President Donald Trump has been struggling to regain whatever lackluster approval ratings he had left after years of failing to deliver on the policies he campaigned on in 2016. In fact, Trump has stopped using the slogan "promises made, promises kept," when he speaks.
In a Washington Post column, Catherine Rampell noted that it appears Trump has given up on the idea that he could win the November election. With that, he's been burning everything behind him and "salting the earth."
"And his fellow Republicans are helping by sabotaging key institutions that the next (presumably Democratic) president will inherit," she explained, citing the GOP Senate Banking Committee approving Trump's picks for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. This as the country entered a recession and is facing a nationwide housing crisis.
"One of these nominees, Christopher Waller, would be a competent, reasonable, totally qualified addition to the most powerful economic body in the world," she explained.
The other nominee, Judy Shelton, Rampell called "a professional crank," with a history of advocating the Fed shouldn't exist.
"She has repeatedly likened the Fed to a 'Soviet State Planning Committee' because the central bank, rather than the quantity of gold, controls the money supply," Rampell reported. "Shelton has spent her career trying to bring back the gold standard, a monetary system abandoned worldwide and roundly rejected by economists."
Trump has also tried to destroy U.S. Attorneys' offices in key districts where he would be charged after leaving office, including the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York and Washington, D.C. district. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called it a "decapitation" of key U.S. attorneys in a pre-emptive strike against litigation. It likely won't work, but it's one of few options available to Trump.
"Republicans have indulged Trump’s choice to install charlatans elsewhere in the executive branch," noted Rampell, explaining that the Federal Reserve is hardly the first example. "But GOP senators had previously drawn the line at unqualified picks for the Fed. The central bank was too powerful, too important, to leave in the hands of buffoons and yes men."
Even Republicans agreed that Shelton was on the fringe of the GOP.
"In fact, she was previously considered too outlandish to merely testify before the committee that just approved her for a Fed seat,' she said.
“The idea of even calling her as a witness for something was beyond the pale,” a former Republican Senate Banking Committee aide said before Shelton's confirmation hearing.
The thing that changed was Trump's poll numbers and his chances of winning a second term. Even Republicans confess privately that Shelton would garner nothing for the economy as it struggles amid the pandemic shutdown.
"That’s their best-case scenario: that Shelton has no influence whatsoever," said Rampell. "The worst: She could cause some chaos, including by making discussion among (understandably paranoid) Fed officials less candid. But perhaps a less functional Fed is desirable, if you’re expecting Joe Biden to be president come January."
She noted that it isn't outside of the realm of possibility that Republicans would try and kill the economy so that a Democratic president would fail trying to bring it back. They've done it before, she recalled citing former President Barack Obama's term in officer after the financial crisis. Republicans sent letters and "crabby op-eds" trying to fearmonger about Obama's tactics lowering interest rates. Even Shelton bashed him, saying "Keynesian stimulus would stoke 'ruinous inflation.'"
She recalled the former Clinton administration staff who removed all of the "W" keys from computer keyboards in the West Wing as a means of bothering the new incoming administration. But this isn't a practical joke or even a mean jab, it's hurting the country in an attempt at a Republican power play.
"This landmine in the Fed. A hollowed-out State Department. Brain-drained statistical and scientific agencies. A shredded social safety net. A gutted immigration system, so financially mismanaged that about 75 percent of its employees are slated for furlough in two weeks. A hobbled higher-education system, once the envy of the world, now struggling to attract global talent because the administration has made it so difficult for that talent to study here. Perhaps a permanently lost tax-revenue stream from the past several decades of unrealized capital gains," Rampell listed off the problems.
Nothing is going to change before November, the only thing that is possible is if Trump wins, he's scorched his own earth.
"Perhaps he hasn’t thought that far ahead," Rampell closed. "Or maybe he’d revel in the 'Mad Max'-style landscape he’s now cultivating. William Tecumseh Sherman left flames in his wake; Trump appears to prefer everything on fire, at all times, around him."