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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 14th April 2017 > The BILLIONAIRES MARCHON WASHINGTON

The BILLIONAIRES MARCHON WASHINGTON

They’ve been coaxed out of their mansions and off their yachts by President Trump to make America great again—for the very, very rich
MAKE IT REIGN: The first official meeting of Trump’s Cabinet convened in the White House on March 13.

MR. MONOPOLY, that mustachioed fat cat, was about as close as most Americans got to a New York City billionaire until candidate Donald Trump started flying his jet to their villages last year. Now they are practically an everyday sight, because President Trump has coaxed a pack of them out of their penthouses and private jets to either join his Cabinet or sit on his councils and advisory boards. Trump voters know they’ve had a government for billionaires—that’s one reason they’re so mad—but to have one by billionaires means the Mighty Oz is now setting the nation’s agenda, and there is no curtain.

So what can Trump give to these men who have everything? And what can they do for him, and to America? The answer may be found in a line from the Italian movie The Leopard, about the decaying Sicilian aristocracy: “Everything must change so that everything can remain the same.” The best gift Trump can give his rich friends is to appear to be shaking up the system while leaving their myriad tactics for amassing capital unaffected. Less than three months into his presidency, Trump is well into that agenda—quietly deregulating the i nancial industry, stripping Barack Obama’s climate change rules from fossil fuel producers and promising to lower taxes on the very rich.

A billionaires’ takeover of the U.S. government was not one of Trump’s signature campaign promises, but he has set up a government of, by and for his peers (or men the famously insecure Trump wishes to call peers). His Cabinet is the richest in American history. These men have been sold to the public as men who will help Trump run the country “like a business,” in which the public is the consumer. After careers in which they put growing their colossal bank accounts ahead of the interests of small towns, working stiffs and the common weal, there is no reason to believe they will worry about how predatory lending or letting Obamacare “explode” affects real people. Trump’s billionaires are not government-hating ideologues like the Koch brothers or mega-donor Robert Mercer. They are more like what Trump used to be—unaffiliated centrists. And their agenda—and now the country’s agenda—is defined by those matters that affect their wallets.

PITY THE POOR, MISUNDERSTOOD BILLIONAIRE

“The rich aren’t rich anymore,” says society writer David Patrick Columbia. “My friend inherited hundreds of millions. She said to me, ‘I’m not rich anymore.’ They didn’t lose their money, but these other people make billions—some of them make a billion dollars a year. And that’s all they really care about. All those guys love talking about how much money they have. It’s what they like to do.”

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WHEN BILLIONAIRES ATTACK MR. Monopoly, that mustachioed fat cat, was about as close as most Americans got to a New York City billionaire until candidate Donald Trump started flying his jet to their villages last year. Now they are practically an everyday sight, because President Trump has coaxed a pack of them out of their penthouses and private jets to either join his Cabinet or sit on his councils and advisory boards. Trump voters know they’ve had a government for billionaires, that’s one reason they’re so mad, but to have one by billionaires means the Mighty Oz is now setting the nation’s agenda, and there is no curtain.
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