Trump's Transition Plan: Draining The Swamp

For real this time
Crossing The Swamp, by Jon McNaughton

As discussed earlier, the old dog is chasing the Presidential car again, and this time the fleas have learned how to drive. A group of conservative organizations have released a nearly 1,000 page document, personnel database, and training program called Project 2025. This is what the next Trump Administration plans to do, most of it within the first 180 days, and I'm reading it so you don't have to.

I've introduced the intro, which is a lot of red meat, but now let's get to the first section, which is the (white) bread that holds everything together. The proverbial dog that catches a car doesn't know what a steering wheel, gears, or pedal are, and this time the fleas are clearly labeling everything. So the dog can piss all over it.

The Historical Use Of Executive Power

One of the core ideas of conservatives for generations has been broad executive power. The prerogative of the President. Trump I's main problem was whipping a recalcitrant bureaucracy into place (what he called the 'Deep State'), and they ended up rebelling against him.

The whole point of the first section of Project 2025 is 'never again'. The first section clearly labels what all the important departments and personnel are, prioritizes placing loyal political appointees in charge of them immediately, and philosophically claims a 'tyrannical' Presidency that 'commands' all executive function.

This is actually an interesting political dynamic that conservatives aren't necessarily on the wrong side of. One of the weird delusions of liberal democracy is that they live in a democracy at all and not an oligarchy. Aristotle did a tour of democracies in just the Mediterranean and there were “very many species of democracies, as well as of other states,” and he was generally agnostic about them. He said, ““We will first consider what particular sort of democracy is fitted to a particular city, and also what particular oligarchy to a particular people; and of other states, what is advantageous to what.” Bear in mind that we're talking about city-states, very small units, each with very diverse forms of government.

The delusion of liberal democracy is that there is one form of democracy and that it fits in bombs. And what is that form? Well, Aristotle would more properly call it oligarchy, not democracy at all. As Aris said, “when the government is in the hands of the rich, be they few or be they more, it is an oligarchy; when it is in the hands of the poor, it is a democracy.”

As William Ellis said in his introduction to Aristotle's Politics:

When we come to Aristotle's analysis of existing constitutions, we find that while he regards them as imperfect approximations to the ideal, he also thinks of them as the result of the struggle between classes. Democracy, he explains, is the government not of the many but of the poor; oligarchy a government not of the few but of the rich. And each class is thought of, not as trying to express an ideal, but as struggling to acquire power or maintain its position.

Which government do you think best describes America, or any of its vassal states? As Michael Hudson says about China vs the USA, in China the state controls capital, and in America it's the other way around. America is an oligarchy with voting, and the voting is increasingly superfluous. They're literally having the same election again. America is marketed as Democracy™, but it's really oligarchy most foul. This is not a feature, it's a bug. It was founded that way.

America was founded with only property owners able to vote, and the entire system of 'checks and balances' is structured that way. It creates a purposefully divided government so capital can conquer. American Democrats, who actually believe their own propaganda, are fond of calling Trump a tyrant, with little historical understanding of what that means. Tyrants were, in Ancient Greece, the people that overthrew entrenched aristocracies and oligarchies and saved the people. As Hudson says,

In the 7th-century BC, Greek populist leaders called tyrants (at that time with no original pejorative meaning) paved the way for the economic takeoff of Sparta, Corinth and Aegina by cancelling debts and redistributing the lands monopolized by their cities’ aristocracies.

In Hudson's view—which goes back to the Bronze Age—America is suffering the fate of any nation that allows debt to grow without regular forgiveness. The debt just piles up and the people become destitute. This is something ancient civilizations learned painfully, and painstakingly wrote down, and which we pinheads ignore. The ancients knew that debt-driven societies are (mathematically) bound for collapse unless someone 'takes the reins' and whips the corrupt rentier class out of town.

Tyrants were historical figures that declared debt jubilees and saved those cities from ruin, and regular debt jubilees are Biblically mandated (God-dated, really). Today, however, the economic teachings of the Bible are completely ignored in favor of minor personal shit that Jesus certainly forgives. The only time Jesus really got angry was when he saw money changers in the temple, and now those guys run the place, while talking about genitalia constantly.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Trumpists—like many fascists—correctly diagnose a problem but then try to cure it with worse. The historical point of a tyrant was to free people from total debt slavery, but that is on no one's agenda, least of all Trump's. 'Populist,' rather than an epithet, would be one leader who protects the people from a predatory lendership, but that's not Trump at all. He's just a charlatan, and a sucker's born every minute. Trump would merely swap preening, hypocritical elites for openly evil ones. America is in the middle of an intra-elite power struggle, a battle over marketing, not substance. As Project 2025 completely misdiagnoses the situation, “America is now divided between two opposing forces: woke revolutionaries and those who believe in the ideals of the American revolution.” There's no revolution at all here. Just a different perspective on penises.

