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Jen Boynton headshot

3p Weekend: Trump's Cabinet Looks Like a Bunch of Comic Book Villains

By Jen Boynton

President-elect Donald Trump is systematically stacking his cabinet with people who oppose the very organizations they're tasked to run. Are we living in an alternate universe? This group must have one heckuva secret lair. It's probably already being built under Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., with a secret passage planned from the White House War Room.

Here's a line-up of the key players and their superpowers. While they plan to undermine most of the rules, regulations and safety nets that ensure a just society, we should keep an eye out for the superhero who will come to our rescue.

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson

This will be the ExxonMobil CEO's first foray into working for the government. Of course, as CEO of one of the world's largest oil conglomerates, he's had plenty of experience traveling in "geopolitically complex" regions, namely to negotiate oil field access. That could be useful!

According to former Exxon executive Ali Khedry, as quoted in the Atlantic, “He’s going to go from running a $400 billion semi-sovereign — practically speaking — corporation to a $66 billion, quite dysfunctional, quite under-resourced bureaucracy.”

In addition to the Middle East, “you have places like Russia, Qatar, across Europe, across Asia, across Central and South America. Exxon has done business in all of those places, and I think that’s what [Trump]’s hoping the secretary of state will do,” Khedery said. Trump, he added in an email, “wants his cabinet to do deals around the world to advance American interests in what is shaping up to be a neo-mercantilist model.”

Superpowers: Warming the planet to dangerous levels with the click of a signature pen.

Department of Energy nominee Rick Perry

If confirmed, the former governor of Texas will oversee the organization responsible for the safety of the nation's nuclear material, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production.

The DOE also sponsors more research in the physical sciences than any other U.S. federal agency. Since Perry has no experience whatsoever with nukes, his nomination is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Superpowers: Able to flip-flop egregiously without looking the slightest bit embarrassed. At a 2011 debate, he called for three government agencies to be eliminated: the departments of Education and Commerce, but he blanked on the third, eventually stating, "I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops." It turned out to be the DOE. Oops indeed.

Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt

Oklahoma's attorney general made action against the EPA his life's work and spent much of his career suing the agency. On LinkedIn, he even boasts of being “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda."

While the agency's environmental and climate scientists nervously await their fate, Christine Whitman, head of the EPA under George W. Bush, had this to say to Grist: “I don’t recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does. ... It doesn’t put us in a good place, in my mind. And he’s going to have trouble within the agency if he does convey that kind of disdain to the career staff.”

Superpowers: LinkedIn profile writing; willful climate skepticism despite evidence in his own backyard.

Treasury Department Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin started his career at Goldman Sachs but left to create his own hedge fund. He then formed a bank called OneWest to buy the remains of IndyMac, a failed subprime lender, and Financial Freedom, a reverse mortgage lender.

Financial Freedom gained infamy for foreclosing on more than 16,000 reverse mortgages, almost 40 percent of all government-guaranteed reverse mortgage foreclosures, and more than twice what should be typical for a lender of this size. "Financial Freedom is the absolute worst," Sandy Jolley told CNN. She's a financial counselor who works with families who are fighting foreclosure.

Mnuchin's relevant experience seems to be his role as national finance chairman for Mr. Trump’s campaign. As a pick to head the Department of Treasury, Mnuchin will be responsible for overseeing the collection of taxes, duties, and money paid to and due to the U.S.; paying all bills of the U.S.; managing the federal finances; producing all currency; and supervising national banks! Fox guarding the hen house?

Superpowers: Picking winners! Mnuchin bankrolled the "X-Men" franchise and "Avatar," and was an early supporter of Trump for president.

Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price

Among Trump's picks, Price has the most experience working in the government sector. He's a six-term congressman from Georgia who can't wait to repeal Obamacare. He's also got his eyes set on radical changes to Medicare and MediCal, crucial and beloved health programs for seniors and low-income Americans respectively.

Superpowers: Experience in government; able to cut medical access for 120 million Americans in a single bound.

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos is chair of the Michigan Republican party; heir to the Amway fortune (through her husband); sister to Erik Price, founder Blackwater Horizon (the private military company whose employees were found guilty of killing civilian Iraqis in 2007); and is largely credited with dismantling Michigan's public school system, despite lacking professional or academic experience in pedagogy of any kind.

In 2014, the Detroit Free Press found that two-thirds of charter schools were run by private corporations and face little to no monitoring.  An editor at the Free Press, Stephen Henderson, recently wrote: “This deeply dysfunctional education landscape — where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and ‘choice’ means the opposite for tens of thousands of children — is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome.”

DeVos will be responsible for policies related to federal education funding, distribution of the department's $73 billion budget, funding and monitoring their use, and enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in schools.

Superpowers: Using ideology and profound preference for the marketplace to limit educational opportunities for children of all races, colors, religions and creeds.

Department of Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder

The CEO of the holding company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. burger chains would be the top U.S. watchdog for workplace safety in Trump’s administration. All told, CKE Restaurant Holdings has been investigated and fined for hundreds of workplace safety and wage violations.

Puzder is a fast-food executive who has been critical of minimum wage increases as, of course, they'll hurt his bottom line. He's also a loud supporter of expansionary immigration and “amnesty” for the undocumented, since they make great low-level employees.

The Department of Labor fosters, promotes and develops the welfare of the wage earners. It is supposed to  improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Superpowers: Pissing off both the left (for his critiques of minimum wage and obvious disregard for worker well being) and the alt-right (for his vocal support of amnesty for immigrants).

Housing and Urban Development Director nominee Ben Carson

A retired pediatric neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate, Carson ran on a platform of government cutbacks, which makes this an odd appointment. HUD funds affordable housing, including $1.2 billion per year to the city of New York, where over 400,000 people rely on affordable housing funded through HUD.

The New York Times had this to say about his appointment: "With no experience in government or running a large bureaucracy, Mr. Carson, 65, publicly waffled over whether to join the administration [before taking this role.] He will oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget, bringing to the job a philosophical opposition to government programs that encourage what he calls 'dependency' and engage in 'social engineering.'”

Superpowers: This guy was a legit superhero of a pediatric neurosurgeon. He performed the only successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head, and pioneered the first successful neurosurgical procedure on a fetus inside the womb. If only he stuck to his strengths.


We should also mention that these guys are all super rich. They've got over $9.5 billion in combined weath, more than the 43 million least wealthy American households combined! Now wealth doesn't necessarily mean villian status, but it does mean being out of touch with the needs of the average American -- and the superpowers above prove it. This is a collection of villains fit for a Marvel franchise, don't you think? Maybe we can get Steven Mnuchin to option the movie rights.

Image credit: Robert Ball, Flickr

Jen Boynton headshot

Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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