It is another week in Trump’s America, which means it’s time for another story of our government’s transformation into a piggy bank for rich, corrupt assholes. The New York Times published a detailed examination today of the connections between Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Mitch McConnell, and the Chinese government. It’s centered on her family’s shipping company, Foremost, which is American but does most of its business in China.
The piece is one of the most thorough examinations to date of the overlap between Chao, her official duties, and her family interests at Foremost; the paper reports that the Chaos had an “extraordinary proximity to power in China for an American family.” And between her stint as Labor Secretary under Bush and her current gig, according to the Times, Chao reportedly “extended her connections in China,” receiving awards and accolades that went undisclosed in her confirmation hearing. (The Department of Transportation spokesperson called this “an oversight.”)
Some of the controversy in the piece centers on whether Chao’s conflicts of interest affect her department’s policy towards U.S. shipping. The Times reports that her agency’s proposed budget “would have reduced federal funding for programs that support the shipbuilding industry and ships that operate under American flags.”
This is not something that exactly “matters” a lot, in the grand scheme of things; I cannot say I care whether or not America dominates the global shipping industry. This industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, particularly the largest container ships. I am more worried about this problem than whether it’s Chinese or American ships that dominate the seas and choke the skies.
But the story is still a classic of the well-worn Trump administration genre of petty corruption and administration officials using their office to benefit themselves or their family. Her planned first visit to China, in fact, was canceled after the State and Transportation departments raised concerns about her request for officials to “coordinate travel arrangements for at least one family member and include relatives in meetings with government officials.”
Emails the paper obtained surrounding the trip, which were posted by Times reporter Eric Lipton on Twitter, are pure Veep. In one, Chao asks about procuring special Camp David souvenirs to hand out as gifts on the trip.
In another email, a department official reports that some staffer named Ben was “going to the White House gift shop at the EEOB today to take pictures and price” of the tacky shit that Chao wanted to give out on her trip. Poor Ben.
This sort of routine corruption, absurdly brazen on its face but defended with spluttered outrage by the people in question, is what happens when your government is stacked with rich elites. The likelihood that one millionaire is going to be married to, or the daughter of, or the business partner of some other shithead millionaire who wants something from the government is very high.
A simple proposal: No more millionaires in the Cabinet. Rich people are always trying to trade on their connections to get more money; the risk is simply too high. We don’t need them. Banned.