How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Trump

Donald Trump will be my president on January 20 and I accept that, but he frightens me. The number one priority of any president is our nation's security. We live in a very unstable world with erratic leaders who possess nuclear weapons. I'm fearful that his proclivity to simplify reality, distort facts and impulsively shoot from the hip will have catastrophic consequences. When it comes to international affairs loose lips and twittering fingers can sink ships.

Domestically I'm fearful that he does not fully understand how crucial it is that we maintain a safety net to help those who are unable, for a variety of different reasons, to make it in our society. You can't provide tax cuts to the wealthy, reduce corporate taxes, increase defense spending, reduce the deficit, rebuild America's infrastructure and maintain a robust domestic agenda. The numbers do not work and I'm afraid that the poor and blue-collar working-class Americans will get short shrift.

The majority of those who are poor in America are children, people with disabilities and the elderly. Many of America's 47+ million poor work at jobs that pay wages that do not allow them to escape poverty. I'm concerned that a lack of understanding and empathy could result in President Trump seeking to eliminate or severely cut the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Head Start, Pell Grants and food stamps.

In the period since the Great Recession, because of the policies of President Obama, the nation's poverty rate has fallen by a dramatic 1.2 percentage as unemployment has fallen from 10 percent to 4.6 percent today. Unfortunately this progress did not extend to blue-collar workers in the rust belt who lost their jobs and, if they were lucky, found new jobs, but at substantially lower salaries than they earned before. These individuals saw their median income drop dramatically, but not to the point where they qualified for poverty benefits. They need help.

I'm fearful that Trump's trickle-down trade war policies will be an absolute disaster for both poor and working-class Americans. I was hoping that my fears would be somewhat abated by the quality of his cabinet appointments and his promise of "draining the swamp." That has not been the case. It is said that "personnel is policy," and that the people the President selects for key cabinet posts is probably the best indicator you are going to get early as to who he really is and is going to be.

It is not my intent to dwell on my differences with President Trump's appointments on ideological grounds. Suffice it to say, unlike Betsy DeVos, his appointment as Education Secretary, I'm opposed to the proliferation of charter schools and school voucher programs. Unlike Dr. Ben Carson, his appointee to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), I'm in favor of efforts that require communities to provide affordable housing to low and moderate income households.

What most concerns me about some of President Trump's cabinet appointment is their total lack of experience in the areas under their jurisdiction -- Betsy DeVos, Dr. Ben Carson and Nikki Haley, President Trump's nominee to be U.S. Representative to the United Nations, all lack relevant experience. DeVos has not worked one day in education and never attended a public school (nor has her children), Dr. Ben Carson is surgeon, not a manager, and has no experience in housing and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has no experience whatsoever in foreign affairs.

I recognize the arguments that a good manager can manage anything and sometimes folks with lots of experience do bad jobs. Nevertheless, the lack of relevant experience of these appointees is troubling. You would think that a President with no experience with the Washington bureaucracy would surround himself with folks who have that type of experience. Failure to recognize that was what hurt Jimmy Carter's presidency. There were too many folks from Georgia, a very small state, who didn't know the ins and outs of Washington, DC.

Finally, the appointment of Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil Chairman, as Secretary of State is extremely troubling. Our nation's Secretary of State is our nation's chief diplomat. While Mr. Tillerson's company operates in 50 countries and he is the recipient of Russia's "Order of Friendship" medal he has no government or foreign policy experience.

I have not criticized President Trump for including many of his rivalries in his cabinet. Abraham Lincoln filled his cabinet with many of the men who had opposed him for the nomination. Lincoln, who like Trump was extremely self-confident, selected a team of political adversaries. Lincoln disregarded the political risks and saw the talent and intelligence each man brought to his administration. Lincoln made it known that Cabinet members were free to disagree and that he would be the final decision-maker.

I hope that President Trump adopts a similar approach and encourages alternative perspectives, supported by facts, and operates in a deliberate thoughtful manner and not the "reality-show persona" described in TIME Magazine's Person of the Year profile in which his "history of allowing his staff to fight among themselves for his attention" was noted.