my guess is that this is being investigated.

This should not be a total surprise as organizations take on the personality of its leader. With a leader who did not adequately divest or shelter his businesses from his ability to benefit, who does benefit from investment, hotel stays, etc. as patrons try to court influence, who significantly travels at taxpayer expense, it is not a stretch to witness his cabinet’s desire for perquisites and questionable practices in their favor.

To be frank, President Obama was vilified by conservative news outlet for his vacations to golf. Yet, these same news outlets condone with their silence the current incumbent’s conflicts of interests and sojourns. His travels far exceed that of other Presidents at this point.

It seems pretty swampy to me. Maybe more swamp creatures need to leave the lagoon.

Draining the swamp is hard with so many Yertle the Turtles

One of Dr. Seuss’ popular children books has a lesson for us all and a few have called it an important business book. Briefly, “Yertle the Turtle” is about a leader named Yertle who stands on the backs of his servant turtles to see his realm. Yet, as the stack grows, he continues to ignore the complaints of Mack the turtle on the very bottom. Of course, the stack falls and Yertle comes tumbling down. The moral to the story is not hard to decipher.

I mention this swamp example because the President was elected, in part, because he was going to drain the swamp. Setting aside why people believed an imperial man would deign to do basic things for the masses, what he has done is appoint people to be his Department secretaries whom are also used to nice things. He hired a bunch of Yertles making it hard to drain the swamp standing on the backs of others.

At least five of his cabinet members have come under fire for lavish expenditures on the taxpayers’ dime. HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned over his frequent desire to travel with charter flights. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is still on the job, but took seven military flights costing $800,000, one of which was coincidental to a city in the path of the recent solar eclipse (a certain Carly Simon song lyric comes to mind in “You’re so vain.”)

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has been the quietest of appointees until it was learned he was installing palatial furniture totalling $165,000 in his office. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is also traveling well being $200,000 over budget robbing from emergency funds to pay for it.

Not to be outdone, EPA Director Scott Pruiit also likes to travel well and goes with  an entourage. Part of that is due to security reasons as he does not care for people reminding him his role is to protect the environment, not business. But, he is getting flak for his devious way to provide lucrative raises to two key staffers (and then deny it) and renting a luxury condo from a fossil fuel lobbyist at a very favorable rate. It should be noted that several Mack the turtles were reassigned when they complained of ethical concerns in the EPA.

These Yertles have always liked nice things, but so does their boss. His predecessor took a huge amount of grief for his travels and golfing. Yet, that has been dwarfed by the biggest Yertle in the White House who does not spend much time there as it is actually a step down in luxury to him. That speaks volumes.

It is hard to drain the swamp when you have so many Yertles doing the draining. And, this is without even considering the measures taking by these men to grease the skids for business reducing regulations, selling off rights to public lands and providing a huge tax cut. The friends of the Yertles are Yertles as well. Unfortunately, the Macks of the world only matter as props in this value enhancement for the Yertles. Not much is trickling down, just the opportunity for the Macks to stick their nose in the mud.