The Use Of Executive Power

The incoming Trump Administration identifies a solution (tyranny, meaning just strong leadership capable of overcoming oligarchy) but then misidentifies the problem completely. It's like a 'populist' taking over the Rome just to change the programming in the Colosseum. It's all culture war bullshit in the guise of Biblical values, but no Biblical economics. These are the problems identified in the intro to Section One:

Whether it be mask and vaccine mandates, school and business closures, efforts to keep Americans from driving gas cars or using gas stoves, or efforts to defund the police, indoctrinate schoolchildren, alter beloved books, abridge free speech, undermine the colorblind ideal, or deny the biological reality that there are only two sexes, the Left’s steady stream of insanity appears to be never-ending. The next Administration must stand up for American ideals, American families, and American culture—all things in which, thankfully, most Americans still believe.

These problems are all minor and stupid. It's all lording it over people and not the Lord's Prayer which, in its original version, says and forgive them their debts. The average American is over $100,000 in debt (!) and defining the sexes clearly or using a gas stove will not alter their material conditions one whit. Both sides distract the population while the ruling oligarchs make out like bandits. That's the actual ruling class in America and they don't struggle at all, they don't even break a sweat. Regardless of administration.

Trump's use of executive power is fundamentally useless when it comes to changing material conditions in America. What gender a person is or what words people use are not material conditions. Trans people are not the threat, it's the transnational corporations that run everything. That's the 'they/them' people should be worried about, but both sides have got Americans distracted by made up bathroom debates. America has devolved to a preschool level of debate, except preschoolers have more morals. There's basically one economic lesson passed down from the ancients (forgive debt! frequently!) and moderns refuse to learn it. That is the proper use of 'executive' power and everything else is just bullshit.

The Abuse Of Executive Power

Continuing Trump's policy of diagnosing a problem and solving it with more problem, you get this incoming administration's focus on the 'deep state'.

As Donald Devine, Dennis Kirk, and Paul Dans write in Chapter 3, “An autonomous bureaucracy has neither independent constitutional status nor separate moral legitimacy.” Byzantine personnel rules provide the bureaucrats with their chief means of self-protection. What’s more, knowledge of such rules is used to thwart the President’s appointees and agenda. As Devine, Kirk, and Dans write, “Managing the immense bureaucracy of the federal government is impossible without an understanding of the key central personnel agencies and their governing laws and regulations.”

The deep state is real and American bureaucracy is deeply sclerotic and even genocidal and globally destabilizing (re: Palestine, Ukraine, etc). What Trump's administration misses, of course, is the completely unauditable Pentagon and the unaccountable CIA. Eisenhower warned about this 'military industrial state', after himself dropping this turd on America's doorstep. He said:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence economic, political, even spiritual is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Eisenhower said, “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” could prevent ruin, and just look at Americans. They're fixated on what's in other people's pants and not the Pentagon, where all the evil is. At this point, Ike's warning is just a description. The current Secretary of War was (and will be) a Raytheon board member and arms dealers have corrupted almost every politician, most relevant bureaucrats, countless think tanks, and even music festivals like SXSW, randomly. The very structure of America society has both been altered and was anyways shit in the first place.

America was always unleashing violence on someone, most immediately Native Americans and Blacks, not to mention native continental Americans dismissively called 'migrants'. Trump's administration would do nothing about this deep state and would instead dig the whole even deeper. This ignores the number one rule of holes, but what more would you expect from assholes.

Delusions Of Grandeur

The central delusion of American Democracy™ is that it's 'for the people' when in fact it was and still is 'for the property'. That's who could vote at founding and it is property rights that America's Byzantine 'separation of powers' preserves above all. The fact is that 'the people' historically benefit from a strong king or tyrant to protect them from the predations of the aristocrats/oligarchs. Better to be fucked by one guy than a thousand guys, as the thinking goes. What the American Constitution creates is a purposefully weak government to allow oligarchy to prosper. 'For the people' is just some marketing bullshit, like 'less calories' or 'sustainable'.

When Republicans talk about 'states rights' or 'small government' what they always mean is the right of property holders (slaves or debt slaves) to be awful without intervention. And yet Democrats are controlled by other property holders who are also awful, and they're just more saccharine sanctimonious about it. The American choices are Coke and Diet Coke, and they're both bad for you. The relief of 'water' is nowhere on the menu.

Project 2025 talks about fixing the real problems with America's sclerotic administrative elites by replacing them with… other elites. The plan throughout this document is to immediately stuff departments with political appointees (many of them 'provisional', ie not approved by the Senate) and that might make sense if they were going to declare a debt jubilee, cut the military industrial complex, or actually change material conditions. But no, they're just going to focus on immaterial bullshit while the looting continues through different orifices.

The Boring Details

Project 2025 is really a sequel to a document the Heritage Foundation gave Ronald Reagan. That's who they're trying to resurrect here, a pliable reality TV star as a stand-in for the pliable movie star that was Reagan. Everything's a reboot in late-stage America. Given that Trump, like Reagan, is aging and not all there, this document has to clearly spell out where and what everything is, and will end up delegating a lot of power to people like, well, the people that wrote the document.

