Remember when “draining the swamp” was something the Bush administration swore it was going to do in launching its Global War on Terror? Well, as we all know, that global swamp of terror only got muckier in the ensuing years. (Think al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, think ISIS.) Then, last year, that swamp left terror behind and took up residence in Washington, D.C. In the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump swore repeatedly that, along with building his wall and locking “her” up, he was going to definitively drain the Washington swamp, ridding the national capital of special interests once and for all. (“It is time to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.,” he typically said. “This is why I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.”) “Drain the swamp” became one of the signature chants at his rallies.
No sooner had he been elected, however, then he decided to “retire” the concept of draining the swamp — and little wonder. After all, he quickly began appointing hordes of “former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants” to agencies where they were to help “craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.” Then his administration started issuing waivers to those new appointees, allowing them to “take up matters that could benefit former clients.” News of just who got those waivers was kept secret and only released after publicity about them took a truly bad turn. Here’s a typical example of one of them, as reported by the New York Times: “A… waiver was given to Michael Catanzaro, who until January was registered as a lobbyist for companies including Devon Energy, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy, a coal-burning electric utility. Mr. Catanzaro moved from lobbying against Obama-era environmental rules to overseeing the White House office in charge of rolling back the same rules, an activity permitted by his waiver.”
You want swamp? You’ve already got the start of a genuine mire, a true bog in Donald Trump’s Washington. Having yesterday’s corporate lobbyists oversee today’s government policies for the very industries that employed them last week doesn’t exactly increase the odds of instituting the sort of “populist” economics Trump promised on the campaign trail; nor, as TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents’ Bankers, reported for this site back in late January, is appointing a veritable who’s who of Goldman Sachs executives to key positions, including Treasury secretary, the most obvious way to drain the swamp when it comes to, say, America’s banks and other financial institutions. As for those banks — remember the “too big to fail” financial meltdown of 2007-2008? — let Prins tell you just what’s at stake in Washington right now.