Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
DONALD J Trump expected that the billionaires (and some mere millionaires) who were inducted into his Cabinet would abstain from enriching themselves or those close to them, in view of their wealth. Clearly the 45th President of the US did not expect that some of the super rich and merely rich in the Trump Cabinet would seek to assist only select groups of individuals rather than the nation as a whole. Rather than rich, middle class and poor in money terms, or white, brown, yellow or black in skin colour. As has been said several times before by this columnist, should Donald Trump witness and increase of even one dollar in his net wealth during his term in office, he is likely to be hounded by investigation upon investigation into his finances once his term (or terms) gets over. That goes for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as well. Both made a decision to assist the President as a formal member of his team, which means that any addition in their wealth will get ascribed to nepotism and favouritism, no matter how untrue such an allegation may be.
Trump’s other children wisely decided to stay out of formal office, but even they will face years of grilling should any of them become much richer at the close of the Trump Presidency. When the billionaire went ahead with his campaign to be Head of State & Government in his country, he spent more of his personal funds on the campaign than any previous Presidential candidate has in US history. Clearly, Trump is no longer interested in making money but in scripting history. The New York billionaire son of immigrants from across the Atlantic knew what he was getting into, which was to exchange private service with public service. Once in office, he chose several other ultra-rich citizens of the US to be part of his Cabinet, such as the Secretary for Commerce and the Secretary of the Treasury. He also chose competent professionals of moderate means, such as Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defence Secretary James Mattis, not to mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Jim Bolton. None of these four joined the Beltway Gravy Train, which dispenses huge amounts of cash to those who trade access for a price, the way Paul Manafort did for close to three decades of what may be called “private service”.
Education Secretary DeVoss is a billionaire and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is only a millionaire. Both are demeaning the elevated office they hold and the Trump Presidency with their actions, and the sooner the US President sends both of them into retirement from public office, the better for his country. By her past and present actions, it is clear that DeVoss is among those who believe that poverty is a sign of a defective human being. She refuses to understand that poverty may be accidental and should a very poor citizen of the US (and there are tens of millions of these unfortunates) be given a chance to improve his education, he or she may contribute several times more to the economy than the money expended in giving the poor access to good education. In India, a Right to Education Act has been passed, but oddly, only Hindus running schools are expected to abide by its provisions. Muslims and Christians are left out, as though they would object at being asked to shoulder some of the cost of providing quality education to the very poor.
Also, because of widespread corruption among the officials who in effect make decisions about the students who can get admitted, several admitted under the free 25% quota for the underprivileged in private schools run by Hindus are actually well off and seek to cheat genuinely poor children by getting their own admitted for free in private schools. However, the principle is exemplary, and it is a disgrace that in India, millions of brilliant but poor children are denied access to the type of education that would make them superstars in technology, science or in other fields. The US has the money to ensure that poor children with significant potential be given access to good quality education. It is just such access that the new Education Secretary is systematically reducing through her policies, of course applauded by other rich individuals with the same Dickensian Scrooge mentality (or Scrooge before he changed his attitude during a Christmas season). There are billionaires who take joy in giving large tranches of their wealth to the underprivileged, such as Azim Premji in Bangalore or Melinda Gates in Seattle, but not the Education Secretary. Every year, tens of thousands of poor children are being deprived of the skills that would make America great again, because Betsy DeVoss detests spending public money on the poor. This is a woman who would have sought to deprive Abraham Lincoln of an education, if that involved spending a few of the dollars she hoards.
As for Attorney General of the US Jeff Sessions, he is silently gutting Justice Department procedures of safeguards for wrongful arrest and confinement of those with a skin colour different from his. Sessions seems to have a particular ire for African-Americans, like Strom Thurmond before him. However, it is not known if he too has fathered a child through an African-American mother as Thurmond did. Those whose ancestors came to the US as slaves are no different from those who came across on the “Mayflower”. Given the right chances and choices, African-Americans have shown that they are second to none in aptitude and human qualities, yet the Attorney General is slyly converting the very portals of justice in the US into a construct that would meet the approval of the Ku Klux Klan. Interestingly, Clinton supporters in the US Senate say that they will resist any effort by Trump to send Sessions packing. For the sake of the future of the US and to uphold the values denoting an evolved humanity, it is long past the time when both DeVoss and Sessions were dismissed by President Trump.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.