They cite the Reagan era dictate “personnel is policy,” and clearly lay out their personnel policy, department by department. Hence the subsections of section one are A) The White House Office B) The Executive Office and C) Managing The Bureaucracy.

The White House Office

Rick Dearborn, Trump's Deputy Chief of Staff, outlines a White House org chart that seems laughable given the last Trump administration, which was more akin to a clown car than anything else. This time, however, his campaign actually seems more disciplined. As one anonymouse said, “This campaign is locked down,” and as another added, “This time, he’s not talking to randos.” Last time Trump basically didn't have a transition plan because nobody anticipated catching the car, but now the fleas are well-prepared, and the dog is less itchy.

Most of the subsections we're discussing are boring lists but this is powerful because A) this shows they know where the levers of power are and B) have personnel ready to yank them. I won't cover the org chart here, but suffice it to say it will follow the principle of deep Presidential power to fight the 'deep state.' As Dearborn says about potential candidates for General Counsel, “While a candidate with elite credentials might seem ideal, the best one will be above all loyal to the President and the Constitution.”

The Executive Office

The general thrust of Project 2025 is that as much as possible should be controlled by the President and his political appointees. As Vought says,

The effectiveness of those EOP (Executive Office of the President) levers depends on the fundamental premise that it is the President’s agenda that should matter to the departments and agencies that operate under his constitutional authority and that, as a general matter, it is the President’s chosen advisers who have the best sense of the President’s aims and intentions.

Hence what matters most across departments like Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is “commander’s intent” and legal problems with this approach must be cleared by a “General Counsel who is respected yet creative and fearless in his or her ability to challenge legal precedents that serve to protect the status quo.” Joe Biden said 'show me your budget and I'll show you your priorities' (his are war and genocide) and Vought takes that to heart, saying “OMB’s budget team plays a key role in executing policy across the executive branch, including at many agencies wrongly regarded as 'independent.'”

The key point here is that nothing in the Executive office will be considered independent. Everything will be at the whim of the 'commander', who actually doesn't pay that much attention, so really at the whim of different elites than before. This general philosophy extends through all the executive arms (National Security Council, National Economic Council, etc). What's notable here is that, this time, the Trump administration knows where the departments are, knows that they can't be trusted, and has a plan for trumping them.

Central Personnel Agencies (Managing The Bureaucracy)

This section—by Donald Devine, Dennis Dean Kirk, and Paul Dans—explains the change of federal bureaucracy from “the old spoils system, wherein government jobs rewarded loyal partisans,” to “a merit system to promote expertise and
shield bureaucrats from partisan political pressure”
and then presumably back to a spoils system. That's the general philosophical thrust of Project 2025 (a conservative mandate), but also the psychology of Trump.

This section calls for running government like a business (ie, busting unions and firing people), but they're actually strategic about it. They say, “Cutting federal employment can be helpful and can provide a simple story to average citizens, but cutting functions, levels, funds, and grants is much more important than setting simple employment size.”

The top priority, learning from Trump's first term, is to 'fully staff the ranks of political appointees', ie divide up the spoils among conservatives, like the ones writing this document. As they learned from last time:

His early Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO) did not generally remove political appointees from the previous Administration but instead relied mostly on prior political appointees and career civil servants to run the government. Such a reliance on holdovers and bureaucrats led to a lack of agency control and the absolute refusal of the Acting Attorney General from the Obama Administration to obey a direct order from the President.

The lesson is that, “Any new Administration would be wise to learn that it will need a full cadre of sound political appointees from the beginning if it expects to direct this enormous federal bureaucracy.” This gets back to the central point of Project 2025, which is dividing up the spoils among conservatives. As they continue,

That progressive system has broken down in our time, and the only real solution is for the national government to do less: to decentralize and privatize as much as possible and then ensure that the remaining bureaucracy is managed effectively along the lines of the enduring principles set out in detail here.

Those principles are using the tools of 'tyranny' to more fully entrench American oligarchy, both privatizing government functions and running government itself 'like a business'. Like a Trump business, so into the ground, really.

Not A Bad Plan

This is not a bad plan. I mean, it's a bad plan, but not badly thought out and, presumably, executed. The next administration plans for an imperial Presidency (already well-established), for almost immediately appointing political loyalists, and for culling and cowing the 'deep state' ruthlessly. This is all actually necessary given how completely corrupt the American government is, but they would just use it to entrench different corruption. This isn't a Project 2025 problem, the problem is that the entire American Project is irredeemably evil and just needs to die not be reformed. However, 'conservatives' insist on resurrecting Reagan into the hellscape he created, without an industrial base to cannibalize and in the middle of World War III. This will not end well, but at least the transition plan gives us a sense of how it will start.

Next time: Trump's offensive 'defense' plan