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Opinion: Swamp appears undrained still

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “drain the swamp,” I associate it with clean government, transparency, ethics and such like. In 2016, it became, along with “Lock her up,” a favorite Donald Trump campaign slogan. Trump was not the first to use the metaphor. John Kelly traces it back to a 1903 letter to the Daily Northwestern. Winfield R. Gaylord, state organizer of the Socialist Party in Wisconsin, wrote “Socialists are not satisfied with killing a few of the mosquitoes which come from the capittalist (sic) swamp; they want to drain the swamp.”

One reason Trump enthusiasts chanted “Lock her up” was that Hillary Clinton appeared to have broken the law regarding the handling of classified information (though James Comey claimed that no prosecutor would have brought the case). Another strike against her was the blurring of lines regarding the Clinton Foundation, her family, her public duties as secretary of state and her campaign — all of which were redolent of corruption, even if nothing was proved.

But if ever there were a crew less suited to drain the swamp in Washington, the Trump team would have to be it. Remember Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price? You may not, since his tenure was less than nine months long. But in that time, according to Politico, he ran up $400,000 in private plane trips and $500,000 in military flights to Asia, Africa and Europe. There were also questions raised about his private investment in a company that stood to benefit from his public action. Being profligate with taxpayer money is swampy, isn’t it? He was fired in September 2017.

The Trump team does love its luxury air travel. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, jetted off to Kentucky last August on a government plane to (depending upon whom you believe): do Treasury business or view the solar eclipse. Whatever. She should reimburse the government for expenses. The couple also apparently requested a military plane for their honeymoon trip to Europe. Mnuchin explained, “I probably spend over 50 percent of my time on national security issues. ... This had nothing to do with convenience. This was purely about national security.” But when the story broke, Mnuchin found other ways to stay in touch while flying commercial.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin also took his wife to Europe for a 10-day trip. They began in Copenhagen and ended in London, along with three VA officials and one spouse. The government reimbursed Shulkin’s wife for her travel expenses (though others in the party apparently paid their own way).

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, reports the Washington Post, is also being investigated for “at least four noncommercial and military flights in the past eight months” at a cost to taxpayers of $58,000. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, but I find it hard to think of an EPA emergency that would require Scott Pruitt to fly on a military jet. Pruitt has also reportedly fitted his office with a special soundproof booth. I guess sound carries in the swamp. Cost to taxpayers: $25,000.

There were stories of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife using chartered aircraft and other pricey travel options, but when the Interior Department’s deputy inspector general, Mary Kendall, looked into it, she found that her investigation was stymied by “absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips.” Interior lawyers and ethics officials were unable to “distinguish between personal, political and official travel.”

Housing and Urban Development chief Ben Carson apparently discovered that the conference room table in his suite was scuffed and scratched. At his wife’s suggestion, he purchased a new table and chairs. Cost to taxpayers: $31,000. According to the Guardian, the department also signed a $165,000 contract for “lounge furniture.” Swamps are great places for lounging, I guess.

And then there is the Trump family itself. I will leave to forensic accountants the complicated web of loans and investments and connections Jared Kushner brought with him to the swamp (and repeatedly failed to include on disclosure documents). But it seems that just one of the reasons his security clearance was downgraded this week involved accepting loans from a private equity billionaire named Joshua Harris. Kushner met several times with Harris at the White House and reportedly spoke to him about a job advising the president on infrastructure. Later, Kushner’s company received a $184 million loan from Harris’ firm. Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Kushners, denied that anything untoward took place. “Stories like these attempt to make insinuating connections that do not exist to disparage the financial institutions and companies involved,” she said.

Perhaps, but would Hillary Clinton have said anything different?

— Mona Charen is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.

Comments

Richard Heckler

As We Speak Lending Scam Again Underway
 

Conservatives pushing hard for privatization of taxpayer own services while at the same time lending institutions are financing homes at seriously inflated values indicates another loan scam is on the horizon.
 

Again under a conservative administration.

 Inventories of homes for sale continue to drop. Markets are tight and inflated residential values are soaring.
 

The same data is being heard throughout the USA. Which brings me around to some very stinky stuff.
 

Markets get tight, home loan scams surface and market values drop significantly. To the point where a respectable number of home owners suddenly owe more than their property is worth.
 

Then of course homes up for repo spike as jobs are lost. 
 

Lending institutions begin to whine as politicians start yelling banks are collapsing blah blah blah. 
 

Bailouts for the reckless lenders seem to be the taxpayers responsibility. How can that be? Why should taxpayers be the insurance to cover reckless management?
 

Mortgage meltdowns actually begin with the bursting of an intense selling “bubble” in which home values have been irresponsibly over valued. 
 

A housing bubble is an economic bubble that occurs in our real estate markets. 
 

It is defined by rapid increases in the valuations of real property until unsustainable levels are reached in relation to incomes and other indicators of affordability. 
 

Following the rapid increases are decreases in home prices and mortgage debt that is higher than the value of the property.
 

Beware. 
 

Current Senate banking bill likely to boost chances of bank bailouts, CBO says

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/w...

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Smith

Hey, you found a new link! No you'll wind up posting it hundreds of time.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Summers

Mr. Heckler, With your astute complex critically thought out knowledge of the American economy, you must be a multimillionaire?

You must be one of the richest guys in Larryville.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Greg Cooper

Ad hominem, doesn't attack the meaning of the message. Do you have anything to say about that? I mean, anything factual or appropriate to the article?

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Most of Richard's post are too informative and too lengthy for the BS crowd. And what is your opinion, BS'ers. Things are starting to look a lot like they did in Bush's time right before the banks created the Great Recession, loose regulations of risky behavior by banks, insider trading not being investigated, getting rid of net neutrality to kill small businesses, etc. Are you willing to pay to bail them out again? You do realize that people with lots of money didn't get hurt very much during the Great Recession, except for awhile they couldn't flaunt their riches. Do your really think you are on that same level with them? Really?

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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