It is easy to get overwhelmed by the news and tweets that constantly flutter around president Trump and some of his administration. However, I am sure we sometimes wonder who the people are who want to work for this reality show president? Just who exactly are the influential cabinet members that Trump surrounds himself with? We all know the familiar names (Spicer, Kushner, Bannon, Sessions etc). But, what about some of the other cabinet members that maybe do not make it through to our TV screens or Twitter feeds? Who are his cabinet members, what do they represent and how will their policies affect us now and in the long run?
I can write pages about each cabinet member, but for now, let’s focus on just a few who are not constantly in the news but whose actions will have a big impact on the US, our personal lives, and possibly the entire world.
Ajit Pai-FCC Chairman
Ajit Pai originally started his career in Government working in the Anti-Trust Division at the Department of Justice. However, soon after, he took a position as Deputy General Counsel at Verizon where he worked on several matters related to competition and regulatory issues that Verizon faced on a regular basis. Pai eventually returned to government and his experience in telecom and broadband eventually led him to the FCC, Federal Communications Commision. Unlike many other Trump appointees, he is more of a career government employee with some industry experience. He has held several positions at the FCC since 2007.
Why is Ajit Pai important? For starters he is the only Indian American who was appointed by the current administration. But even more importantly, he, more than anyone else, will have significant sway over the future of our internet. Pai is a proponent of allowing the internet community and telecommunications companies to police themselves. He wants to roll back regulations that were enacted in 2015 to treat Internet Service Providers like utilities.
The current rules make it illegal for internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Comcast from giving preferential treatment to certain content. In other words it prevents them from charging more to content and application providers to get their stuff to you faster; potentially slowing down everyone who does not pony up the extra cash. This could have a profound impact on net neutrality. Net neutrality is quite complicated; but, in a nutshell, it ensures that the internet, and all of the stuff on it, is freely accessible to everyone. Because of Net Neutrality, everything from sports and social media to x-rated websites are literally at your fingertips.
Just because some of Pai’s new proposals have taken effect does not mean the internet will change overnight. However, I do encourage you to have a basic understanding of what this is all about because our personal and business lives depend on a free and open internet more than ever before.
Wilbur Ross-Secretary of Commerce
One of the lesser known and definitely less sexy departments in the federal government is the Department of Commerce. However, this department is extremely important to the US economy. The costs of all of our consumer goods are determined by Commerce more than any other department. Commerce will be tasked with negotiating trade agreements, setting up potential border taxes and renegotiating NAFTA if Trump so decides.
So who will be running this shop? A billionaire, private equity barron named Wilbur Ross. Many people make the argument that a billionaire running such an important department is a good thing, because his years of experience will help him negotiate in America’s favor. I suppose we’ll see.
Ross started out working on Wall Street and then eventually started his private equity firm in which he focused on distressed companies. While at his firm he oversaw some investments at distressed steel companies. Many of these companies had huge pension obligations as well. So, in order to make them a good investment, Ross transferred much of the pension liability to a little known government entity called Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp (PBGC). In other words, the pensions became the responsibility of the government. In many cases, worker pensions were slashed in half, and Ross, ever the opportunist, used this entity more than once during his business transactions to eliminate pension costs.
To be fair, the PBGC is actually funded by private industry, not taxpayers, and had Ross not done this during some of his acquisitions, it is possible that his target companies would have gone bankrupt, taking their pensions down with them and leaving thousands of workers with nothing.
Based on all of his billionaire connections and his membership in many high level organizations, it is hard to imagine that Secretary Ross has spent much time in the same room as middle class Americans unless they were serving him dinner or mixing his drinks. But like some other cabinet secretaries before Ross, we will see what is more important; the ability to understand the American people, or the ability to navigate high stakes trade and commerce deals.
Tom Price-Health and Human Services Secretary
Tom Price is a retired surgeon from Suburban Atlanta. He has served in Congress since 2005 and has now been tapped by Trump to lead the agency with the largest federal budget, roughly $1 Trillion. This agency oversees all aspects of Medicaid, Medicare, National Institute of Health and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. Hence why it needs $1 Trillion every year.
Price is about as conservative as they come. He voted against the Affordable Care Act, voted to defund Planned Parenthood, voted against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and even voted against a bill that would have required the government to regulate tobacco like a drug.
Price also has quite a few investments in health care related companies and many of the trades he made before his confirmation hearing look as though he could have used his new position to influence the price of the stocks. Price’s track record on all of this make it look as though he has been dirty dancing with the ethics of his own profession; health care. Many of his colleagues in the field probably would not approve.
At any rate, Tom Price could have a significant impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. Even if congress does not repeal the Affordable Care Act or vote to defund Planned Parenthood, the Secretary of Health and Human Services ultimately decides how these funds are allocated on a day to day basis. His actions over the course of his service in the administration are extremely important and understanding his methods will be crucial as long as this team is in power.
Since taking office in January of this year, Trump has made little progress in getting his agenda through congress, despite the majority that the Republican party currently holds. His hastily drafted executive orders have so far defined how he governs.
These three men are in fact professionals in their fields, however, their ideals for how the department and government should run could potentially impact your life for the foreseeable future. Keeping on eye on them and voicing your opinion when needed is the best way to keep their wills in check.